MATTER OF FACT – News, Views & Trends from the World of Public Relations

by Ahmad Itani, Founder & Chief Executive Officer of Cicero & Bernay Public Relations.


2018 is the year that influencer marketing comes of age in the Middle East, with recent regulations issued by the UAE National Media council (NMC) nudging the industry into full-blown adulthood. reflecting the NMC’s key pillars — participation, professionalism, transparency, credibility, leadership and responsibility — anyone conducting ‘commercial activities’ through social media is now required to hold a government-issued media licence.
While some social media influencers have balked at the decision, many have heralded it as a new era in the industry and I believe it is an overwhelmingly positive move for anyone working in the communication world. Ultimately, it comes down to an adage that has been expressed throughout the ages by celebrated men including Voltaire, Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt, but that was eventually made most famous by the creators of Spider-Man: “With great power there must also come great responsibility!”
Licences will not limit the power of influencers; instead, they will acknowledge it, preserve it and legitimise it by officially recognising the commanding role that influencers play in today’s new-age communication and marketing strategies. the NMc has sent a clear message: influencers are here to stay and they are leading a new era of communication that is crucial for the growth of the UAE’s media industry. Among influencers, this is a momentous validation that should be celebrated.
From an agency perspective, PR professionals and marketeers can now recommend fully-licensed influencers to their clients. the licences will serve to protect social media influencers, brands and consumers in any commercial social media activities, and I believe this new level of security will further grow the industry by building stronger bonds of trust and confidence. It could even have the potential to convert wary clients who may still be on the fence about influencer marketing.
Taking a broader look at the effect this development will have on the UAE media industry, the future is bright. It opens the door for global agencies to set up fully regulated branches in the UAE, which will enhance the international nature of Dubai’s media scene, and will also bolster the publishing industry by upping the ratio of digital media, providing legal protection for outlets and enhancing their competitiveness. When it comes to integrity — the cornerstone of the UAE’s media industry — the licences will help to ensure that content respects the religious, cultural and social values of the nation.
With new legitimacy, assurance and support, I am confident that both social media influencers and communication professionals will achieve greater creativity, engagement and impact than ever before. the new rules of influence have given us great responsibility, but also great power.