Less than 5 % of Middle East marketing budget goes to research, expert tells 3rd Gulf Forum for PR Practitioners in Manama

Manama, Bahrain, 23rd June, 2009: Governments and private sectors in the Gulf should look more seriously at research to understand better their stakeholders, according to a regional media intelligence expert.

Speaking at the 3rd Gulf Forum for Practitioners of Public Relations in Manama, Mohamed Elzubeir, head of Mediastow, a leading media advisory and intelligence agency in the MENA region, revealed that currently only 5 per cent of the marketing budget goes to research in the Middle East, a very low figure compared to international markets.

The conference brought together more than 200 PR practitioners discussing issues related to public and corporate diplomacy.

Elzubeir added: “Corporate or public diplomacy needs trust and to build trust we need understanding. Research is crucial; we need to know our stakeholders better by identifying and gauging their hidden perceptions, preferences and who influences them and how to address their concerns by a language they understand and a vocabulary they are familiar with.”

Listening as much as talking holds the key, and listening comes from researching our stakeholders, Elzubeir contended.

Sometimes PR is only about targeting influential organizations which would be better than volumes of coverage, according to Elzubeir. Getting a leading rating agency to rate a place as a business friendly country, for example, is a more credible and persuasive approach than a regular supplement in a major newspaper. Knowing what the audience wants puts a company or state in a better position to cater to their interests. This can only happen if extensive research exercise is in place with credible and objective approaches.

Mediastow was felicitated at the event by Shura Council Chairman Ali Al Saleh who presented it with an appreciation award to Elzubeir.

Importance of research in public diplomacy is not increasing, according to Elzubeir, and many companies have practically frozen their research budgets as a result of the current crisis. However, demand is still rising which means that the PR efforts of these companies will not pay off.

Research investments affect how people think of an organization. There is a conflict between short-term profitability and sustainable positive perceptions. The more research one puts in place, the better understanding he will have to sidestep issues during the campaign, added Elzubeir.

Though research is dipping, media analysis is growing and this growth can be attributed to the realization by the public and private sectors in the Gulf to better understand the market, the industries they are working with as well as the economic and marketing significance of the media discussions at the local and global level.

Elzubeir said that media monitoring goes beyond media clippings and he put forth the view that only qualitative analysis will help states and companies emerge victorious in troubled times.