Traccs: The trusted ad­vi­sors

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Ka­tia Yas­mine, Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor of TRACCS Le­banon elab­o­rates on the agency’s DNA and what makes this PR firm ahead of the curve. In a mar­ket where the rules seem to be chang­ing al­most daily, TRACCS net­work is show­ing a strong abil­ity to keep up with those rules. Yam­mine ex­plains how they are adapt­ing their strate­gies to ac­com­mo­date the rapid pace of change and what con­tin­ues to de­fine TRACCS’S suc­cess mov­ing for­ward.

Tell us about your agency… What’s your team made of?

In just over 20 years ago, TRACCS opened its doors, dur­ing a time when public re­la­tions was still quite mis­un­der­stood and un­der-uti­lized. It was a time when most com­pa­nies did not have a ded­i­cated public re­la­tions func­tion, a time when choos­ing a ca­reer in public re­la­tions was not in the thought process. That was the mar­ket then and this was the op­por­tu­nity for TRACCS, to cre­ate an in­dige­nous and home­grown public re­la­tions net­work able to pro­vide a suite of ser­vices to de­fine and drive the im­age and rep­u­ta­tion of com­pa­nies.

Fast for­ward today, TRACCS is the largest public re­la­tions (PR) net­work in the Mid­dle East and North Africa re­gion, with 14 of­fices across 15 mar­kets. TRACCS Le­banon, which was es­tab­lished al­most 10 years ago, in­cludes a team of pro­fes­sion­als with ar­eas of ex­per­tise fo­cus­ing on strate­gic ad­vi­sory, in­ter­nal com­mu­ni­ca­tions,

cri­sis, dig­i­tal, and media out­reach. What makes it unique?

The unique­ness of TRACCS is ac­tu­ally in its uni­for­mity where each of­fice op­er­ates in ex­actly the same man­ner and lives by the same ideals. This was a painstak­ing process that took many years to per­fect and re­quired sys­tems and pro­to­cols to en­sure this uni­for­mity and struc­ture. We never re­fer to our­selves as TRACCS Le­banon, but TRACCS and this is the ethos that is car­ried out by the 275 em­ploy­ees in our grow­ing net­work.

Ev­ery com­pany has its unique sell­ing propo­si­tion when it comes to driv­ing its busi­ness for­ward. At TRACCS we have an ethos that says: “Great peo­ple bring great busi­ness that cre­ate a great brand.” We have been living by this ethos since our be­gin­nings. Add to that our deep lo­cal un­der­stand­ing and in­sights into the so­cio-eco­nomic frame­work of ev­ery coun­try we op­er­ate in, we are more than strate­gists and im­ple­menters, we have been able to

suc­cess­fully po­si­tion our­selves as “trusted ad­vi­sors” to a mul­ti­tude of lo­cal, re­gional, multi­na­tional, and government clients across the net­work.

An­other im­por­tant el­e­ment that makes us unique is the power of the idea. Cre­ativ­ity is in our DNA and we believe in cre­at­ing and ex­e­cut­ing great ideas. This is es­pe­cially rel­e­vant in a mar­ket like Le­banon where the real chal­lenge lies in turn­ing con­straints into cre­ativ­ity without draw­ing at­ten­tion to the dif­fer­ence.

More­over, today you are not just com­pet­ing against other PR teams for bud­gets, but also against ad­ver­tis­ing, dig­i­tal, mar­ket­ing and even star­tups. Ev­ery­one wants a piece of the cake. What are you do­ing to keep up with those rules?

We don’t believe in com­pe­ti­tion but in com­pat­i­bil­ity. Over the years public re­la­tions had to cre­ate and de­fine its own space, not only glob­ally but re­gion­ally and lo­cally as well. Ad­ver­tis­ing and dig­i­tal agen­cies have a com­pletely dif­fer­ent of­fer­ing that public re­la­tions forms. We un­der­stand this, we re­spect this, and co­op­er­ate with many agen­cies across the re­gion as this will ul­ti­mately drive ben­e­fit and value to our clients; this is the main goal of any­thing and every­thing we do.

Mar­ket dy­nam­ics are dras­ti­cally shift­ing and the client ex­pec­ta­tions from any firm whether public re­la­tions, ad­ver­tis­ing, dig­i­tal, or ac­ti­va­tion is also chang­ing. Com­pa­nies are ex­pected to be more strate­gic and pro­vide more value in mar­kets with huge bud­getary con­straints. This means that every­thing we have been do­ing in the past has to align to this new sense of pur­pose. At TRACCS, we don’t just look at the rules but fully em­brace val­ues we have been up­hold­ing for the past two decades and our abil­ity to con­tinue pro­vid­ing strate­gic coun­sel and value will keep us ahead of the game.

Be­cause of the grow­ing com­pe­ti­tion in the sec­tor, PR agen­cies are con­stantly ex­pand­ing their ser­vice spec­trum. In your case,

what are you fo­cus­ing on to stand out from the com­pe­ti­tion?

It was Ed­ward de Bono that said “Com­pa­nies that solely fo­cus on com­pe­ti­tion will die. Those that fo­cus on value cre­ation will thrive.” We believe in these words, prac­tice them and truly em­brace them. Com­pe­ti­tion has ex­isted even be­fore the rise of public re­la­tions. We had to com­pete against the mar­ket, against the norms and sta­tus quo to cre­ate and de­fine our own space. This ed­u­ca­tional and aware­ness process has laid the foun­da­tion of what PR is today and will con­tinue to pro­pel it for­ward.

With re­gards to our fo­cus, it was, is, and con­tin­ues to be pro­vid­ing a deep and mean­ing­ful un­der­stand­ing of the com­mu­ni­ca­tions pro­cesses and chal­lenges and iden­ti­fy­ing and de­ploy­ing the nec­es­sary so­lu­tions to man­age them. It is a com­plete value chain that we build, de­ploy, and eval­u­ate.

What have been your agency’s big­gest project in 2017/18?

“Be The Drive” is a cam­paign that TRACCS Le­banon im­ple­mented in 2017 that is very much the clos­est to our heart. The love for Le­banon was the drive of An­toine Iskan­dar and Jad Co­mair to be the first ever Le­banese team to par­tic­i­pate in Dakar Rally. Both An­toine and Jad de­cided to be the drive of Anta Akhi mem­bers on the oc­ca­sion of the 25th an­niver­sary of the NGO, tak­ing care of adults with dis­abil­i­ties. To raise aware­ness around the cause and raise funds to Anta Akhi NGO, a fundrais­ing cam­paign was launched un­der the hash­tag #Bethedrive en­cour­ag­ing ev­ery in­di­vid­ual to be the drive of Anta Akhi mem­bers. Our in­volve­ment in the cam­paign in­cluded cre­at­ing the strate­gic ap­proach and pro­vid­ing sup­port in part­ner­ships, media cov­er­age, in­flu­encers’ in­volve­ment, on-ground ac­ti­va­tions and so­cial media ac­ti­va­tion.

In your opin­ion what are the trends that will char­ac­ter­ize the PR industry in the up­com­ing year and go­ing for­ward?

The Rise and Rise of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions can best char­ac­ter­ize the over­ar­ch­ing theme that will drive the industry for­ward with the dig­i­tal age serv­ing as a back­drop and a strate­gic force for the fu­ture. An­chor­ing this plat­form will be a se­ries of strate­gic trends such as public sec­tor buy-in, big­ger bud­gets in key MENA mar­kets such as Saudi Ara­bia and the United Arab Emi­rates, and smart youth in­ter­est.

An­other im­por­tant trend that will drive the busi­ness is the amal­ga­mated role of the “Trusted Ad­vi­sor” and how this role within the agency will fur­ther un­der­score its value and ex­per­tise.

Mov­ing beyond this, it is ex­pected that the role of the Trusted Ad­vi­sor will fur­ther trans­form from sim­ply pro­vid­ing strate­gic ad­vi­sory to a to­tal Trusted Ad­vi­sor So­lu­tion rang­ing from coach­ing and men­tor­ing to full-scale train­ing ser­vices and the de­ploy­ment of ad­vi­sory so­lu­tions.

But per­haps the most im­por­tant break­through is the com­bined role of the ad­vi­sor as a key agent for or­ga­ni­za­tional change, es­pe­cially in the public sec­tor where the heads of these or­ga­ni­za­tions are ex­pected to change the think­ing process of the en­tire or­ga­ni­za­tion and need the help of com­mu­ni­ca­tions ex­perts to drive the change. This trans­forms the in­her­ent im­age and man­date of the Trusted Ad­vi­sor to more in­sti­tu­tion­al­ized think­ing that is so­lu­tion driven.

At TRACCS, we don’t just look at the rules but fully em­brace val­ues we have been up­hold­ing for the past two decades and our abil­ity to con­tinue pro­vid­ing strate­gic coun­sel and value will keep us ahead of the game

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