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Evolve to endure: With the media landscape constantly in flux, communications professionals need to adapt as well

By Abdulwahed Juma, Executive Vice President of Brand and Corporate Communications, du

As the UAE continues to make substantial progress on the path towards digitization, aspiring professionals across all sectors must utilize every resource available to them to become acquainted with the evolving digital landscape. As such, the launch of the new Media Academy in Dubai by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid could not have happened at a more prudent time. As citizens passionate about our country’s future, we are obliged to commend the esteemed leadership in ensuring the vision to develop such an institution has become a reality.  Aligned with the National Agenda, the Media Academy will be a fundamental element for our nation’s development and a key investment in to the upcoming generation of communications professionals.

The establishment of the Media Academy is testament to the importance of the communications sector in the UAE. After all, the role of the media in the 21st century is vital – influential and informative in equal measures across the spectrum. In the UAE, the media has been instrumental as a medium to not only drive the leadership’s directives, but also serves a binding force keeping the country’s fabric together by bringing solidarity, integrity, and the message of the importance of a collective responsibility to the community at large.

The UAE media is also microcosm of the country’s diversity, and are guided by their love and respect for the UAE, and have been instrumental in sharing the nation’s ideals of tolerance, innovation, and deep-rooted cultural values. Effectively, the media has been pivotal in shaping the country’s positon on the world’s stage, shifting the UAE’s narrative from an outpost on the famed Silk Road, to a global economic and innovation hub.

However, with the changing media landscape, communications professionals must not only adapt, but adopt and evolve; a prerequisite for any industry going through a disruption. Just as the media landscape is evolving, the role of the communication professional is advancing as well. In addition to their traditional roles, such as managing their brand’s reputation and media and stakeholder engagement, they must also stay in tune with emerging digital trends to make sure they consistently bring new value to their brands in creative and strategic ways.

This is particularly important considering the evolution of digital trends, with augmentation, video and voice search, interactive content, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, amongst others, rising in the digital landscape. For all the opportunities they offer, the will also create new challenges for brands. As communications professionals, they must be able to step in and address these new digital challenges that these technologies will bring along with them.

The digital media space is vast and fast-moving; it has transformed communications to omnichannel, as opposed to the traditional mono-channel approach. Content is still king, but now context is defining the content. The future of communications is convergence, with the ‘tripartite’ of media, communications, and technology combining to deliver personalized conversations to push agendas. This will see even a stronger emergence of predicted and augmented analytics, progressive web apps, big-data and deep learning, IOT advertising, privacy marketing, and neuromarketing.

Digital media may sound overwhelming to today’s communications professionals. But by immersing themselves in three basic digital skills, they can provide themselves with the springboard to a more digitally-savvy future:

Digital marketing dimensions and benchmarks

With technology evolving and the lines between marketing and communications becoming increasingly blurred in the new digital age, there is an underlying need for communications professionals to learn new marketing skills. This is an area proven to be efficient in embracing and navigating the digital space to meet objectives – and this is where communications professionals must excel. Paid, earned, and owned media are all common tactics, yet are often not efficient when executing a coordinated communications campaign using all three. To develop and promote campaigns and be ahead of the curve, professionals must familiarize themselves with search engine optimization (SEO), web and social media analytics, content user experience, and keyword research.

Digital content formats

Communications professionals must be proficient in audiovisual formats such as dynamic content and video content, as they drive higher engagement rates and can be used across multiple platforms. While traditionally, static content has been the preferred format to get the message across, video and dynamic content record significantly greater engagement rates with the audience more likely to act as well.

Understand digital KPIs

Digital KPIs can provide a measurable impact of communication efforts. Implementing a platform that tracks engagement with target audiences will enable professionals to identify areas where they are meeting expectations – and also where they can improve. Utilizing digital tools to track KPIs and measure performance will be essential to meeting objectives both personally and for employers. Even though measuring strengths and weaknesses in communications may sound a bit daunting, collecting data to facilitate development through KPIs is, in fact, easily achievable.

With digitalization in full swing across the UAE, for which both the country and media have fully embraced, professionals must take a holistic view of communications moving forward. For that to happen, they will require the know-how, knowledge, and capabilities to deliver long-term value to the industry and society as whole. The unveiling of the Media Academy by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid is then precisely what is required for the UAE’s communications professionals to be future-ready for a tomorrow where digital will have seeped into every aspect of our lives. And when that time comes, the UAE will be able to spread its messages in even greater decibels for the whole world to hear.