MEPRA Industry Insights: Krikor Khatchikian, Grey Doha

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Krikor Khatchikian is the PR Director for GREY Doha and has kindly offered his perspectives on PR in general, and Qatar specifically. If you would like to connect with Krikor, feel free to email him at krikor.khatchikian@greydoha.com.

Tell us about Grey Doha… 

Grey is one of the ten largest advertising agencies in the world, with offices in over 83 countries. It has one overriding focus: to produce truly great creative work, to produce work that soars, makes us proud and fosters the brand relationship with consumers—work that helps our clients prosper. Grey Worldwide provides highly creative services including brand ideas and strategies, brand planning, creative development and production. Our agency is organized into four geographical units: North America; Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA), Asia-Pacific and Latin America.

When Grey was established in Doha in 2004, we took the agency’s brand promise, “Famously Effective”, to heart; a philosophy has guided our growth and that of our client roster over the past 11 years. Armed with solid local partnerships and majority ownerships and a deep-rooted understanding of the transformation that Doha was witnessing, Grey was among the first agencies to enter and invest in the Qatari market. Grey Doha PR, which initially branched out of the Grey Doha operation as a support strategic PR arm for the agency’s expanding portfolio of local clients, has since reimagined and repurposed its services to offer total, integrated and holistic communications solutions. It won over 60 pieces of business over the past 11 years; an overwhelmingly local portfolio across key growth sectors in the Qatari economy that translated into fast-growing and agile business, and that has solidified Grey Doha’s position in the local market. In early 2013 Grey Doha won the integrated communications duties for Qatar Rail. Followed 2014 and 2015 wins of Barwa Bank Group, the Qatar Finance and Business Academy account, as well as of Qatar Foundation’s Qatar Career Fair brief.

As such very local institutions and clients start exporting their business and operations across the region and beyond, we foresee great growth for Grey Doha as their strategic communications partner.

What the key issues are in Qatar right now

In almost equal weight, the Qatari market presents challenges and opportunities that require a great deal of depth and on-the-ground presence – particularly for international businesses and multinationals operating in the market. Qatar is a GCC market with a unique position that it largely owes to the National Vision 2030 under His Highness the Emir’s leadership. Overarching pillars of the vision are economic, human, environmental and social development but, underlining it is a strategy that is deeply engrained in the local community before all else.

On the economic front, the state’s ambition is to attract top talents from developed markets in order to scale infrastructural investments and mega developments into world-class projects. In parallel, local businesses and clients want to bring Qatar and their operations to the world, and not the other way around. There is great and increasing focus on promoting local talents and molding them into the future leadership of key growth sectors in Qatar – nowhere more evidently than in the increasingly enforced Qatarisation policies across local and semi-local establishments.

The growth of Qatar as an economy, society and brand is very much engrained in that of the local community, pride and culture.

One of the main matters in Qatar right now arise from the FIFA World Cup 2022 which has provided an important catalyst for investment in non-oil sectors. Real estate, financial services and business are the largest contributors to Qatar’s GDP following the oil and gas sector – this economic movement is opening the doors for wider business opportunities and promising prospects, where the agency’s role is also central.

What your views on PR and PR trends

PR no longer exists as a standalone discipline supporting other communication functions in a company or agency – that is, at least, how it was perceived. It has completely evolved from what some might have called in the past a ‘support function’ that intervened with press releases/opportunities when needed and with crisis management plans when called on. The trends that have shaped up the media and advertising industry have worked in favor of strengthening PR as the ultimate and overarching discipline that ties into all of a brand’s communications solutions and strategies.

This change has been largely driven by the advent of social media which, first and foremost, has completely redefined and repurposed the role of PR in reputational, crisis and risk management for a brand. Agility and real-time response needs fueled by data from and interactions with consumers are ushering PR in a new era where its role is central – not to mention often the starting point – in a brand’s communication strategy and approach.

Another change driving the growth of PR is the prioritization of content creation and curation; while media and advertising agencies each pull brand custodianship in their direction – the former fueled by a deep understanding of consumer psyche and evolution and the latter, by technology, data and analytics that dig into behavioral and consumption patterns – PR can claim this custodianship as its very premise is public and consumer perception. In an age where this perception has become not only paramount in good times but also, detrimental for some brands in bad times, PR can lead the way.

We believe WPP chief Martin Sorrell put it ever so perfectly to the point when he told The Holmes Report that PR agencies have become increasingly “relevant” by benefiting from the rise of data and content. He singled out Twitter as the “most important force that has helped the PR industry” and, this is certainly a very strong statement to make.