2021 MEPRA Majlis speakers call for innovation in communications industry or risk being left behind

The Middle East Public Relations Association (MEPRA) wrapped up its seventh Leadership Majlis this week, which was held virtually for the second time since the pandemic. The event, which brought together more than 200 industry professionals, included a series of live session over one afternoon with communication leaders from the Middle East and abroad. Speakers explored the theme ‘fit for the future’ and addressed the importance of organisations reinventing and reimagining their brand strategies as audiences continue to evolve.

Hosted by MEPRA chair and director of Corporate Communications at EWEC, Taryam Al Subaihi, the event welcomed speakers from the UAE Federal Government, Expo 2020 Dubai, Mastercard, Mubadala Investment Company, Majid Al Futtaim, New Media Academy, APCO Worldwide, Memac Ogilvy, Brazen MENA, Four Communications, Hanover Communications, PageGroup, Kingston Stanley, The Lighthouse Arabia and PRovoke Media.

The opening keynote speaker, His Excellency Omar Sultan Al Olama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy and Remote Work Applications, encouraged the adoption of AI technologies within the communications industry:

“I personally believe that every single person needs to upskill on AI technologies to be part of the future of their industry, just as my generation needed to upskill on using computers, everyone who wants to thrive in their industry needs to understand and work with AI.”

Discussing how the Expo 2020 Dubai team plans to reconnect the world for a better tomorrow and align with the rapid transition to digital life, work, and learning we saw as a result of the pandemic, Sconaid McGeachin, senior vice president of communications Expo 2020 Dubai said:

“Expo 2020 Dubai’s theme Connecting Minds, Creating the Future is more relevant today than it ever was before. The world has changed dramatically, and Expo will be the first mega event held since the start of the pandemic where people can come together, focus on key world challenges, discover ideas and innovations, and really look at things that are going to change our future.”

Mastercard global chief marketing officer Raja Rajamannar discussed how communicators and marketers needed to prepare for the ‘tsunami’ of emerging technologies coming their way:

“There are two dozen breakthrough technology coming at us like a tsunami. These will dramatically change consumer lives and usher marketing into the Fifth Paradigm. Modern marketers need to quickly educate themselves on a range of emerging technologies or risk becoming redundant.”

Umayma Abubakar, director of executive communications and corporate centre, Mubadala Investment Company joined a panel discussing the importance of prioritising the ‘Employee Experience’, she said:

“The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic brought with it challenges for all industries, where decisions and communications needed to be carried out efficiently and in real-time. At Mubadala, our priority is to ensure our employees’ safety and well-being. We also focused on safeguarding our operations and ensuring that we were making decisions that were in line with our corporate values. As an organization, we have benefitted from investing in leadership engagement in relation to our employees, enhanced our efforts to listen to our peoples’ feedback and proposing data-driven solutions to reinforce that our human capital are our top priority. This has allowed us to also accelerate major changes across the board which we successfully implemented throughout the pandemic.”

MEPRA vice-chair and CEO of New Media Academy joined a panel to discuss how to best nurture the next generation of communications professionals and prepare them for the future of the industry:

“In terms of upskilling, the absolute biggest opportunity for the PR industry today especially in this region is storytelling and scriptwriting. We need to develop the talent of writing into the art of storytelling particularly for digital content. That is the industry’s biggest weakness at the moment and that’s where we need to focus our attention.”

Speaking on the success of the event, MEPRA chair and director of corporate communications at EWEC, Taryam Al Subaihi said:

“This year marks the 20th anniversary since MEPRA was formed. That’s 20 years of supporting communication professionals in the Middle East through knowledge sharing, skill development and promoting best practice. The UAE MEPRA Majlis serves as a platform to achieve just that. This year’s Majlis has been no exception as we brought together regional and international communication leaders, and professionals to address the industry’s biggest challenges and opportunities.”

During the event, two MEPRA Fellows were inducted. MEPRA Fellowship is the highest grade of membership awarded for outstanding contribution to the public relations profession in the Middle East, through excellence in achievements and adherence to the highest professional standards. The inductees included Her Excellency Hend Al Otaiba, director of strategic communications, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and Tony Christodoulou, founder and chairman of Action Global Communications.

The 2021 Virtual MEPRA Leadership Majlis was supported by Mubadala Investment Company, Majid Al Futtaim, APCO Worldwide and CARMA.