What does Authenticity mean in the Gulf?

Are you being authentic? And what does authenticity mean to us in the Gulf?

Are you being authentic? And what does authenticity mean to us in the Gulf?

The notion of authenticity, that feeling of genuineness, has long been an issue to us communicators. The theory goes that the more authentic we (or our clients) are, the more people will believe us and like us. Even the use of the word authentic has grown; in the US, the word’s use has grown 74.5% since 2012 according to the Holmes Report, to 8,069 press releases and 20,471 media stories.

Well, you’d think that being in a world where everything is online it’d be harder than ever to fake it. Well, an Australian teen with over half a million followers on Instagram has put the sword to that theory. Here’s an excerpt from The Guardian on Essena O’Neill and how she strived to be perfect online:

An Australian teenager with more than half a million followers on Instagram has quit the platform, describing it as “contrived perfection made to get attention”, and called for others to quit social media – perhaps with help from her new website.

Essena O’Neill, 18, said she was able to make an income from marketing products to her 612,000 followers on Instagram – “$2000AUD a post EASY”. But her dramatic rejection of social media celebrity has won her praise.

On 27 October she deleted more than 2,000 pictures “that served no real purpose other than self-promotion”, and dramatically edited the captions to the remaining 96 posts in a bid to to reveal the manipulation, mundanity, and even insecurity behind them.

At a recent event I was chairing, one of the speakers told an anecdote about a Saudi youngster who claimed to be an entrepreneur, partly because it is the popular thing to do and also because he was unemployed. The experience also reminded me of comments left on a popular website about two local entrepreneurs who have set up their own business. Three of the comments were negative, and called into question the ‘authenticity’ of the two young gentlemen. One person wrote, “I have also noticed many so called ‘Entrepreneurs’ are only ‘Instagram-perneurs'”.

The question then comes to mind – who is being genuine and how can we tell if they’re genuine? Will the media challenge people on their achievements? Will the public call out these people? We live in a region where social media is all pervasive and yet, due to various barriers such as culture, language and traditions, it can be truly difficult to know if someone is being genuine or not. For me, the best way to understand the true meaning of authenticity is to grasp its meaning – one who does things himself/herself.

What are your thoughts on authenticity and the Gulf? Do people live to a certain image, or are they true to themselves? And what does this mean for how we communicate? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the issue.

Shaping awareness on breast cancer in Saudi – how a local firm won globally for its communications approach

There’s nothing better than getting recognized for good work. What’s even better is to make a difference through your actions. We don’t often get to celebrate our local, Saudi-based public relations industry either because everything comes out of Dubai or our local agencies and companies believe that communications with the media and public begins and ends with a press release.

That doesn’t have to be the case any more in Saudi Arabia. One agency has been looking to change how communications is viewed in the Kingdom. That agency’s name is Adalid, and the founders are Saudi nationals who understand and know not only how the media works but also what communications is capable of.

They’ve notched up a series of impressive wins and campaigns locally since founding the agency two years ago. However, Yahya and Sohaib’s crowning glory is an event that has earned them global recognition. To quote directly from the piece in this summer’s edition of Gulf Marketing Review which can be found here.

“Saudi PR agency takes home two SABRE awards for breast cancer awareness campaign

Jeddah-based Adalid has beaten out 2,000 entries to become the first Saudi-managed and owned public relations firm to win a platinum and gold SABRE award for the one campaign. The much-coveted trophies, which were handed to Adalid’s top executives during the Holmes Group EMEA SABRE Awards ceremony in Prague this May, was in recognition for the success of A Woman’s Stand, a public relations campaign designed to raise awareness of breast cancer among females in Saudi Arabia.

The program, conducted by Adalid Public Relations on behalf of HRH Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud and the Zahra Breast Cancer Association was the unanimous first choice of the SABRE judges…

The campaign, which aimed at raising awareness of breast cancer among women in Saudi Arabia through attempting to create the world’s largest human pink ribbon, worked with traditional media channels such as MBC, women’s magazine Sayidati, and Saudi’s Al-Watan newspaper.

Adalid also utilized social media to both spread awareness of the event as well as mobilize supporters to attend the record-breaking attempt. Thousands of people subscribed to the campaign’s Facebook page and Twitter feeds.

“While this was a professional campaign, it is also one where the benefits reflect directly on my mother, sisters and every single woman, not only Saudi Arabia but across the world,” said Adalid PR’s Managing Director, Yahya Hamidaddin. “Now the Kingdom has demonstrated that there is enough concern to establish a world record and been recognised for its efforts to bring concern over breast cancer out into the open, I am sure we can move forward in the battle to overcome this deeply distressing affliction.”

Adalid was founded in 2009 in Jeddah by a number of Saudi nationals with experience in the public relations industry. The agency extended its geographic reach following the opening of an office in Riyadh last year.

SABRE awards are bestowed annually by The Holmes Group in recognition of a company’s superior achievement in branding and reputation. They are awarded to those public relations, reputation management and brand building campaigns that exemplify a strategic approach in research and planning, innovative thinking, integrity and effectiveness. Gold SABREs recognize the best programmes in specific brand-building and reputation management categories. Only one platinum SABRE is awarded by the judging panel for the best campaign in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region. ”

Just for good measure the boys and their team of dedicated PR professionals not only won the European SABRE award in May, but topped it off with a global award for the best public stunt of 2011. Adalid’s A Woman’s Stand campaign also made the shortlist for the Holmes Report best global public relations campaign of 2011.

What’s amazing about this campaign is that it’s opened the doors for a comprehensive debate on breast cancer in Saudi. The disease, or more to the point discussion about the condition, is often considered a taboo in this conservative country. Since the campaign there have been calls for more initiatives from the public and private sector, and even an order for breast cancer to be a lead topic during Friday sermons (I still cannot imagine how most Muslim preachers would react to this, to discussing a topic that they’d most likely never thought about before, let alone preaching to their followers).

Thank you Yahya, Sohaib and the rest of the team for making this campaign possible, for promoting breast cancer awareness and for showing how good public relations can be in Saudi Arabia. You and the client have I believed made a huge difference to the women of the country and you’ve been awarded for that. Long may your success continue. I just hope the rest of the public relations industry in Saudi as well as Dubai takes note that we can do more than just send out a press release.