News & Views

But what drives growth for PR in the GCC?

Published in Gulf News

There are literally thousands of companies that provide tools for Public Relations agencies and professionals to help them deliver highly sophisticated, targeted campaigns. Thanks to such new technologies, PR professionals have the capabilities to capture and analyse real-time insights which they can leverage to deliver effective and impactful campaigns that can be accurately measured in terms of ROI.

Such tools include marketplaces for social listening and media monitoring, content creators, journalist and influencer databases, content distribution platforms and CRM, and are not to be confused or likened to tools or solutions that help in paid advertising or owned media distribution.

The number of PR Tech companies worldwide, excluding those based in China, is estimated at 1,350 according to Tracxn, a company that helps the Investor and venture capital community by studying, analysing, and tracking the various sectors and startups in various sectors.

Two of those PR Tech companies are already “unicorns” (valuations of $1 billion and more), 21 are “mini-corns” and 13 are “soonicorns”. They include Brandwatch and Meltwater, brands PR folk the world over are very familiar with because their capabilities and technology-driven deliverables help them provide media monitoring and market intelligence services to their clients. Carma and Vuolio are a couple of PR tech companies popular with Mideast-based agencies.

Taking a look at the global funding trends in PR tech, it’s easy to detect a growth pattern which last year culminated to $615 million invested in the sector. According to the Tracxn summary of funding activity in PR Tech between 2012 and 2018, last year saw the sector’s best performance by far, exceeding by almost four times the total investment flowing into the sector during the previous year.

The rapid growth in PR Tech investment globally could also be interpreted as a positive sign for the current and projected growth of the PR industry at large. It’s like in any other sector recording similar growth patterns where B2B or B2C demand for Fintech, Ecommerce and Healthtech attract the interest of Angels, VCs, institutional or private investors.

In the GCC region, this growth in demand for PR services is largely fuelled by a number of significant geopolitical and financial sector developments led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Today Saudi Arabia is a country in transition as it has embarked on a bold new transformational journey where the pace of change can only be slowed down by the ambition limits of its rulers.

The transformation taking shape in the Kingdom is anchored on a number of liberal reforms and founded on the country’s resources and investments committed by its visionary government. The charm offensives to attract tourists in the nation’s recently launched mega Red Sea developments and lure investors in Saudi Aramco’s IPO require significant investments in regional and international PR and communications agencies to help change mindsets, challenge stereotypical misperceptions and promote the unique selling propositions Saudi can boast of as a tourist and investment destination.

In this context, the Red Sea project needs to position itself as a major driver of this newly-founded push for social reforms and economic diversification, because in essence, the project is envisioned to be at the forefront of both a new, more liberal and more extrovert Saudi Arabia as well as a magnet for much needed foreign direct investment and creator of thousands of jobs for Saudi people in a country where more than 20 million citizens are below the age of 25.

In the UAE, Expo 2020 is a major contributing factor directing significant chunks of the marketing budgets of national pavilions to Dubai-based PR consultancies.

And the recent announcement by the UAE leaders regarding the development of a new national brand identity is set to herald us to a new era for the young nation where a potential consolidation and collaboration drive between entities and organisations across the seven emirates will most certainly require a brand new narrative supported by an international communications strategy to help tell the story and effectively and appropriately position the new brand on the global stage.

George Kotsolios is Managing Partner of Leidar MENA and author of “Back to the Future of Marketing – PRovolve or Perish”. Follow him on Twitter @georgekotsolios