The Middle East Public Relations Association (MEPRA) will be hosting the sixth edition of their annual leadership majlis virtually this year. The majlis will include a series of daily sessions starting from 30th August till 3rd September with communication leaders from the Middle East and abroad.
Communicate speaks with Jonty Summers, Chairman of MEPRA and Managing Director at Hanover Middle East, to learn more about the theme of this year’s majlis and what to expect.
Could you explain the theme of this year’s MEPRA Leadership Majlis?
The theme for the 2020 Virtual MEPRA Leadership Majlis is ‘Beyond The Curve.’ We’ve heard from various industry leaders about how communicators have adapted during the pandemic, the challenges faced and the opportunity presented by the pandemic for communication professionals to lead from the front, but, we want to hear what’s next. What does the future hold for communicators and how can they help speed up recovery beyond the curve?. Each day our speakers will explore a new industry sector with communication leaders from the region and outside it who will address how sectors have responded globally to the pandemic and how communicators can help brands speed up recovery, stay relevant, and remain connected to their audience.
Considering this year’s Majlis is going to be virtual, what changes do you hope to see?
In many ways, the situation we find ourselves this year presents us with opportunities that we have not had before. Video technology is our friend this year. It means we can expand our speaker panel – without the need to factor in travel schedules – meaning we can cross time-zones a little more than we normally do to seek global perspectives. The format enables us to include more high-caliber content and at a significantly lower price, all to be enjoyed from the comfort of your home office, actual office, or wherever you choose to be to enjoy it.
How has the communication profession been impacted by the pandemic?
Certainly many in our region are being impacted through loss of business, notably in industries such as travel and tourism and retail. But it is not all doom and gloom. Difficult times have handed communications professionals with an opportunity to prove the value of excellence in communications. Whether they’ve had to handle crises and reputational issues; help leaders articulate a clear vision for the future; develop employee communications to engage, the past few months have forced the profession to think with flexibility, creativity, and originality to deliver communications with meaning in highly unusual times
Once all is said and done, do you believe communications will be done differently around the world? If so, could you share some insights?
The past six months will likely accelerate changes that were happening already. It’s been a terrible year for regional media, with widespread contraction in the number of publications, and fewer journalists to speak to. This places a greater emphasis on organizations to use their own platforms and networks to get their message out there. This probably means that PR plans full of weekly press releases are over. Digital technologies mean communications teams can create smarter, more targeted pitches and prove their impact through data.
As work becomes increasingly digital, will be able to measure every aspect of the communication process and we will be able to focus on the true impact of a PR effort and how it relates to the organization’s business goals. More broadly, the last six months have shown the value of experimentation. I would hope that the ability many communicators have shown to be able to rethink plans and to diversify their distribution approach will give them the confidence to handle whatever situation gets thrown at them in the future. They might even work in an office again at some point.