What does Instagram’s UAE communications remit say about how outsiders understand the region?

Instagram has been a huge hit in Saudi, especially among the Kingdom's youth. How will Instagram's comms team reach out to these groups? (image source: http://sustg.com/)

Instagram has been a huge hit in Saudi, especially among the Kingdom’s youth. How will Instagram’s comms team reach out to these groups? (image source: http://sustg.com/)

Client wins can often make interesting reading, especially when the brand is a household name. Last week was no exception, with the Dubai-based House of Comms winning a brief to represent Instagram in the UAE.

The news caught my attention for a couple of reasons. Firstly, House of Comms is enjoying remarkable success; the agency which was founded in 2012 has expanded rapidly, picked up a host of big name clients and won numerous awards for its work. The agency’s growth reminds me of the rapid rise enjoyed by Dabo & Co (which was eventually bought by Edelman). House of Comms does have an affiliate network across the region, including in the Gulf.

What struck me was Instagram’s choice of market to enter into. While the UAE is the regional public relations hub of the wider Middle East region, I would have thought that the company would have taken a more regional approach to public outreach (Editor’s Note: the agreement with House of Comms is for the UAE, but also includes advisory work for other markets). For instance, the first market to embrace paid influencer marketing, particularly on Instagram, was Kuwait. In terms of numbers on the platform, Saudi is the largest country in the region by far, with a greater number of users than the UAE. Egypt is another key market for the picture and video service. If you’re looking for details on Instagram usage, have a look at the stats below from the second quarter of 2015 from an earlier blog.

In terms of the Gulf, it’s no surprise that Saudi leads the way – there are 10.7 million monthly active users in the Kingdom (just over a third of the population). The UAE follows with 2.2 million monthly users. And, to the West, Egypt has 3.2 million monthly active users. What’s even more impressive is daily active users – a whopping 6.1 million for Saudi, 1.2 million for the UAE, and 1.1 million for Egypt.

In addition, there’s the parent brand to think of. Instagram is owned by Facebook, which has its own PR agency in the region (which is regional). Up until recently, that agency was supporting Instagram. So, why the change? Would having two agencies for the two brands help or hinder media outreach, especially when Instagram is known as a Facebook product?

While the agreement is only for the UAE, I hope that Instagram, one of the most popular social platforms in the Middle East, expands its regional approach to engagement. The Instagram team should have oodles of data to look at when it comes to usage in each and every different country, and they’d be smart to look at Twitter’s model of engaging with influencers to get them onto the platform. Let’s hope that as a digital business, Instagram takes a data-based approach to engagement in an emerging market and work in key markets, rather than follow the much traveled path of using a hub to work remotely instead of actually doing the hard work and going in-country.

How not to pitch to the media – examples from the Gulf

I wrote recently about pitching to the media, and I thought I’d share two examples of how not to approach journalists which have been shared with me by a couple of editors here in the Gulf.

The first is from a local company in the UAE. Written by a former editor (who should know better), the message ticks off the media for not running the release the day before. Is this really going to get your news published? The short answer is most likely not.

Telling off the media isn't the best approach to getting your news published

Telling off the media isn’t the best approach to getting your news published

The second pitch is more brief, but just as useless, in that it doesn’t tell the journalist anything. Instead, it almost shouts we’re here so publish something. For a pitch about a fashion collection, so much more could have been done particularly around visuals, to get the news published.

Yes, this is the pitch.

Yes, this is the pitch.

Pitching to journalists isn’t the easiest of things to do – they’re a difficult bunch at the best of times (and I’m including myself in that description as well). However, a well-crafted pitch explaining the news and why it’s beneficial to the journalist’s readers will go a long way to help you achieving your goal of publishing your news.

And to show that journalists also get it wrong, have a look at this piece highlighted by The Media Network.

The Daily Telegraph, published in Sydney by News Corp Australia, has made an embarrassing editorial blunder, by running a headline stating that Australian bombing raids killed dozens of terrorists in the UAE, according to the newspaper’s online platform.

While the story referred to bombings in Iraq – in which Australia’s super hornets conducted a total of 43 flights over the country since becoming operational almost two weeks ago – the prominent headline told a different story.

The headline has since been amended to citing the Middle East instead of the UAE, though the original URL remains.