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Sharjah Media City debuts interactive digital initiative ‘Shams Talks’ with a webinar on user-generated content

Shams Talks is an important step to promote Sharjah Media City’s role, empower innovative entrepreneurs, and advance the media sector in Sharjah and the UAE.

Sharjah Media City (Shams) has launched its web-based panel discussion series Shams Talks, an interactive digital initiative that aims to tackle issues and topics of interest in an effort to advance the media sector, educate entrepreneurs and professionals in various industries, and allow them to benefit from international best practices and success stories.

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The initiative allows young talents to bring their ideas to the table and debate topics relevant to media, as well as other sectors. It aims to create a constructive and engaging media environment, which, in turn, resonates with Shams’ mission to empower entrepreneurs and strengthen the media’s role as part of the economic system in the Emirate of Sharjah and the UAE.

Shams Talks consists of virtual panel discussions on Zoom hosting prominent experts from different industries from the UAE and the region. The sessions are open to entrepreneurs, owners of SMEs, and university students.

The inaugural Shams Talks was held on Monday, May 24, 2021, focusing on ‘User-generated Content and its Effect on Brands’. The session brought His Excellency Dr Khalid Omar Al Midfa, Chairman of Sharjah Media City (Shams), together with H.E. Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal, Executive Chairman of the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq); H.E. Reem bin Karam, Director of NAMA Women Advancement Establishment; and Dr. Suheil Dahdal, Associate Professor, Department of Mass Communication at the American University of Sharjah.

“Shams has set a clear vision to introduce the youth and entrepreneurs to international media best practices in order to empower them to take on a bigger role in media production,” H.E. Dr Khalid Omar Al Midfa said. “We are looking to establish an integrated media industry rooted in advanced technology and guided by science and market research to address challenges and find pragmatic solutions for them.”

“Shams Talks is an important step towards promoting Sharjah Media City’s role and empowering a generation of innovative entrepreneurs to bring change and advance the media sector in the Emirate of Sharjah and the UAE,” H.E. continued. “The initiative lays the groundwork for pioneering projects to thrive, promoting the UAE as a leader in the region and the world. University students and entrepreneurs will have a golden opportunity to expand their knowledge and develop their skills by joining the sessions and interacting with leading experts.”

“The series will kick off with a talk on user-generated content and the great role it plays in setting marketing strategies, developing media projects, and broadening their scope to reach larger audiences, communicate with them, and ensure credibility and transparency.” H.E. Al Midfa added.

Session One: ‘User-generated Content and its Effect on Brands’

The panel discussion explored User-generated Content (UGC), the effect it can have on brands, and its potential to boost marketing and media efforts in order to deliver the brands’ message to its audience.

Addressing the panel, H.E. Al Midfa said: “User-Generated Content was a game-changer in a wide range of sectors, particularly media. It democratises the narrative and allows the audience to be part of the story and contribute to creating the content. The audience is no longer a passive or silent recipient. UGC has become essential for brand marketing; it projects authenticity because it is made by the audience for the audience. And this eventually leads to more decisions to purchase products or avail services.”

“Knowing your audience is essential for brands to effectively communicate and engage with them in creating content,” H.E. Al Midfa explained, “but they must also choose their platform wisely. Social media has given individuals a platform to take part in creating content, but the demographics of each social network – including users’ age group, gender, etc. – should be taken into consideration in order to personalise the content and make it appealing to the wider audience.”

H.E. showcased some of Shams’ UGC initiatives and activities, citing the Xposure 2021 Photo Library and the HomeRec 2020 Competition. He also highlighted the UAE Entertainment Experience, which sought to produce the first crowdsourced film in the UAE and the whole Arab World. The initiative’s first project is the film 218, which premiered on May 17, 2021.

For his part, H.E. Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal, Executive Chairman, Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), said: “User-Generated Content has become a compass that guides marketing strategies due to its authenticity and honesty. We, at Shurooq, are of the view that our customers, partners and investors are co-creators who, through their Shurooq-related social content, have painted a more positive and genuine brand image for us than our advertising campaigns.”

“Hence, events such as Shams Talks are an important milestone in Sharjah’s developmental journey towards becoming one of the top destinations for young and aspiring professionals, as well as entrepreneurs worldwide. This webinar series will grant retailers, media agencies and young professionals in the emirate the perfect opportunity to identify and invest in the right media approaches by understanding and engaging with the science of user-generated content. This will enable them to better explore the UAE consumer’s shifting perceptions and appetite, and connect with them on a deeper level,” H.E. Al Sarkal added.

Meanwhile, H.E. Reem bin Karam, Director of NAMA Women Advancement Establishment, noted: “User-Generated Content is a powerful storytelling tool, especially when it is meaningful and taps into the collective desire for human connection.  Moreover, organisations can employ it as a means for gathering feedback from stakeholders. At NAMA, for instance, we find that conversations around women’s empowerment, especially on social media, are now louder and more emphatic than ever before. There is a surge of inspiring, uplifting, and relatable content transcending media formats.”

“We believe that listening to your audience/community is no longer an option; it is a necessity,” H.E. bin Karam added. “NAMA listens intently to these online conversations in order to strengthen our communication strategy. This, in turn, will allow us to effectively share our mandate, initiatives and causes with our followers, as well as the global women’s empowerment community at large.”

Also speaking at the session, Dr Suheil Dahdal, Associate Professor, Department of Mass Communication at the American University of Sharjah, explained: “Since the early days of social media, at the core of what makes it such a powerful communication tool is the ability for users to participate and contribute content. Fast forward a quarter a century, social media has now penetrated our everyday life creating a major shift in the way brands, politicians, and governments interact with users. The question becomes not one of value – that’s granted – but one of setting up new rules of engagement, policies, and a set of digital ethics to ensure the protection and maximum benefit for the users, the service providers, and of course, society.”

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