Ex­pe­ri­ence? Who needs that Eh…

ArabAd - - CONTENTS - by Ray Egling­ton

For PR pro­fes­sion­als across the globe, the White House has been the gift that didn’t stop giv­ing this sum­mer… al­beit one which had us star­ing slack-jawed at our news feeds, mouthing ‘they did what?!’ on a weekly, some­times daily ba­sis.

From talk­ing about the ‘fine peo­ple’ march­ing at Char­lottesville, to the ‘fire and fury’ warn­ings to North Korea, to public at­tacks on his own party and, worse, his own ap­pointees, Donald Trump seems to have picked up the PR 101 hand­book and de­cided to ig­nore pretty much ev­ery les­son.

And that’s be­fore we con­sider his reg­u­lar press con­fer­ence at­tacks on ‘fake news’.

In the dig­i­tal world, the old adage about not pick­ing fights with peo­ple who buy ink by the bar­rel might sound old-fash­ioned, but reg­u­lar, ag­gres­sive at­tacks on The New York Times, CNN or even the BBC are counter-pro­duc­tive to say the least.

The event that re­ally got me bang­ing my head on the desk was the (thank­fully short-lived) appointment of An­thony Scara­mucci as White House com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor.

The ‘Mooch’ came to the job with some im­pres­sive ex­pe­ri­ence across many ar­eas of busi­ness. He was lauded in the of­fi­cial an­nounce­ment as “a suc­cess­ful en­tre­pre­neur, fi­nancier, and founder of Sky­bridge Cap­i­tal”.

In fact, there seemed to be only one sig­nif­i­cant gap in that ex­pe­ri­ence: public re­la­tions. The clos­est he’d got to any mean­ing­ful back­ground in PR ap­peared to be as a cheer­leader for the Trump pres­i­dency on var­i­ous TV pro­grammes.

The an­nounce­ment rolled back the years to a time when PR was seen as the job any­one could do, as long as they had a smart suit, good hair and a nice line in pat­ter.

For decades, the in­dus­try has put huge ef­forts into getting board­room recognition for the im­por­tance of com­mu­ni­ca­tions. That’s meant de­mon­strat­ing the need for in­sight-led strate­gies, show­ing the re­sults that ef­fec­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tions can de­liver in terms of busi­ness out­comes and high­light­ing the value that trust in a brand de­liv­ers to the bot­tom line.

All those only hap­pen if the right skills base is in place, from the ground up. (Or, in the Mooch’s case, from the top down). That means trained, ex­pe­ri­enced pro­fes­sion­als, peo­ple who know what they are do­ing.

In the 12 years I’ve been here, the in­dus­try in the Mid­dle East has taken huge strides in im­prov­ing its core skills base. In key mar­kets, there is a vi­brant and highly com­pet­i­tive PR agency scene and the best in-house com­mu­ni­ca­tions lead­ers in the re­gion are now recog­nised world­wide.

In Septem­ber, the in­dus­try takes the next step in that jour­ney, with the launch of the new MEPRA Academy. For the first time, there will be an in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­cred­ited cur­ricu­lum of PR and com­mu­ni­ca­tions train­ing – for all lev­els, from grad­u­ates to vice-pres­i­dents and man­ag­ing direc­tors.

The Mooch duly obliged all the naysay­ers by com­mit­ting the car­di­nal sin for com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tors – be­com­ing the story. He was gone within the fort­night.

It didn’t seem like he par­tic­u­larly en­joyed his brush with PR. How­ever, if we are mis­taken, maybe a few ses­sions at the MEPRA Academy might help. I’d rec­om­mend Me­dia Re­la­tions 101 for a start…

In the 12 years I’ve been here, the in­dus­try in the Mid­dle East has taken huge strides in im­prov­ing its core skills base. In key mar­kets, there is a vi­brant and highly com­pet­i­tive PR agency scene and the best in-house com­mu­ni­ca­tions lead­ers in the re­gion are now recog­nised world­wide.

Ray Egling­ton group man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Four Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Group and cur­rent chair of the Mid­dle East Public Re­la­tions As­so­ci­a­tion (MEPRA)

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