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An interview with Reem Masswadeh, Head of Communications at PR Academy MENA

CIPR International Chair, Samantha Seewoosurrun, recently met and interviewed the Head of Communications at the PR Academy MENA, based in Dubai.

Can you tell us, what was the rationale for setting up the organisation?

Before founding The PR Academy MENA, I had the pleasure of managing teams at several Dubai PR agencies. During this time, I was fortunate to work with brilliant and dedicated teams who excelled at the practical aspects of agency life. However, I also recognised a regional gap regarding the emphasis on formal PR qualifications. Unlike other parts of the world, especially in the UK, PR agencies in the MENA region, specifically the GCC, don't necessarily require formal qualifications as a prerequisite for hiring. While this allows agencies to tap into a pool of talented individuals, it can also lead to a lack of understanding of the fundamental principles of PR practice.


To address this need and equip individuals with the necessary theoretical knowledge to complement their practical skills, I was motivated to partner with The PR Academy UK. Together, we established The PR Academy MENA with the mission of raising the bar for PR professionalism in the region by offering the CIPR internationally recognised qualifications and fostering a deeper understanding of the field.


What kind of courses and services are being offered by PR Academy MENA? What inspired you to include CIPR courses in your portfolio?

CIPR qualifications are central to our offerings, as they are the only chartered professional body in the field, ensuring internationally recognized qualifications. We believe this is crucial for career advancement and global recognition.


Beyond CIPR qualifications, The PR Academy MENA, in collaboration with The PR Academy UK, provides a diverse range of courses covering various aspects of communication:


  • Public Relations

  • Social Media

  • Digital Communications


Additionally, we offer bespoke and customised training for agencies on "The Art of Client Servicing." This addresses the risk of PR professionals losing sight of their strategic and advisory roles amidst daily pressures. Our courses help maintain a healthy balance and implement processes for increased productivity.


How do you see the demand for international training among PR professionals in the MENA region?

As a practitioner myself, I sought globally recognized qualifications for professional development. I understand that demand for such training in the MENA region, especially among agency professionals, can be influenced by several factors:


  • Time constraints: Agency professionals often juggle demanding workloads, leaving limited time for additional training.

  • Financial constraints: Entry-level PR salaries in the region might not readily accommodate the cost of professional qualifications.

  • Lack of emphasis on formal professional qualifications: Unlike some regions, obtaining a PR qualification isn't always a prerequisite for employment within MENA agencies.


The PR Academy MENA aims to address these challenges in several ways. Firstly, we offer flexible learning options to suit different schedules. Secondly, we're exploring partnerships to make training more accessible. Additionally, a key initiative we're pursuing is the accreditation and approval of university degrees. By collaborating with universities, we aim to add the CIPR's stamp of approval to relevant PR degrees, recognising the quality of their programs.


This will not only support graduates in their job search but also hopefully motivate them to pursue professional qualifications later in their careers. We believe these initiatives will increase the perceived value of international training and encourage more PR professionals in MENA to invest in their professional development.


How would you describe the evolution of the PR market in the MENA region in recent years? What are some of the challenges and opportunities?

The MENA PR landscape is remarkably dynamic, evolving rapidly. The region attracts global practitioners with its booming economy and diverse cultural context, fostering a unique environment for creativity and collaboration.


Furthermore, the Gulf region, in particular, has witnessed significant economic growth and development, attracting international brands, events, and exhibitions. This has created a surge in demand for skilled PR professionals who can navigate the complex cultural landscape and effectively engage various stakeholders.

The MENA PR market can be characterised by several key aspects:


Unmatched dynamism: The PR landscape in the MENA region is remarkably dynamic, evolving at a rapid pace. This is fuelled by a combination of factors, including:

  • Booming economy: The region's booming economy attracts global practitioners and brands, fostering a diverse and competitive environment.

  • Evolving media landscape: New communication channels and platforms emerge constantly, requiring practitioners to continuously learn and adapt their strategies.

  • Cultural complexity: Navigating the diverse cultural nuances within the region is crucial for effective communication and building trust with audiences.

  • Fierce competition: The increasing number of brands entering the MENA market intensifies competition, pushing communication agencies and specialists to constantly up their game. This translates to a demand for:

  • Strategic thinking: Developing creative and effective communication strategies that cut through the noise and resonate with target audiences.

  • Data-driven insights: Utilising data and analytics to gain a deeper understanding of audience preferences and tailor communication approaches accordingly.

  • Agility and adaptability: Demonstrating the ability to adapt to evolving trends and implement innovative communication tactics.


While navigating these challenges presents difficulties, it also creates exciting opportunities for PR professionals who can embrace continuous learning and develop their skill sets to stand out in the competitive MENA market.


What would be your message to PR professionals in MENA thinking of upskilling this year?

As a PR practitioner myself, I understand the ever-evolving nature of our industry. To stay ahead of the curve and remain a valuable asset in the dynamic MENA market, continuous upskilling is crucial.


Here at The PR Academy MENA, we share your commitment to professional development. We believe that by equipping individuals with the latest knowledge and competencies, we can collectively raise the bar for PR professionalism in the region.


Therefore, I encourage you to consider investing in yourself through professional qualifications. While academic qualifications like Master's degrees have their place, professional courses offer distinct advantages:


  • Focused and relevant content: They address specific industry needs and trends, ensuring you're equipped with the most up-to-date knowledge and skills.

  • Practical knowledge: Taught by experienced practitioners, these courses provide real-world insights and practical applications for immediate impact on your professional practice.


By taking ownership of your professional development and pursuing the right qualifications, you can distinguish yourself in the competitive MENA market, contribute to elevating the overall standard of PR, and open doors to exciting career opportunities.


The PR Academy MENA is here to support you on this journey.


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