Letter from Qatar
As a highly experienced public relations and marketing practitioner, Sinéad has held a number of senior marketing and public relations positions in blue chip companies in the UK and for governmental bodies in Ireland.
As a resident in the State of Qatar for over 10 years, she held the position of senior marketing and public relations consultant for a major energy company. Her responsibilities, amongst many projects, included the development and launch of the company's corporate identity, project management of major high profile corporate events and a role as senior managing editor of the external corporate magazine. She currently holds the position of senior strategic communications consultant.
Welcome to the State of Qatar, a country which is itself on a full-scale public relations campaign as it emerges as a strong economic and political global player. Qatar has gone from relative anonymity to becoming one of the most forward-thinking countries in the Middle East.
As with much of Qatar's commercial development, the role of public relations in Qatar is constantly evolving and gaining prominence in its value and strategic role at senior management level. Qatar recognises that to achieve its socio-economic goals it must position the country as economically strong, politically stable and environmentally conscious. It knows that a key factor in communicating these intrinsic factors is to strategically use the various disciplines of public relations to position a strong coherent message across the globe.
Specifics of the PR trade
One of the key challenges for public relations practitioners is recognising the strength of the trilogy of Qatar, Arab and Islamic culture which combine to form both a major driving force and a formidable influence. If, as a PR practitioner, you understand this cultural trilogy, respect its boundaries, and exploit the opportunities it brings you, you will gain the support and commitment of management in implementing PR programmes and campaigns.
Another challenge is to recognise that Qatar is a multi-cultural environment. Almost 70% of its workforce is expatriate. This combination of diverse language skills, inherent cultural traits, traditions and beliefs can prove challenging, particularly in relation to internal communications. Arabic is the national language of the country but English has been deemed the business language for many business entities. However, many publications and campaigns are increasingly published in dual language, or, depending on the target audience, purely Arabic. To survive, PR practitioners need to have either a good level of Arabic language knowledge or use the services of a professional translation agency.
A word of caution: always get a Qatari to check any material in Arabic. As with most official languages there are local nuances which could make or break your communication. Secondly, what might work in a Western environment does not necessarily translate into an Arabic situation. Any public relations practitioner coming from a Western background should be cognisant of the fact that they must adapt their standard frameworks, tools and practices to meet a diverse, forward-thinking yet inherently traditional target audience. Qatari businesses demand a strong and structured business framework with clear deliverables for any business project. In all aspects of the countries development, Qatar seeks the highest international standards and continually benchmarks its performance as an indicator of progression and success.
Social media PR is a strong growth discipline in Qatar. Our Generation Y workforce are, as in most countries, more familiar with communicating through social media tools than face-to-face or via written forms of communication. This area is a great opportunity for development for PR practitioners looking to move to the Middle East.
A growing market
Qatar has undergone unprecedented economic and social progress with long-term plans to continue with this growth and development. There is a world of opportunity for highly skilled, open-minded public relations practitioners, particularly as the country gears up to host the 2022 World Cup. Qatari businesses recognise the role and benefit of PR and expect to use it to support their activities, and to engage their employees, shareholders and stakeholders, in particular the local community who are a strong influencing factor.
However, as with all foreigners in a new country, expatriates must recognise that Qatar is an Islamic state and whilst fairly open-minded, is very traditional in terms of public social behaviour. You may initially feel out of your comfort zone, but the work opportunities, diverse community, financial benefits and hospitality that wait for you there are worthwhile and rewarding.