A work in progress – By Alex Malouf

Malouf , leading industry commentator on PR and communications, examines what the first capabilities study using the Global Capability Framework says about PR in the UAE

We had a VVIP in Dubai recently (I was going to say VIP, but everyone is a VIP in this town). Someone who, for me at least, is a public relations rock star. And a person who has done a great deal to promote the function and PR’s development, globally. Anne Gregory is a name you’ve got to remember. She’s been the chair of the CIPR and the Global Alliance. And, along with Johanna Fawkes, she created the Global Capability Framework (GCF).

I’ve reference the GCF before, and why it should matter to anyone who works in or wants to work in communications. Anne was in Dubai to talk about the UAE GCF research; this piece of work, which is being led by Ganga Dhanesh and Gaelle Duthler from Zayed University, is the first ever study to identify the most (and least) important capabilities of public relations and communication management in the country.

Well, the initial results are in. Anne, Gaelle, and Ganga spoke at an open event about the initial findings from the study, to uncover which capabilities matter most to UAE practitioners. The results may surprise you.

These are the top 10 areas where the industry
requires capabilities from its communicators in
the UAE:
1. Reputation (52 points)
2. Strategy (37)
3. Professionalism (33)
4. Stakeholders (31)
5. Crisis (28)
6. Environment (27)
7. Messaging (27)
8. Digital (26)
9. Employees (25)
10. Skills (22)

At the top by a mile is reputation, which makes a good deal of sense given we’re reputation builders. However, what I’m not showing here is what’s at the bottom. Among that group is ethics. Given what’s happening globally (think fake news and a distrust of the media and PR), as well as regionally (social media manipulation, political disagreements and a lack of media/communications transparency), I’m partly surprised, partly understanding of the irony of communicators not linking these two capabilities more closely.

To ask a simple question, which I’ve asked before of others: Would you trust someone who you don’t think is ethical? Clearly, we’ve got to do more on raising the need for the industry to view ethics as something that is important, and bodies such as the PRCA and MEPRA have got to play their part.

At number two, strategy was another standout. Conversely, measurement didn’t make it into the top 10, and was also near to the bottom of capabilities listed. While there’s a realisation among many senior communicators about the need to align the function with their organisation’s goals, measurement of outcomes matters, especially to our organisational leaders. It’s how we prove our worth.

Out of the top 10, what I also found interesting was the focus on crisis communications (is this driven by social media, I wonder), as well as environment (this means a contextual understanding of all the factors we’re dealing with, regarding our functions and organisations) and digital (I’d assume this reflects how quickly we’ve become a connected society).

How can you use the Global Capabilities Framework?
Now, what Anne and the University of Huddersfield/the Global Alliance have also done is make available a brilliant tool that lets communicators assess themselves and their teams against the framework. It’ll allow you to look at your skills, see your strengths and weaknesses, and understand where you need to develop and then re-assess yourself to see how you’re progressing.

There are two assessment levels: the Core capability assessment is comprised of 11 questions, and the Full assessment has a total of 37 questions.

Once you’ve done your assessment, you’ll be shown a spider chart of your capabilities. This tool is free for any organisation that is part of the Global Alliance (for example, CIPR). It also feeds into various professional development programmes. You can check out the GCF tool at www.gcbp.co.uk.