Our blog

Our blog aims to give you an insight into life at DABO & CO – the personalities, the purpose and the passion.

Here comes the Brides-to-be:

A lot can happen in four days, especially when the region's largest bridal show, BRIDE Dubai is taking place, and you have brides-to-be and their families flocking for a spark of that magical wedding inspiration in one venue.

Showcasing everything a bride could dream of from sparkling diamonds and dresses to more unique mother of pearl clutches and even 17th century French perfume (yes, 17th century!), the four day show day saw over 300 leading global and regional wedding industry exhibitors participate, 20 bridal fashion shows parade down the runway, a record breaking number of visitors pass through the door and more than 100 media and over 40 interviews take place.

Managing both the PR and digital exposure for the show, we generated pre-event, during and post-event coverage via targeted media communication strategies by executing a tailored approach for both English and Arabic media. Understanding our core media, we worked on one-on-one features and distributed tailored news alerts to English media in the lead up to the show, and worked with Arabic media during the event by distributing daily show updates and images, whilst managing onsite media interviews and queries.

The hard work didn't stop with the flurry of brides-to-be and media; we maintained regular consumer engagement via ongoing social media updates on the BRIDE Facebook and Twitter platforms. Regular posts were placed to emphasis all key sponsors and exciting show activity including the fashion shows and competitions to ultimately drive consumer footfall, and it helped as the show successfully managed to welcome a recording breaking number of visitors this year. The exposure on Facebook worked it's wedding magic as the page generated over 250 - 300 new 'Likes' per day from the end of March until after the show due to the engaging posts and fantastic visual content.

All in all, BRIDE Dubai stole the show with an outstanding performance!

 

Bridal Fashion Show

Proving our worth through evaluation

Evaluation. Everyone has their own view on it, but all too often it can be forgotten or put aside as workloads and priorities shift in this ever-changing corporate and media landscape.

Budgets come into play too - not surprisingly, clients want to get as much bang for their buck as possible, and taking money out of the activation budget for evaluation can be a difficult sell, especially when the budget is already a challenge. But what's the point of spending $100k, $50k or even $10k on a campaign, if you can't then tell how successful it's been?

If it's a case of simply shifting product from a shelf or tickets for an event, the end result is obvious. But rarely is it that black and white. PR is about is about building brands rather than simply pushing a product and a key part of this is about creating content and experiences that people want to talk about - and how can you tell if people are talking about your brand or product (and in what way), if you don't monitor and evaluate their response to what you've done?

Of course, the standard metrics for PR evaluation are still useful, and having a clear idea of how many people are being exposed to your brand message is still very important, , but it shouldn't simply be a numbers game, especially as media across the region is not consistently audited.

Where PR really makes a difference for a business is by being targeted and ultimately having an impact on a business' bottom line. For PR to do that, it needs to be intelligent and targeted. That starts with understanding what kind of traction a channel - be it traditional or new media - has with the target audience and its power to get their attention, encourage them to talk about or share it with their friends, colleagues or family and, ultimately, motivate them to act.

Our job is about engaging the target audience to the extent that they are motivated to act and to drive what is, at the end of the day, the most powerful recommendation any brand can have - positive word of mouth, both in the traditional sense and now, increasingly, through social chat.

It's not just me. It's great to see more and more people embracing the need for effective evaluation. MEPRA, for example, is running a measurement workshop soon which is specifically looking at the Barcelona Principles, which have become a global standard for measuring communications programmes. These are seven key principles which help to ensure that PR outcomes are aligned with the core business objective, and which recognize that this can only be achieved with a clear and shared goal from the beginning and by making measurement a central component of a campaign rather than an afterthought.

But don't be fooled into thinking that that is all evaluation is about. I believe we should be digging deeper than that. I want to know how we - and by that I mean our clients - stand up against the competition; I want to know  that we are leading the way with authorative and thought-provoking commentary, and that every communication is making its mark on the end user. The only way we can really know if we are succeeding in this is through in-depth analysis - finding out exactly what is being said, the tone of that message, and our share of that message over key competitors.

Significantly, the Barcelona Principles reinforce the idea that measurement should take all the numbers into account. Whether it's an increase in product sales, uplift in market share or positive shift in awareness, being able to show a campaign's impact against the level of investment is the only thing that really matters, because that's how we show value for money and, at the end of the day, help our clients grow their businesses. When it comes down to it, that's what we are judged on and why PR should be considered an integral part of the marketing mix, not just something to be bolted on at the end.

Wedding fever hits Abu Dhabi

Yesterday marked the start of bridal fever sweeping the capital as local media gathered for an exclusive glimpse of wedding glitz and glam at the Shangri-La Hotel in Abu Dhabi.

With only days to go until BRIDE Abu Dhabi and its sister event Beyond Beauty Arabia gets underway at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre from the 30th January - 2nd February, we organised an intimate media event to showcase the outstanding bride and beauty sponsors guests can expect to see next week.

To showcase the exquisite bridal, haute couture and evening dress collections, guests were firstly treated to a breathtaking fashion show from designers Dar Al Mansouri, ESPOSA and Dar Sara High Fashion.

And if these breathtaking dresses weren't enough to steal the show, Conti Confetteria and Emirates Hospitality Centre served up sweet treats and delectable wedding delights that definitely make the perfect partner for any wedding.

But the excitement didn't stop there, as Sponsors FACES and Luxury Elements Spa from Beyond Beauty Arabia, the brand new beauty event in the region, was on hand to offer Givenchy makeovers, neck and shoulder massages and 18 carat gold manicures. Yes 18 carat gold!

The event proved to be a huge hit judging by the feedback from our media, and the day also gave us an excellent opportunity to gather personalised content with the sponsors to drive further awareness of BRIDE Abu Dhabi and Beyond Beauty Arabia via editorial and social media channels

A taste of online coverage from the event  http://www.mylovelywedding.com/?p=6830

Bride Abu Dhabi Media day 1

Bride Abu Dhabi Media day 5

Bride Abu Dhabi Media day 6

How to get your business noticed on social media

With over 45m users of Facebook, 160m Tweets a day and 167m videos being viewed on You Tube daily across the MENA region, there is no doubt that engaging in social media has massive potential for any business.

We have seen an explosive growth in the adoption of social media in the Middle East over the past couple of years that shows little no indication of slowing. Social media has without doubt changed the way that consumers digest brand messages and make purchasing decisions and it's vital that businesses recognise this.

Arriving in the UAE from the UK four years ago I was quite shocked at the infancy of digital marketing within the region. Whilst it has taken some time to catch up, businesses are now recognising the huge opportunity that social media presents. There is still a way to go however, as many brands fail to truly understand the power of this communication channel, which often results in wasted effort and damaging effects to the brand.

Many businesses think that Facebook, Twitter and l the like are the perfect channels to throw all marketing messages out to their consumers in a 'low cost' manner. Whilst I have no doubt that for some brands this will work, it's only a matter of time until consumers switch off.

 

cutting-through-the-social-media-noise

With consumers being subjected to an average of 247 marketing messages a day, they become very selective as to what they listen to and no matter how much is thrown at them by brands they have previously chosen to engage with they will ultimately get disenchanted. Thus the 'low cost' social media channels actually offer very little return in the long-term to businesses if used in this manner.

You may think it strange that I seem to be downplaying the tools I use for my profession, but that's simply not the case. I truly believe social media has immense power for brands - you only have to look at the success of campaigns such as the US election and the London Olympics, where political and brand advocacy were driven by powerful social media campaigns. However, it must be remembered that the keys to success in the social media world are the same as any other communications  platform that has gone before - RELEVANCE and CREATIVITY.

So the big question is how do businesses ensure social media success? As a particationer in the digital and social media world, I'd like to share with you my five top tips that I believe will guide your business to social media success…

 

neil-asher-Marketing-Noise

1.  Focus on your audience: Social media needs to be driven with a customer-centric approach and, without doubt, brands which don't take this approach will fail. Listening to your customers and competitors is the best place to start when planning; using an online monitoring tool can build amazing insight, for example; wouldn't it be great to know what people are already saying about your brand, where they are saying it and who's saying it?  What your competitors are doing, who is making social media work well and how you can replicate this are all crucial questions that monitoring can answer.

2.  Be Engaging: Brands which are succeeding on social channels have one thing in common - highly engaging content. This element should not be overlooked, it is essential that you get the right communications team in place to develop a strategy that allows you to post the right content, at the right place and at the right time for your audiences is key - remember just because its online doesn't mean you don't have to follow the fundamentals of marketing!

Your content can be promotional, factual, conversational, humorous, emotional or controversial - but it should all be driven by what makes your audiences engage, whilst reflecting your business goals and brand voice. Again using a monitoring tool over time can provide insights as to what is working best for your brand.

3.  Creativity: We all like sharing things that we think our friends and colleagues will enjoy, but as we are subjected to so many messages, brands need to offer something a little out of the norm to encourage sharing. I'm not suggesting you will reach the massive heights of over 1 billion views as the Gangham Style video has to date, although I don't suppose they thought they would reach those viewing numbers - so you never know!

4.  Rely on recommendations: According to a recent Nelisen survey, 92% of consumers across the world say they trust earned media, such as word-of-mouth and recommendations over brand advertising. Society influncers are particalurly big in this region and, be it an online food critic or a fashionsita, they have a massive influence and people trust their recommendations. As a result, it's important for brands to reach out to this group to build a relationship and provide influencers with a reason to enagage with the brand. Just as importantly, brands need to work with them to communicate their messages and build brand credibilty.

5.  Keep it simple: Social media shouldn't be complicated or too long. Consumers want to digest messages quickly and move on. Brands should always remember to speak in line with their brand tone, whilst chatting in a 'human manner'; forget the fancy phrases, clever wording or embellishments, they just don't work on social media.

Spinning a Good Yarn

It's not often that Knitting makes big headlines but this year it hit the news for all the wrong reasons in two unrelated 'international' incidents.

First off was the public outrage that ensued at Wimbledon when BBC cameras caught a woman in the crowd knitting a pink jumper during Andy Murray's tense victory over Marcos Baghdatis. The seething commentator voiced his fear of the players realizing that there was an uninterested spectator "If the players looked up and saw this…". Meanwhile thousands took to Twitter and news forums to attack 'Knitting lady' or valiantly defend her and blame Wimbledon itself for being boring, with the story making international headlines. The conversation continues on the YouTube video which now has thousands of views.

Knitting

This is not the first time BBC has angered the Knitterati. In 2008, the BBC asked a woman to remove pictures of her home-knitted Dr. Who puppets from the web because they infringed on trademarks and copyrights. The story was brought to the attention of the public in The Times newspaper, and the BBC quickly backtracked and instead turned the knitted designs into a limited edition of exclusive promotional products.

 

home-knitted Dr

Another knitting controversy took place in the US when the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) had a slightly heavy-handed reaction to a social group calling their annual knitting contest 'The Ravelympics'. The USOC sent a furious 'Cease-and-desist' letter to the unfortunate knitters, stating that the Ravelympics "…denigrate the true nature of the Olympic games….are disrespectful to our country's finest athletes and fails to recognize or appreciate their hard work."

The Ravelympics

 

Big mistake. The knitting community fired back through posts, tweets, emails and letters to newspapers, eventually forcing the shell-shocked USOC to send out not one but two statements of apologizing for their insensitive use of language and insulting tone. Following further coverage on ABC, Yahoo Sports, Gawker and various other news outlets, the USOC spokesman eventually had to make amends by apologizing in an interview with the New York Times.

Two lessons to be learned from these stories. One: don't mess with the knitting community. Ever.

Two: In the age of Social Media, nothing is safe from public scrutiny. Perhaps the USOC didn't expect any backlash from the knitters, and neither did the BBC as it focused on the Wimbledon knitter, but it is important to remember that everyone has a voice in today's social media landscape.

If offending a small and insignificant public can result in one of the most powerful men in US Sports ending up shamefully apologizing in one of the country's top dailies, and if focusing your camera on a 'funny' incident for a few moments can lead to questioning one of the oldest and most prestigious sporting events in the world, then it's time to wake up and realize that social media has changed the game forever. Whether or not you think you need digital and social media communications as a proactive push mechanism for your brand or company, you most certainly need it as a reactive failsafe mechanism when things go wrong, because it's becoming easier and easier to get caught out.

Did I just call the knitting public 'insignificant'? Oh no - better watch out….

Cooking up a media storm

Last night, myself and four journalists from Ahlan! Gourmet, BBC Good Food Middle East, Caterer Middle East and Elite Monde gathered in the state-of-the-art 'Cooking Pod' in the exquisite Blue Flame steak and seafood restaurant at the Jumeirah Creekside Hotel.

To showcase the live 'Cooking Pod', we organised an exclusive cooking class to teach the finer points of food preparation and put our culinary skills to the test. Blue Flame's Chef de Cuisine, Ruben Rebuffo, taught us culinary novices how to cook one of Blue Flame's signature dishes. Step-by-step we roasted pumpkins, butter poached fresh langoustines, pan seared sea bass fillets, and to finish plated our final masterpiece's before devouring them.

Of course the proof is in the pudding as they say, and judging by feedback from our media, the experience proved to be a perfect platform to drive awareness of Blue Flame's cooking classes via editorial and social media channels.

 

 

Showcasing the live 'Cooking Pod' at Blue Flame, Jumeirah Creekside Hotel

 

 

 

Cooking up a media storm

Should Brands Pin their Hopes on Pinterest?

Earlier this year, there was a report on Kippreport on how brands could use Pinterest effectively to promote their goods, services or ideas; and interesting though the feature was, it was the feedback that caught my attention. One post in response to the feature was emphatic in its opposition to Pinterest being used for marketing and promotional activity. According to the comment, the site was not designed for promotion of any kind or to drive traffic to other websites.

As a devoted pinner, I was initially in agreement. For a site in which most people (barring celebrities) do not post personal images, Pinterest feels like a private haven.  If I found it "doing a Twitter" and posting sponsored images on my page, I would feel as violated as if someone had flicked through my scrap-book and left notes in it.

But the fact is, promoting products and ideas is part and parcel of the Pinterest universe and (it kills the Pinterest-purist in me to say this), it would be rampant short-sightedness on the part of brands not too take advantage of this. Pinterest is a marketer's dream tool - it is visual, interactive, personal and most importantly, it has a captive and engaged target audience who are interested in "things". It provides brands with the ultimate consumer wish-list. It also gives them access to millions of potential brand ambassadors - one re-pin from the brand's website or Pinterest page is all it takes to spread the word.

I am a social-media marketing novice but my instinct is that aggressive, figures-based marketing that seems to be the norm with Facebook and Twitter will get nowhere with Pinterest, at least for now. Personally, I think Pinterest is more "inspiring" and "social" than say, facebook or Twitter - it helps people with similar tastes or projects draw ideas from each other's mood boards and get creative.  There are no status updates; and hash tags are few and far between. With more pictures of cats, cookies and couture than you can shake a stick at; a fun and "friendly" feeling permeates the medium. It's not uncommon for strangers to share humorous experiences and useful tips; and sometimes they even agree to disagree on a point of contention. More often, Pinterest feels like one big get-together of friends (albeit ones who have only just met) who share similar tastes and sense of humour.

Breaking in on such an intimate group is a challenge but a lot of brands like IKEA UK, Zara, ASOS are doing it and doing it well. Scrolling through a few of their pages, I found a few things in common:

The Image represents - the brands use Pinterest as a virtual store front and use really strong imagery. Since the prettier or more arresting the picture, the more chances it has of being looked at and shared.

Organisation is king - IKEA UK and Zara have organised boards with relevant captions to make scrolling through them easy. This makes sense given that, a Pinterest page is not a package deal - pinners will follow only boards they are interested in, re-pinning products they like - so being organised has enabled them to do so.

They flaunt the famous - L'Oreal has an entire board dedicated to its ambassadors and its presence at major celebrity events including Cannes.

Themed boards - Although brands like ASOS have recreated their entire catalogue on Pinterest, it has also created themed boards - Vintage, Summer, Fashion Week - to help attract a broader audience.

Links to other social media platforms - ASOS has created a Future Stylist board that profiles up and coming bloggers, wearing ASOS fashion.

They don't sell but share - The brands don't use Pinterest for the hard-sell (although according to a recent survey by boticca.com, Pinterest drives more sales and more new customers than Facebook and drives users to spend twice as much as facebook users), they have used Pinterest to show a different side of the brand.

Brands aside, the most interesting usage of Pinterest recently has been in the U.S. Presidential race. As President Barack Obama and contender Mitt Romney spew venom at each other on the stump, on TV, at debates and especially on Twitter; the First Lady and Ann Romney are trying to soften their respective husbands' images through cutesy family albums, custard recipes or gardening tips. They have shown that it is a great forum to showcase the various facets of a brand/person. Their pins cover the past, present and future of the Presidential contenders showcasing their non-politician personas and values - through a very evocative medium -images.

So, is Pinterest the new alpha-social media market tool? Only time will tell but for now it is a popular social forum where people share a slice of what they like and in the process show what they are like. And, because there aren't a lot of words, it seems gentler, friendlier and more trustworthy. Brands that have made their mark on Pinterest have tapped into this spirit - they have used it to reveal different aspects of its personality - their journey, inspirations and aspirations as well as their more fun and pinteresting side.

 

Pin Interest

PR internships – a wake-up call for agencies

There has been a great deal of debate about internships within the PR industry on an international scale with industry bodies such as the CIPR in the UK calling for PR internships to be paid for, with clear objectives and deliverables in place to ensure the mutual benefit for both intern and agency. The fact that this is still being debated within the industry is a sorry indictment on the value we as PR professionals place on internships.

Internships help graduates make the transition from academia and are an important gateway to the industry. We live in a multi-cultural society in the UAE and the PR industry is the chosen sector for many expatriates from across the globe. One thing is for sure, at some point most of us will take the experience and knowledge accumulated in this region and leave to return to our homes overseas or move on to another country. What then we have to ask, will be our legacy? Surely as PR professionals we have a responsibility to nurture local talent and ensure that the industry, which has provided us with ample opportunities, is contributing to the career development of the next generation of PR professionals?

Those agencies that follow best practice and are clear about the nature of the internship offered, upfront about the expectations and the financial compensation that an intern can expect on completion of a successful internship, are helping to create this legacy.  Simply put, effort is required by agencies for internships to be successful. It's not enough to find a spare desk and a pile of magazines and call this an internship programme.

Firstly, let's be clear about what I mean when I refer to internships. I do not mean that PR agencies get to hire free labour during the summer and get recent graduates to sit in a corner with a pile of filing to do.  Unfortunately, this is an all too familiar story among time-poor agencies which often see internships as an afterthought with no-one in the agency taking responsibility for the intern. This is not in the spirit of giving young professionals a first step on the career ladder and just is not good enough.

I've seen firsthand the potential of the industry. Having helped to organise this year's MEPRA Student Day 2012, I saw for myself just how powerful the investment of time can be and the impact it can have on young graduates wanting to forge a career in PR.

So what was the outcome of that day? The students benefited from having young PR professionals take them through a selection of specialisations within the industry and share their experiences of working in PR, debunking the myths and providing insight into the hard work behind the "glamour". That day was an eye-opener for me that made me realise how much these students need our guidance and assistance to polish their raw talent and prepare them for the 'real world of PR'.

During my career; I have had a couple of interns and fresh graduates joining my team and I witnessed how their perspective on PR has changed throughout their internship at the agency.

What is key for a successful internship is to have a clear idea and a schedule on what the intern is going to do each day. It's our responsibility to ensure that interns get to see all aspects of the industry, whether that is writing press releases, selling in stories to the media, assisting at events and meeting journalists or doing coverage reports. As with so much in life, you get out what you put in.

As an agency, DABO & CO has benefitted hugely from its internship programme. Over the last 12 months the agency has offered three interns permanent, full-time junior positions and in most cases we have already promoted them and 'fast-tracked' their careers. They now have fully fledged careers within the industry that they hoped to crack after graduation and DABO & CO has some very talented junior team members who we hope will be with us for years to come.

What has been the key to this successful internship conversion? I believe the answer is three-fold. Firstly, the fact that everyone from the Managing Partners through to the receptionist has an interest in the intern as soon as they walk through the door. There is a collective willingness to make this experience count and to ensure the graduate gets the most out of the time spent with us. Secondly, the fact that there is a clear defined programme with tasks and a reporting structure for the intern - there is no such thing as 'under the radar'. And finally, our internships are paid for. For me, this is significant and sends a clear message, that we expect you to invest in this experience as we have invested in you. The rules of engagement are clear and the opportunity is what you make of it.

Listen to any PR agency and they will all tell you the same thing: "It's so hard to find talent and to keep hold of it". Well if that is the case, why are more agencies not investing in securing a pipeline of talent by taking internships seriously? It's time for agencies to stop whining about the challenges of talent management and start building a solid internship programme for the students in the region. Individual agencies will benefit, young graduates will benefit and perhaps most importantly of all, so too, ultimately, will the Middle East PR industry.

 

studentmoneysaver

Happy Birthday MINI

On 26th August 2012, MINI the legendary small car with a big attitude, celebrated its 53rd birthday. In true DABO & CO style, the PR team turned this occasion into an opportunity to meet, greet and treat the media and generate coverage for the great British icon.

Hitting the road in the early hours, laden with MINI cupcakes and mini birthday cards, the journalists were delighted to see the an arrival of the PR team at their offices offering them a slice of the birthday action.

Throughout MINI's birthday, the DABO & CO team visited 20 publications across the UAE. Coverage highlights included a MINI mention on Virgin Radio's highest rating show, online hits on leading automotive websites and a social media buzz across Dubai's leading publications. Proving, once and for all, the importance of getting out and about and meeting media face to face. Especially if it involves cake!

Happy Birthday MINI!

 

Happy Birthday MINI

Work - Life Balance = 9 AM to 5.00 PM??

"Why do you work so late?" is a question I am asked often. For those who don't know me, I tend to stay late at work.

So, why? Is it because I am a slacker? Or is it because there is just too much work? Or is it because I didn't define what work-life balance was meant to be? Let's find out!

I am against a 9 to 5 attitude, but at the same time, I personally don't believe one should stay every day at work late and do as much as possible. Going 'over and above' is good and is something which should be in our professional DNA. But, obviously anything overly done isn't good in the long run, because expectations are raised and become difficult to manage. This leads to a tendency to excessively over service clients and that tends to be the bench mark to excel each time, thereby impacting on the 'work-life' balance.

As we all know, within the PR industry, everything is ASAP. For me ASAP equated to NOW! This is where I had issues with in terms of time management. On the constant drive to achieve more and do things in the best possible way, I developed the habit of staying late at work. I would stay very late and ensure everything gets done even if it could easily wait for a few days.

During this process over the last four years, I did even more work, attained the highest possible client servicing and satisfaction standards; but also gained 40 kgs (yeah, you read that right!) and a few extra strands/patches of grey hair!

Is it worth it? The answer is an obvious one! Better late than never, I have accepted the fact that however much you do, work will always come and it's perfectly okay to logically prioritise and carry some work over for 'tomorrow' as well! So here comes the question - how do I define work-life balance?

There is no perfect, one-size fits all, balance one should be striving for. The best work-life balance is different for each of us because we all have different priorities and different lives. I personally feel work-life balance does not mean maintaining an equal balance between the two. Trying to schedule an equal number of hours for each of your various work and personal activities is usually unrewarding and unrealistic. Life is and should be more fluid than that.

What is important is to strive towards attaining a work-life balance model with a 'purpose'. A 'purpose' that is defined on the elements of personal "Achievement" and "Enjoyment", which are basically two sides of the same coin.

By doing this one will bring work home if necessary, and at the same time, one should also take a break from work.  This ensures you are productive and efficient on a professional level at the same time a very happy individual on a personal level.

This is my two cents on work-life balance. On that note, I am signing out today at 5.30 PM sharp! But for tomorrow - it's a different story. I'll have to see…

Work Life Balance