A first-of-its kind research published in the UAE decoded the many characteristics PR and communications professionals across three stakeholder groups.
A team of researchers from Zayed University’s College of Communication and Media Sciences recently published a research report that focuses on the capabilities needed in public relations and communication management in the UAE. The research was an extension of the Global Capability Framework (GCF) project in the UAE.
GCF is a project spearheaded by the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management which is a confederation constituting the major PR and communication associations and institutions, representing almost 300,000 practitioners and academics from around the world. The initial research project was conducted across nine countries in Asia, Europe, Africa, Australia, North America and South America by an international group directed by Professor Anne Gregory of the University of Huddersfield, UK.
The GCF UAE report adopted the same rigorous methodology as the initial GCF project. Three empirical data collection methods were used, namely a Delphi panel study, survey, and focus groups with expert panels of PR and communication professionals, employers, and educators. The UAE study, however, offers unique insight into how these three groups understand and define capabilities required for the public relations profession in the region.
UAE’s research was led by Dr. Ganga Dhanesh, Dr. Gaelle Picherit-Duthler and Dr. Hilke Steenkamp. noted that the identified capabilities would define the current state and future direction of the public relations profession and education in the UAE.
Unlike any other research conducted in this area, this one looks at different perspectives of employers, practitioners, and educators. “This dissection can divulge similarities and differences when looking at building capability for the PR and communication profession. This report provides guidelines on how to prepare professionals in the future and each group plays a different role. Educators need to evaluate their current and future curriculum and add courses that would support building capabilities currently missing from their curriculum. Practitioners need to self-assess and evaluate their professional development goals. Employers need to understand what resources to invest in to build a successful team,” explained Dr. Gaelle Duthler.
They identified a list of capabilities that PR and communication enthusiasts could acquire and while the list encompassed most of the global capabilities, it clearly reflected the UAE’s unique environment. Among the top capabilities are:
In the UAE, this report reflected participants placing a strong emphasis on professionalism, the ability to manage people and teams, and employee engagement. Researchers explained how this could be a result of high levels of diversity and multiculturalism evident in the country. “The UAE results also reflected some nuances and emphases that were specific to the local environment, specifically the focus on employee engagement, and ability to manage people. These could be attributed to the extremely high levels of diversity and multiculturalism in the country. With people representing over 200 nationalities, having a common code of professionalism, the ability to manage people and teams, and fostering engagement among highly diverse employees acquires even more significance than anywhere else,” said Dr. Dhanesh.
The pandemic also contributed to the research’s methodology further affecting the results. “The findings need to be contextualized as part of the research started pre-pandemic and parts were conducted during the pandemic. Research conducted during the pandemic identified employee communication and communicating messages via multiple platforms as important capabilities. These two capabilities became more important as companies and consultancies were suddenly faced with remote workers and lockdowns,” explained Dr. Duthler. Findings from the survey and focus groups showed that tactical operational capabilities were deemed as important. Since the pandemic had a tremendous impact on the world of work, knowing how to build employee morale, engagement and satisfaction through strategic internal communication was also seen as an important capability. Digital media efforts and the cultivation of a digital mindset would continue to be crucial in the foreseeable future.
The findings of this study will have significant implications for the three stakeholder groups that took part in the study. The findings can help public relations and communications practitioners assess their own performance in the capabilities they see as important. Practitioners can also use the report to set long-term career goals, prepare for appraisal or promotion, and even argue for more responsibilities.
Employers, on the other hand, can use the research to understand which capabilities are seen as important and provide the right resources to support their team. They can then review their team’s strengths, do succession planning, and draft job advertisements.
Lastly, the research will be useful for educators to identify any gaps between what is taught and what competencies are needed in the UAE. Educators can design courses and curricula to focus on knowledge and skills needed to enhance certain capabilities deemed important by the profession in the UAE.