Noise go­ing louder: Ex­pand­ing to the world

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Ge­orges Najm, Part­ner and Di­rec­tor of Ad­ver­tis­ing Agency Clé­men­tine and sis­ter PR Firm Noise & Univer­sity Lec­turer be­lieves com­pa­nies are go­ing to worry much less about which kind of firm to hire and look sim­ply for the one that works best for them. Najm ex­plains that Noise has built an of­fer­ing that can iden­tify the pre­cise needs of a brand via its ex­pert team and then de­velop the cam­paign that will lead to the best re­sults. The agency doesn’t seem en­cum­bered by any le­gacy mod­els or teams, which al­lows it to be ag­ile in how they think, build and serve their clients.

Today Noise is not just com­pet­ing against other PR teams for bud­gets, but also against ad­ver­tis­ing, dig­i­tal, mar­ket­ing and even star­tups. Have you done any­thing to adapt your ser­vices, struc­ture and skill sets in re­sponse to the chang­ing na­ture of the com­mu­ni­ca­tions land­scape and to re­main com­pet­i­tive? We were es­tab­lished as a bou­tique PR firm, in 2013, but we man­aged thanks to our busi­ness ethics, the in­tegrity of our PR ser­vices, and thanks to our hu­man cap­i­tal that in­cludes high cal­iber tal­ents with two Ph.ds on board, to mark the Beirut PR scene. We have proven to be the num­ber one PR firm in Le­banon, and this is sup­ported by a num­ber of facts that I will shed light on as we go. This lead­ing po­si­tion en­abled us to ac­quire a big chunk of the mar­ket. None­the­less, we didn’t rest on our lau­rels. We have worked re­lent­lessly to de­velop our com­pe­ten­cies and skills. We have ex­panded our team struc­ture to in­clude 15 sea­soned ex­perts, which we worked on strength­en­ing with in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal train­ings. More­over, we con­ducted a re-adap­ta­tion op­er­a­tion on the orig­i­nal struc­ture to be more flex­i­ble and more re­spon­sive to the clients’ chang­ing needs. In ad­di­tion, our ser­vices have be­come more clus­tered in a smart way, en­abling us to lever­age our com­pet­i­tive­ness and this was rec­og­nized in the mar­ket by both Le­banese and in­ter­na­tional in­vestors. What are the dif­fi­cul­ties and chal­lenges you’re fac­ing along the way? The chal­lenges we face today are more mar­ket-re­lated than any­thing else. You al­ways face chal­lenges on the eco­nomic fi­nan­cial plane, rel­e­vant to the over­all crit­i­cal eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion. The sec­ond type of chal­lenges re­lates to the scarcity of tal­ents in the Le­banese mar­ket and I believe this is an industry cri­sis, whereas find­ing proper per­son­nel pos­sess­ing the ma­jor com­pe­ten­cies to work in a pro­fes­sional PR firm is re­ally hard. What are the trends that char­ac­ter­ize the PR industry nowa­days? And what’s the prac­tice you’ve been in­volved in the most? The PR industry is a rel­a­tively novice prac­tice and do­main, which was es­tab­lished in the early 1900’s in Amer­ica, started tak­ing shape sci­en­tif­i­cally as of the 40s, and came to us even later by the turn of the 20th century. Yes, we al­ways wit­ness new trends and moods, yet the same ba­sic mission and phi­los­o­phy of PR re­main. What dif­fers is the way you deal with the PR chal­lenges. The chan­nels are con­tin­u­ously evolv­ing and the needs are more so­phis­ti­cated, as more press­ing subjects such as the en­vi­ron­ment, the cor­po­rate re­spon­si­bil­ity and cor­rup­tion are be­ing dealt with today more than ever while us­ing the same main phi­los­o­phy.

Speak­ing about the fea­tured trends, we note that the first trend is a chan­nelo­ri­ented ap­proach, as online takes over as a top choice for mar­keters and clients nowa­days, and a pil­lar in any PR cam­paign.

Elab­o­rat­ing on the mod­ern is­sues that need to be communicat­ed through PR, as afore­men­tioned, there is a huge in­cli­na­tion from cor­po­ra­tions and gov­ern­ments to com­mu­ni­cate their ef­forts in ar­eas such as en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion, fight­ing cor­rup­tion, gov­er­nance and trans­parency in fi­nan­cial mat­ters. It seems that event mar­ket­ing has be­come the core func­tion of in­de­pen­dent PR agen­cies. In Noise’s case, where are clients’ bud­get and at­ten­tion be­ing fo­cused on the most? The PR ef­fort should be dealt with in an in­te­gral and holis­tic mat­ter, thereby, we can’t choose à la carte from a ‘PR menu.’ So it is hard to say which prac­tice can be a

The PR ef­fort should be dealt with in an in­te­gral and holis­tic mat­ter, thereby, we can’t choose à la carte from a ‘PR menu’.

stand-alone pil­lar in our work and this also varies upon the industry or the scope you have been as­signed to do. What I would ad­vise to a tele­com com­pany wouldn’t be the same as for an energy con­sor­tium, yet we still have a fixed plat­form based on media re­la­tions, cri­sis man­age­ment, and online cam­paign­ing. We have a lot of clients that re­quire only PR con­sul­tancy and cri­sis man­age­ment without man­ag­ing events. While oth­ers man­date us to ex­clu­sively man­age their events and other PR ac­tiv­i­ties. Any­way, our un­der­stand­ing of PR events is a dif­fer­ent ap­proach than the stan­dard mar­ket is do­ing in Le­banon and the Le­vant. We pro­duce events from A to Z; the pro­duc­tion is there, but our edge is that we do lob­by­ing for the event; we in­sure high cal­iber media and VIP pres­ence, while guar­an­tee­ing a splen­did media cov­er­age. To re­spond to your ques­tion, events are an im­por­tant chunk yet big com­pa­nies will ask our ex­tra lever­age in ad­vis­ing them in cri­sis com­mu­ni­ca­tion and other strate­gic mat­ters.

What has been your agency’s big­gest projects in 2017/18?

In 2017 and 2018, we con­tin­ued our ex­pan­sion and we ac­quired strate­gic ac­counts and pres­ti­gious names in the public af­fairs and cor­po­rate world. We be­came the agency of record for Beirut Mu­nic­i­pal­ity and we did big jobs for Mi­crosoft, Youtube and US Le­banon Tech Hub, Kar­pow­er­ship. We also con­ducted some won­der­ful work for Ro­tary (Hav­ing or­ga­nized its First Pres­i­den­tial Con­fer­ence in Le­banon), Cigna In­sur­ance, and we or­ga­nized for the fifth con­sec­u­tive year the Le­banese Di­as­pora Energy (for the ac­count of the Le­banese Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs and Im­mi­grants), which is the big­gest event of the year. We are cur­rently plan­ning big projects in Le­banon and abroad and you will see Noise reach­ing to greater heights in open­ing a cou­ple of branches in the Mid­dle East. We are fi­nal­iz­ing also a deal to seal a part­ner­ship with a ma­jor US PR firm.

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