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Public Relations in the United Arab Emirates Essay

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Updated: May 5th, 2020

Introduction

Benchmarking an investigation that analyzed the efficacy of public relations in a rapidly developing region such as the United Arab Emirates portends a complex scenario given the multifaceted factors that demand to understand from multiple perspectives. Certainly, the factors for the effectiveness of public relations are multidimensional in effect and embrace educational, social, cultural, political, and economic facets, albeit in different ways (Alaajel, 2005).

Among the tried, tested, and trusted approaches to the effective delivery of public relations is that of contextualizing it within the precise needs and conditions of the intended community. According to Ayish (2005), research holds that the growth and development in a rapidly growing society, such as the UAE, demand proper consideration of the social and contextual factors to make public relations more effective within organizations. Public relations in any part of the world face huge challenges.

However, most organizations do not infer this challenge in a professional and rational way to make the necessary improvements (Alaajel, 2005). The success of the future generation does not only depend on building stronger economic blocks, but also on the understanding, respect, and mutual trust throughout the world – an aspect that only a robust PR infrastructure can guarantee.

Various opportunities and constraints affect both public and private organizations. This usually reflects on the general conditions prevalent in a country in which the UAE is not an isolated case.

The Middle East Public Relations Association (MEPRA)

The United Arab Emirates boasts of having a robust PR infrastructure for private and public sectors with a global outlook. The UAE’s public relations standards are above board, especially in its manifestations in the conceptions and practices that advocate for ethics in professionalism.

As part of a process to guarantee effective public relations mechanism, the UAE launched the Emirates Public Relations Association (EPRA), which, as Ayish (2005) notes, continues to play a central role in the affairs of the Middle East. The Middle East Public Relations Association is a not-for-profit establishment with the sole prerogative of securing the welfares of the public relations industry in the region.

The organization seeks to emphasize the strategic roles of public relations in the Middle East to guarantee high ethical standards in organizational management. Usually, both internal and external factors integrate directly or indirectly to make a production function complete.

MEPRA puts the business community, the governments, and the media in the Arab World in the spotlight to steer the region’s fast-growing public relations industry (Ayish, 2005). MEPRA plays host in the extensive membership consisting of 26 PR bodies with several offices in various Arab countries. Among the public relations firms currently operating in the Middle East under MEPRA consists of CIPR, PRSA, GA, IABC, and IPRA – all of which seek to guarantee the interests of the public relations industry in the region.

These public relations’ bodies offer a wide variety of consultancy services in the Arab world to make organizations secure their competitiveness. Rendering economic diversity is the sole prerogative of public relations’ bodies, which perform best only when there is a concerted effort to make them successful. In another context, albeit generally supportive of the larger arguments, research holds that a relationship exists between social units and social contexts with which public relations operate.

Professionalism in the UAE PR industry

With the exclusion of only a few characters in the UAE, the public relations’ scholarship lags behind in the documentation and analysis of the region owing to the dominant western PR treatise. This scenario further compounds itself by the fact that until in recent times, the public relations literature seemed more inclined towards the western scholarly mindset that may not give reference to other parts of the globe.

Notably, public relations both as a study and as a practice, according to Kirat (2006), have greater opportunities to affect the emerging economies positively through its ability to cushion the human resource capacities to nation-building. Despite the apparent opportunities that a robust PR infrastructure brings to the business in the UAE, PR has several challenges that the region must deal with to make their organizations effective.

Kirat (2006) shares in this view, and suggests that the intercontinental public relations will have to be more integrated to reflect the societal and cultural norms prevailing in the host nations. The scholarly aspects of PR in the UAE takes shape from the socio-economic and political developments in the region.

Following the region’s rapid economic growth, public relations have been able to experience a parallel growth as well as an increase in sophistication per excellence. Over the years, the PR practice in the UAE has been emerging from traditional professionalism to embrace institutions of higher learning in order to give it a significant thrust in the evolving global PR infrastructure.

PR education

The status of the PR tutelage in the UAE continues to emerge as an important profession keen on meeting the challenges of a rapidly developing economy. As Kirat (2006) notes, the PR as a discipline has been in existence in the region after the UAE University ratified it in the faculty of social sciences in 1995. The creation of the PR faculty, according to Hill (2011), was to respond to the growing needs of the region’s market in order to enhance its strategic competitive advantage.

With the development, expansion, and spread of higher education and institutions of learning, investing in PR in the region has been the prime focus of the government. Education and training in PR continue to gain great footing as institutions continue to embrace the faculty.

Today many universities in the region such as Zayed University in Sharjah, the American University in Sharjah, Ajman University of Science and Technology, the University of Sharjah, and the American University in Dubai are producing numerous PR graduates who upon the completion of their studies, join the job market to steer the region’s economic competitiveness (Hill, 2011). MEPRA particularly plays host in ensuring that the PR graduates do not idle but add their skills and academic expertise to the mix.

Public Relation education in the UAE and its constant professional advancement

As the number of programs that the institutions of higher learning offer continue to grow, learners in the UAE have better selections in their university courses. Within the PR community, however, most agency employers are not necessarily looking for PR graduates but rather the right attributes from the candidates. MEPRA usually provide students with internships that equip them with the required knowhow to steer the region’s competitiveness to economic success.

According to Hill (2011), for practitioners seeking to explore their professional development, MEPRA guarantees greater options to help them develop in the PR field. MEPRA continues to make tentative steps in student development by engaging them in workshops and learning sessions presided on by the senior members. MEPRA’s vision in championing these ideals is to guarantee institutional development.

The institution holds local academe in high esteem and does all within its limits to guarantee plenty of opportunities to ensure greater collaboration while developing the PR mindset in the region.

For example, in 2011, MEPRA instigated a practitioner-peer educator conference at Zayed University to foster grounds for students’ absorption in the employment market (Hill, 2011). While student chapters are not necessarily part or characteristic of university orientation in the UAE, MEPRA supports the business community and universities PR infrastructure.

MEPRA’s engagement with the students in the UAE

As the leading public relations agency in the vast Middle East, MEPRA has a lot to do in order to steer the PR infrastructure in the region. MEPRA may institute award programs for students in the Middle East to make the learning the faculty more competitive. Apart from that, the agency may form a benchmark on which organizations are evaluated based on their performance matrix.

With its wide outreach, the agency may further institute transparent judgment guidelines so that the organizations in the region know the specific areas for their evaluation to make them more competitive. According to Kirat (2006), this way will require organizations to engage the right professionals to deliver services beyond the obvious.

MEPRA must expedite professional consciousness in the industry so that fresh graduates could be absorbed in the region’s PR mainstream to make the PR faculty represent value in its public relations campaign in the Middle East. It is not lost, however, that when key players in the PR industry recognize the ability of the faculty, clients and employers will follow suit. MEPRA being the face of the PR in the Middle East, it is necessary to see it influence the future of the faculty to make advancements in the industry.

Scholarships, too, are very effective ways in which MEPRA can engage the students throughout the UAE. Students with various outstanding abilities could be given opportunities to explore their learning outcomes by extending scholarships and sponsorships to lessen the burden on school fees that might impede their earning processes.

In addition, the agency may institutionalize workshops and forums where MEPRA professionals and facilitators engage the students and the business community in the exchange programs to make the faculty more forthcoming.

Conclusion

In the United Arab Emirates, the economy is growing very fast, necessitating the need to expand the scope of public relations education to meet the growing demand that the market portends. Within the region, the international public relations firms continue to necessitate an all-inclusive business environment that makes it necessary for institutions of higher learning to take the PR faculty to the next level.

By collaborating with local universities and the business community, MEPRA is particularly making a bold move to ensure PR in the UAE is more professional, adequate, credible, and effective. Not a single economy can be successful without a clear public relations infrastructure. Therefore, the PR faculty seeks to advance in order to meet the challenges prevalent in the social, economic, and political environment of the region.

The rapidly growing UAE economy can use the profession effectively, professionally, and systematically to inject tremendous knowledge to the business community as well as benchmark its image in the UAE in the utilization of the resources. This will brighten livelihoods, thus evaluating measures capable of enhancing societal growth, political maturity, and economic empowerment.

References

Alaajel, M. (2005). A Case Study of Police Public Relations in the United Arab Emirates: Centre for Mass Communication Research University of Leicester. Web.

Ayish, M. (2005). Virtual public relations in the United Arab Emirates: A case study of 20 UAE organisations’ use of the Internet. Public Relations Review, 31(5), 381–388

Hill, R. (2011). Public relations and corporate communications in the UAE. Middle East Media Educator, 1(1), 43-47

Kirat, M. (2006). Public relations in the United Arab Emirates. The emergence of a profession. Public Relations Review, 32(3), 254-260.

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