x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Media affairs office to fast-track access to officials

At the same time, the office will co-ordinate an array of strategic communications briefs with international public relations agencies.

Mona al Marri, the chief executive of Brand Dubai, says the new body will help manage the emirate's image.
Mona al Marri, the chief executive of Brand Dubai, says the new body will help manage the emirate's image.

Brand Dubai, the emirate's new media affairs office, will offer for the first time a channel for international and regional media to reach the Dubai's government and semi-government entities, its chief executive said. The office - formally announced by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, on June 13, will also co-ordinate strategic communications briefs with international public relations agencies in Europe, the US and India, said Mona al Marri, the government entity's chief executive. "I know that a lot of media have trouble reaching stakeholders, especially government officials, so we will hopefully be the bridge in providing information and making the media's life easier," she said. "We would like to be the one who they can depend on for updating information, statistics and certain important statements that are coming through the government." Although the office was established after a spate of negative stories about Dubai in global press in the wake of the global financial crisis, Ms al Marri said it grew out of a committee created in 2006 in reaction to the Dubai Ports World controversy, she said. The committee included representatives from leading commercial and semi-government companies, including Emirates Airline and the Dubai International Financial Centre, which did business internationally and therefore had a major stake in how Dubai was perceived around the world, she said. The committee hired Hill and Knowlton, the UK PR firm, to "work on the image of Dubai", she said. It was decided in March to turn Brand Dubai into a government agency, she said. The new 20-member office in Jumeirah Emirates Towers absorbed the staff of A'Sidrah Public Affairs, a consultancy on government-related communications that, along with the PR agency JiWin and Dubai Press Club, formerly formed part of the Media Services Group that Ms al Marri previously ran. The office has been creating a database of "stakeholders" - from the Dubai Government to semi-government companies such as Emaar and Nakheel - and working on establishing clear lines of communications with the media. "We want the stories that come out of any media to have the Government voice in them if they need to," she said. So we are opening the chance for the journalists to see that we would provide meetings with such people. We believe that a story should have both sides. We are not saying we want a positive story. We want a balanced story." Brand Dubai will also have a research division that will conduct surveys, both for internal and for external use, she said. Eventually, Ms al Marri hopes that Brand Dubai's remit will extend beyond communications into marketing - thus the aspirational "Brand Dubai" title. Brand Dubai also wants to be "pro-active" in spreading the word overseas about lesser-known aspects of the emirate, such as its social and humanitarian initiatives, she said. It is working with Hill and Knowlton in Europe, Apco Worldwide internationally and firms yet to be announced in the US and India. It is also working closely with Finsbury, the London-based PR firm recently hired by Dubai's Department of Finance. "I think the crisis was a good lesson for all of us," she said. "We need to have this office, not only to react to a crisis that has happened, but also to see how to go forward." khagey@thenational.ae