3 Growth Opportunities for the Communications industry during COVID-19

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Contributed by MEPRA Strategy Board Member Elías Jabbe

Throughout all the challenges the world is facing during the COVID-19 era, every form of inspiration can make a difference in our lives.

The past few weeks have allowed us to witness how humanity is capable of coming together in the face of adversity in a remarkable way. The generous contributions and acts of solidarity have mirrored the #GrowingTogether mantra championed through the Middle East PR Association’s educational events. As we strive to stay safe and prevent the further spread of Coronavirus, the strong sense of community that has emerged as we adjust to our new reality is nothing short of inspiring.

One initiative that has impacted our Communications community in particular is the constantly expanding MEPRA COVID-19 Resource Hub (http://www.mepra.org/covid-19) which offers timely advice in written and multimedia formats.

This article highlights three growth opportunities for the Communications industry during the COVID-19 era: our chance to EvolveConnect and Listen.

1) Evolve

Seeking opportunities for continuous professional development during the Digital Decade ahead is the key theme of my February 23 Campaign Middle East Magazine article featuring MEPRA Executive Director Sabrina De Palma and thought leaders in the technology sector based in Dubai and Los Angeles.

Now more than ever, this need to evolve is crucial. Live MEPRA Academy events have been swiftly converted to online format and collaborative video conferencing platforms such as Microsoft Teams have become essential to the point that Teams gained 12 million new daily active users in a seven day period this month.

Across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), we’re observing technology companies of various sizes stepping up to help us make the most of our situation.

Google’s MENA headquarters in Dubai announced yesterday that it added a new Remote Work information hub in English and Arabic to its free Google Digital Garage platform.

Beekast, a startup launched by Moroccan tech entrepreneur Yassine Chabli, recently announced that it has integrated its dynamic features that enhance virtual meetings within Microsoft Teams, while offering three months of free use.

The aforementioned resources are available below.

2) Connect

The will to survive after facing a crisis is often reinforced when we connect and exchange our strategies while acknowledging that there is strength in numbers.

That’s why the series of MEPRA online events held in English and Arabic during the coming days will play such an important role.

Following her March 25 #MEPRAAcademy Webinar revolving around Instagram and IGTV content strategy, Leaders In Digital founder Dawn Kubicek is teaching several 3-hour webinars about strategy for YouTube and LinkedIn today and on April 7. These cost effective sessions available on the MEPRA Events Calendar (http://www.mepra.org/events) and are accessible to MEPRA members for 1,000 AED, with unlimited log-ins per organization.

Experts from Hill+Knowlton Strategies will also present a free #MEPRALive webinar regarding inspirational communications during the COVID-19 era tomorrow.

In addition, today marks the beginning of a series of MEPRA events held on Twitter, such as two #AskMEPRA sessions where questions about messaging related to COVID-19 can be asked. Today’s Live Twitter Q&A highlights crisis communications best practices with MEPRA Chair and Hanover MD Jonty Summers at 3:00PM GST, while questions about social media strategy can be answered by MEPRA Executive Board Member and renowned storyteller Peyman Al Awadhi on April 2 at 3:00PM GST.

Next week, the MEPRA Youth Board will analyze how young Communications professionals are navigating COVID-19 through several means. These include releasing an episode of MEPRA’s The Brief podcast on April 5 and hosting two Twitter #MEPRAChat sessions in English and Arabic. MEPRA Youth Board Vice President Hanisha Lalwani will lead the English session on April 6 at 3:00PM GST, while MEPRA Youth Board Member Shaimaa El Nazer will lead the Arabic session on April 8 at 3:00 GST.

The aforementioned resources are available below.

3) Listen

The free knowledge available on podcasts — both within and outside of the Communications industry — is an important source of inspiration, especially during the COVID-19 era in which e-learning will play a more prominent role.

Yesterday, the latest episode of MEPRA’s The Brief podcast (http://www.mepra.org/podcasts) united thought leaders to discuss COVID-19 best practices. This discussion featured insights shared by Majid Al Futtaim CCO Tracy Faulkner, Edelman Middle East CEO & PRCA MENA Chair Omar Qirem and MEPRA Chair & Hanover MD Jonty Summers with the host, MEPRA Executive Director Sabrina De Palma. The Brief was launched in 2019 and is produced by the international broadcast specialist, markettiers.

Along with the industry learnings shared by MEPRA, the podcast landscape is full of inspirational stories of overcoming adversity thanks to shows such as Forever Student produced by Dubai’s own Dukkan Media and the On Purpose podcast produced in Los Angeles by Jay Shetty. In a time of crisis or even when one simply wants to concentrate on research and writing, podcasts such as these can serve as welcome additions to playlists.

Hebah Fisher, the founder of renowned Dubai-based podcast Kerning Cultures, taught Communications professionals about podcasting in her MEPRA Academy workshop on March 4. Her expert analysis of the podcasting opportunity in MENA is available in a MEPRA Instagram Story highlight and in my series of podcast reports that also features resources from Google and PRX for starting podcasts.

The aforementioned resources are available below.

Elías Jabbe is a Communications Consultant and MEPRA Strategy Board Member.