October 11, 2015

Insights into the New Desert Media-scape

Pic Cred: Peter Darro

Pic Cred: Peter Darro

Journalists – traditionally recognised as the head gardeners

The media has a rapidly evolving landscape in the GCC with molehills and rabbit holes at ever twist and turn.

The former head gardeners, the stalwart hacks who historically dictated a country’s agenda, are subject to having their independence relinquished from them due to the pressures of advertising, especially in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

We are all aware that more and more publications require advertising spend before agreeing to editorial space.  It is to the chagrin and dismay of these journalists with professional integrity that they are finding it harder and harder to retain their independence and values, and support the all-important fourth estate.

The advertising budgets are also quickly shifting to online and social media, and paid for influence. Due to these ever decreasing funds, there is a distinct lack of resourcing on many news desks now and journalists have to decline attending events, due to the sheer volume of work and short staffing.

Journalists are getting frustrated by not being given long enough deadlines to complete stories, which is leading to one-dimensional stories and ‘copy and paste of press release’ journalism.  Many front pages even include Reuters, AP and Bloomberg copy, rather than senior staff report bylines.

Trendy in vogue landscape gardeners – talk of the town and garden

Blogging has become a full time job and the in vogue landscape gardeners, or should I say bloggers, have metamorphosed overnight into hot property, multi-channel social media influencers with rate cards and talent managers, taking advantage of the new found online funds.

It’s no wonder they are in such high demand and impacting the new world media landscape, since the UAE is now no.1 for smartphone penetration.

80% of the UAE has access to the internet and almost half of young Emiratis spend nearly 10 hours a day on social and other media. Of course world technology giant Apple isn’t opening two stores in the UAE by chance.  Therefore it’s also no surprise that a new breed of star, Vloggers on YouTube now earn more than USD 1 million in ad revenue a year and in some cases much more.

How do we navigate this next generation of much in demand influencers, who are digging up an entirely new landscape?

Everyone ought not to forget that the whole point of ‘influence’ isn’t product placement, or reviews in exchange for freebies, which is becoming the norm.  Real influence means to convince someone to choose something of their own accord without bribes.

Influence is earned through long-term relationships, which aren’t dependent on compensation.

Current customers who are passionate advocates and who can speak with conviction about a product or service are a good example of this, so it is imperative we choose influencers or brand ambassadors who genuinely are a good fit for your brand and who love your product.

No matter how big a personality the brand ambassador or endorser is, if they don’t know and understand your product, people will quickly see through them.

Also, a vast number of followers doesn’t necessarily mean the influencer is appropriate for your product, as they sadly could be paid for, or might not have the right follower demographic, so fewer followers doesn’t always need to be seen as a negative.

The Florist PRs – devising a strategic composition for a blooming success

Meanwhile clients are getting tougher on PR agencies with harder KPIs in order to get greater return on their investment ie. bigger bunches of flowers tied in even bigger bows!  As a result PR professionals are bombarding journalists and influencers with even more emails and phone calls, which the media simply cannot field, often being unable to reply to all emails, answer phone calls, or have time to engage in dialogue about new story ideas.

Given the current status quo, PRs need to be respect a journalist’s precious time, and be even more creative, tailoring story ideas to the outlet’s demographic. The joy of PR is knowing the editor and the publication or channel so well, that you can offer them a bespoke angle and treatment that is made to measure for their audience, thus doing their job for them by anticipating their needs.  A good PR consultant should always be able to find an angle for multiple outlets from one story, from Time Out, to Arabian Business, to Facebook.

Finally and most importantly, PR agencies always need to remember to always take the time to provide consultative advice to clients, rather than taking the easy option of becoming a ‘yes ma’am/sir’ transactional service provider due to the increasing pressures on their time.

In the coming months and years, let’s hope the head gardeners, landscape gardeners, and florists can work better together as a team, being empathetic to one another’s needs, so that a sensationally scented and colourful floral bouquet blooms in the desert!

It’s up to all of us to take responsibility to plant the seeds, water them regularly and shower the soil with TLC to make good quality hay while the GCC sun blazes!

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