Our blog

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

MEPRAs and Mix-ups!

Well, the headline's not quite 'handbags and gladrags', but you get where we're coming from. Yes, so our MEPRA-induced high after winning four awards including the Agency of the Year only lasted so long before we were brought back down to earth with a bump, thanks to an error we made regarding a picture of us at the awards.

For the uninitiated, a photo of us celebrating on the night against a backdrop of sponsors' logos was altered for use in our internal magazine by placing our logos on the backdrop instead. Of course, Murphy's Law dictated that the wrong image was sent to the media and was used in two of the daily newspapers before we realised the error and contacted all the concerned outlets with the correct image asking them to replace the one that had previously been sent out. MEPRA considered this error a breach of their code of conduct so, after giving us the opportunity to explain our actions, met and issued a series of sanctions ranging from being banned from entering the 2011 Agency of the Year category through to all our team having to attend an ethics workshop.

So what do we think about the episode? Ultimately, as with everything in life, you learn your lesson from it and move on. Those that know us, know it was an honest error and that in six years of being in business we've never done anything unethical. It also shouldn't take away from the fact that we won four awards this year for our work and have recently been recognised on a global scale, achieving a finalist position in the USA for the prestigious PR News Awards. The one thing we felt strongly was that the affair was blown out of all proportion in some quarters - we've yet to meet anyone who hasn't made an honest mistake in their career and that's the crucial point here, there was no intent on our part. Indeed, one could see that if anything, it would have been counter-productive to issue an image displaying our logos as readers could have been left with the impression that we only won the awards because we'd sponsored the event, rather than the reality, which was that we'd won it because we've consistently been producing some brilliant, creative work for our clients (the judges' verdict, not ours!).

In the greater scheme of things, many observers have said they consider the episode to be a 'storm in a teacup'. Obviously we believe in taking responsibility for our actions and that we must uphold the best industry practices and set an example to other communications professionals. This is something we stand for and maintain as the core values of our company. However it is still debatable as to whether the punishment was proportionate to the misdemeanor. How does one judge morals over mistakes? Well, the way we tackle these things internally probably tells the story. If someone on the team unexpectedly makes a genuine mistake, it's our belief that management should review the error with them, explain the implications, and ensure they've understood the situation to the degree that the same error won't happen again. In essence, we will always look to coaching and mentoring in the first instance.

Most importantly, the past month has been characterised by a strong amount of understanding in the market, so it wouldn't be right to finish without thanking those that have supported us through emails and letters over the past month. We would like to thank the many award sponsors who have all acknowledged us and confirmed there were no objections from their side. We also want to thank our clients - their reaction to the episode has been extremely telling, as it's been 100% encouraging. Ultimately, they are the most important 'judges' we'll ever face and their vote of confidence has just inspired us to make even greater efforts to look after them this year. We might not be allowed to win Agency of the Year in 2011, but it doesn't mean we won't continue to deliver work for our clients that would make us more than worthy of retaining the crown.

AN EVENTFUL 2011

One trend that we've really noticed in the last few months is that marketing budgets are finally creeping back up from their recession-driven troughs. However, the excesses of the 'boom years' are never going to be repeated in the foreseeable future and people, quite rightly, are focused on generating an excellent return on investment.
Traditionally events have suffered in this regard as they can be perceived as a luxury and purely 'vanity vehicles', and this can be compounded by the fact it is generally a challenging area in which to determine your ROI. But the fact remains that when executed properly, events can be excellent communication platforms that achieve genuine results.
An example that springs to mind is the Vertu Constellation launch event we staged at the Armani hotel in November of last year. We ensured the attendance of approximately 500 VIPs, comprising a mix of existing Vertu customers and their desired target audience, and delivered a memorable experience that undoubted ensured positive engagement with the brand and a reinforcement of its key values. Indeed, testament to that was the fact that Vertu actually ended up taking orders for more than 40 of the new phones on the night itself, despite a starting price of close to Dh30,000!
However, we're acutely conscious that not everyone has a huge budget and we frequently encounter people who are keen to stage a memorable event, but simply aren't in a position to avail themselves of event services such as ours. Given this, we thought we'd share some tips based on our experience in a bid to ensure that whatever your budget you can stage a great event:

 

  1. 'The devil is in the detail' - It's a cliché for a reason, namely, because it's true. Events professionals are among the most detail-obsessive people you'll ever meet, purely because we recognise how just one small thing can detrimentally impact on someone's enjoyment or perception of an event, whether it's the quality of the card used for the invitations or the colour co-ordination on the top table of a gala dinner. Ensure every single individual involved in the running of the event has a clear, concise brief to ensure everything from consistent messaging through to correct protocol, and make sure you have an explicit, realistic timetable for the event - in our experience this is the one area where people tend to slip up; you should always build in some contingencies as things will never run exactly to time.
  2. Do at least one outstanding thing - We're fortunate enough to live in a region where people are spoilt for choice in terms of event invitations. The challenge for the host or event management team is how you can make your event stand out from the 'clutter', particularly if you're on a limited budget. Our advice would be to ensure that while your whole set-up has to be professional and presentable, focus on creating at least one single defining experience that leaves a lasting impression. Going to yet another standard bash at a five-star hotel can be something that just blurs into the memory of a guest; prevent this by having something that will distinguish it from the norm. This could range from having a unique performer through to individual handwritten thank you notes to those who made the effort to attend.
  3. Know your audience - Relating to the above, take the time to understand the type of guests who will be in attendance. This may sound like a statement of the obvious, but you'd be amazed at how many hosts or event management companies don't take the time to do this. You really need to get into the mindset of the potential guests and think long and hard about what is going to engage with them. If you're representing a brand, know its values inside out and think about how these translate in an events space in an entertaining manner.

Plan for the worst - Finally, anyone who's spent any time in event management will tell you that something ALWAYS goes wrong, no matter how well you prepare. The key is accepting that and so already having a contingency plan in place for as and when that worst case scenario unfolds. Most importantly, don't panic - if you move swiftly and efficiently then chances are most guests won't even reach the point where they realise something's got awry 'behind-the-scenes'.

The Dawn of DABO & CO

As we enter 2011 it seems that for those of us based in the Middle East there's genuine cause for optimism - whether it's the short-term resilience that the region has shown in the face of the global recession or long-term prospects such as the boost that Qatar winning the battle to host the 2022 World Cup will bring to the region.

Of course the team at DABO & CO are more excited than most as we embark on the next phase of the company's development. We ended 2010 by scooping four awards in the Middle East Public Relations Awards (MEPRAs), including the prestigious 'Agency of the Year' title, so couldn't have asked for a better 'launchpad' as we enter the New Year.

And of course this blog is indicative of one of the most exciting developments for us, which is the focus on developing our digital services. No-one can be under any illusion regarding the way that the internet is changing everything from the way we do business through to the way we communicate… and we're definitely in the camp of those who view this as a tremendously exciting opportunity rather than as a threat.

In keeping with that, we view this blog as a unique opportunity to give you a real 'flavour' of the most important part of the company, namely the people behind it. As with any company, it's the people who actually make it great - you can have the best business plans or strategies in the world, but if you haven't got the right people to execute them then the reality is they're not worth the paper they're written on.

At DABO & CO we genuinely believe we have an immensely talented team packed with vibrant personalities and we hope to use this blog as a medium to give you a taste of the individuals who make up the team and an insight into what they actually do 'behind-the-scenes'. In keeping with the fact we'll never be using it as a 'hard sell', we'll also be looking to use it to share interesting information we've discovered in our research in the hope that will give you some genuine value.

So, new brand, new year, new blog - and here's our first gift to you, a link to our favourite blogger, Seth Godin, who delivers genuine pearls of business wisdom on a daily basis: