Copy and Paste: Gitex news and repeating the same message

I used to joke with a good friend of mine who works as a journalist that companies would often recycle news year after year during the region’s largest technology exhibition. I’d tell him that firms would simply change the date of the previous year’s press release and joke that maybe he’d do the same.

I was reading over one news piece from Dubai Airport Free Zone (DAFZA) during this year’s GITEX. The piece, which I’m pasting below and which is linked to here, is on the launch of the organization’s first official mobile application.

DAFZA launches its first mobile application, in 2013

DAFZA launches its first mobile application, in 2013

I thought I’d seen the news before, so obviously I asked Google. And what did I find?

DAFZA launches its first mobile application news, from GITEX 2011

DAFZA launches its first mobile application news, from GITEX 2011

Copy and paste anyone?

Five tips on how to survive and thrive during Gitex

It’s here, the region’s most manic event. Gitex, the Gulf Information Technology Exhibition, is to public relations and media people what Christmas is to parents of little children who believe in Father Christmas; a ruthless, insane, once-in-a-year event where everyone wants what’s on their wish list and you have to deliver.

From someone who’s done his fair share of Gitex exhibitions both as a journo, a PR person and as one of the organizers, here’s my five top tips on how not just to survive Gitex but thrive despite all of the noise, confusion, and occasional tantrums (you know whom these executives and organizers are). So here we go!

1) A phone with an endless battery

At Gitex your phone will be ringing incessantly. No one has died, there’s no new births to report, and the world is not coming to an end. But if you’re a journalist you’ll be every PR person’s best friend for five days (especially if you work for the official publisher ITP). And if you’re a PR person the pressure to deliver interviews will quickly build to a crescendo. Every single journalist within a four-hour flight will be on your quick dial list. Just don’t let the phone die.

Make sure your phone battery never, ever dies during Gitex. Or else you’ll never be forgiven. (image source: Daily Mail)

2) Lots and lots and lots of caffeine

You will not eat or sleep during Gitex. What you will live on is caffeine and taurine. You will drink coffee, tea, and Red Bull like its water. Gitex veterans will normally lug around with them a couple of cans of energy drinks. And for those new to Gitex, bring lots of small change. The venue doesn’t sell cheap beverages (there is however a supermarket around the corner in the DWTC residences, besides the metro station and opposite Pizza Express).

The above is one way to carry your Red Bull during Gitex, though it’s not recommended. (image source: wikimedia)

3) Ear Plugs

Gitex is noisy. Actually that’s wrong. Gitex is deafening. Exhibitors assume that the higher the wattage from their surround sound system, the more people will stop and watch the models… ahem, executives talking about their business. Gitex is the exhibition equivalent of a Tuesday night club which is hosting a drum and bass session combined with a ladies free-entry policy. If you want to ensure that you leave with your hearing intact then take ear plugs with you. Just don’t forget to take them out when you’re interviewing/arranging for interviews.

Pillows won’t help with the noise pollution at Gitex. Get some ear plugs. (image source: http://www.alpinehearingprotection.com)

4) Panadol, Ibuprofen, Vicodin…

You get the point. At some time during Gitex, you’re going to be hit by the mother of all headaches. Be prepared, take lots of meds with you. And if you don’t have any and the dreaded throbbing and pain strikes then head on down to the pharmacy on the concourse to grab your pain killer of choice.

Bring drugs, lots of drugs! You will need them. (image source: The Guardian)

5) The Patience of a Saint

At some point you’re going to be surrounded by screaming, nagging executives who are behaving like a bunch of toddlers/prima donnaa. There’s really thing that you can do, apart from swallow your pride, paint a smile on your face, and remain calm. Gitex would test the patience of the Dalai Lama, so remember you’re not alone in your frustrations. For the week however, you will have to suffer in silence. Remember that patience is a virtue so stay calm!

Keep calm, take a deep breath. Gitex will soon be over. (image source: http://www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk)

What’s your top tips for Gitex? Share and share alike. Remember, we’re in this together!

Déjà Vu and Dubai’s Real Estate Sector – Is Communications Doing Enough to Win Back Consumer Trust

We’d just finished off another round of Cityscape here in Dubai, an exhibition that was the highlight of the decade that was the 2000s. When 2008 struck, Cityscape was almost forgotten about. No one wanted to be reminded of how much Dubai’s real estate sector had fallen. Anyone who visited the event this month may have been forgiven for thinking that the downturn never happened. We were bombarded with news about how good everything is looking; one executive from Dubai-based executive Damac claimed there had never been a property bubble to begin with.

All the good news hasn’t been without incident. An announcement at the beginning of this month revived plans to build a canal, this time linking Dubai’s Business Bay waterway system out to the Gulf at what is now Jumeirah Beach Park (Alex McNabb wrote an excellent blog piece about the news which you can read here). Other reports have focused on stalled projects which have neither been revived or cancelled, basically locking in investor money (the law here in the UAE requires projects to be cancelled before any collected monies can be returned to investors), and the proposed establishment of a body that would help return funds to those who invested in projects which never got off the ground.

While there’s no doubt that the boom is back and that Dubai is again one of the leading lights when it comes to global real estate, is enough being done to ensure not just investors but ordinary people out there, the likes of you and me, that mistakes which were made in the past will not be repeated?

If you’re an Arabic speaker listen to this interview at Cityscape with the CEO of Damac Ziad El Chaar.

The End of the Fattah Era at Abu Dhabi’s The National

How will The National change following Fattah’s departure to the world of Public Relations? (image source: http://www.capitalnewyork.com)

As they say, all things must come to an end. This month in the United Arab Emirates we witnessed a rare occurrence, the departure of an editor-in-chief at one of the national newspapers. After five years Hassan Fattah stepped down. The news wasn’t surprising to most of us media watchers when it was officially announced by The National on the 2nd of October. The news had been unofficially published by Capital New York on the 19th of September after personal emails had been leaked to The National staffers (one email apparently contained an employment contract from Fattah’s new employers).

Fattah’s time at The National hasn’t been without controversy. The paper, which was once dubbed “The New York Times of the Middle East”, once held aloft the ideals of freedom of the press and professional journalism in a region that suffers from a lack of both. Today, while The National is a quality read it hasn’t lived up to the goals that its founders and editorial team strived for at the paper’s launch.

Instead, judging by the number of pieces that have been written about The National by blogs and other online news outlets the paper has been riven by leadership issues at the top by people who have had to juggle the demands of producing good quality editorial alongside keeping the newspaper’s owners, Abu Dhabi Media Company, happy. The nadir was reached when disgruntled employees started a Facebook site with the aim of highlighting their unhappiness at how the newspaper was run.

Fattah has moved on to the dark side, to the world of public relations. He’ll be heading up communications for a company that is not much loved in the UAE – GEMS, the ‘world’s largest private education company’. It’ll be interesting to see how he copes with the move; public relations isn’t the easiest profession at the best of times but trying to prove that paying more per year for a child’s education than one would pay for an MBA in a top UK University is good value for money would be a stretch for even the most experienced communications spin doctor. How will Fattah cope with keeping his employer happy and the press onside whilst trying to convince a skeptical public about GEMS’ altruism and the value for money provided by its services for example?

However, my gaze will remain firmly on The National. The paper is still one of my favourites and I believe that despite all of the events of the last couple of years there remains the promise of a publication which can raise journalistic standards in the Gulf. Call me naive, simple or whatever else you want, but I’d rather live in hope that The National can return to the vision spelt out by Abu Dhabi Media chairman Mohamed Khalaf Al Mazrouei on the eve of its inauguration, of “a free, professional and enlightened press” that will play a key role in the development of the country. Am I asking too much? Let’s hope not.

The Middle East and its addiction to Facebook – 2013 stats and figures

Yes, we Arabs have adopted Facebook as our own (image source: muslimscrisisgroup.wordpress.com)

Most of us in the region already know how effective and powerful Facebook is. The social media site played a prominent role in the Arab Spring, particularly in Egypt, and its popularity has endured in the face of challenges from other services such as Twitter and YouTube (I’m not even going to mention Google+ in the same sentence).

Facebook released some figures this week about the site’s usage in the Middle East. According to Facebook’s head of MENA Jonathan Labin over twenty eight million people in the Middle East and North Africa are using Facebook every day. Fifty six million use the site every month and of those thirty three use a phone or tablet device to check their profile. Fifteen million people access the site on a daily basis from their mobiles.

I’m going to give you a little more insight into a couple of different regions: Saudi Arabia; Egypt; the GCC; North Africa, and the Levant. The below figures, which were compiled last month, give a good deal of insight into gender split, age, marriage status, number of friends and page likes, access methods, and interface usage. If you’re a marketer in this region and you’re not using or leveraging Facebook (especially on mobile) then start rethinking your advertising and communications approach.