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Communicate Levant | Advertising, marketing, public relations and media in the Arab world and beyond

PR

Covert mission

In a first-of-its-kind venture in the Middle East – if not the world – Sarah Mohamed launches Secret PR, an agency to cater to the needs of other PR agencies.Communicate’s interest was spiked in this unique venture when we first received an email from one of the ‘agents’ of Secret PR. “We are a covert missions agency, so all our employees are called ‘agents’ while I am the director – just like the Federal Bureau of Intelligence (FBI),” explains Mohamed. The agency saw its soft launch in September 2014 and will be officially inaugurated this February – with a top-secret launch party to boot.

After a few years of working in PR agencies and dealing with uninformed clients, as well as the haphazard ways of most PR agencies around the world, Mohamed felt it was time to start her own venture. PR agencies in Dubai have a high attrition rate due to the fast-paced, demanding nature of the job, as well as the large number of expats, she explains. This often leaves them with a staffing gap and growing client demands end up putting them in a tight spot, creating an opportunity for Secret PR. “It’s difficult for agencies to find full-time employees or freelancers quick enough. Besides, freelancers are expensive,
difficult to trust and don’t always have all the tools needed,” she says. Secret PR fills this gap with a fee starting as low as AED2,000. “Services such as writing and distributing a press release start at AED4,000 and prices vary depending on the coverage needed by the client, while event planning and organization starts from AED10,000. We also do tailor-made packages to make it [the project] cheaper as a whole,” says Mohamed. Clients, which in this case means other PR agencies, are sent daily reports as often as three times a day so they’re always updated and can keep their clients updated too.

Surprisingly, everything from the odd press release to a full-fledged media event is handled by Secret PR’s staff of just four agents. It seems ironic that an agency that has based its business on easing the workload of other agencies might be overtaxing its own employees in the process. However, Mohamed explains, “I don’t want to overwork my employees, that’s why they work in two shifts: 9am to 3pm and 3pm to 9pm.” Employees – or agents – don’t work on individual projects; the entire team works on all projects so it’s easy for one agent to pick up where the other has left off. Mohamed also plans to hire two more people this year. In addition to the six-hour time shifts, the agency accepts a maximum of four projects per week, to ensure that the team doesn’t get overworked. Still, Mohamed has a membership program for agencies, which makes them immune to the project capping. In addition to this, member agencies also don’t necessarily need to make a 40 percent upfront payment – like other agencies do.

While Secret PR says it’s committed to working exclusively with PR agencies, what happens when a client directly approaches the agency? “I find out what they want and for no charge, I’ll check with my members first and then other agencies I’ve worked with and see which agency is the best fit. Often times, clients don’t know what they want so I’m willing to do all the dirty work – for clients and PR agencies – and be the middleman,” says Mohamed. On being questioned if this noble gesture – for lack of a better term – might actually be damaging for her business, she quips, “If PR agencies are busy, then I’m busy, right?”

It’s hard to gauge the success of Secret PR as its core principle is secrecy, but Mohamed says the agency has acquired two members and worked on 27 projects in the last five months. The only client she admits having worked with is Dubai-based Quadro Art Productions. While we wonder which agencies – unbeknownst to their clients – are resorting to Secret PR’s clandestine services, you can’t help but admit that in the busy, fast-paced life of Dubai, one can’t really complain about an extra hand, however discreet it may be.

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