Whether you love them or loathe them, selfies have takenSelfie the social media world by storm. With over 57 million #selfie tags on Instagram alone, the selfie has become one of the most popular trends this decade, with the term even named as the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year for 2013.

With the selfie trend seemingly not diminishing anytime soon, communication professionals should consider seizing the opportunity to start thinking of innovative ways that their clients and companies can use the format to tell a visual story that’s both relevant and strategic.

Selfies can be so much more than a fun trend. They can inspire and generate hype around a specific brand, topic or service. Instagram has become a popular social media platform for businesses to connect with socially engaged consumers and with 130 million active users every month and 1 billion photos ‘liked’ per day, this app can be the perfect tool for instant viral marketing success. It can generate amazing coverage in a short period of time – coverage you could only dream of achieving with a press release.

Nowadays, audiences are more visual beings than ever. It’s the responsibility of PR, advertising and marketing professionals alike to keep up with such trends in order to ensure maximum results for their clients. In a narcissistic world, the selfie provides the perfect marketing tool for people to not only promote themselves, but also their products and services. It’s a clever, cost-effective way to profit from an already popular social trend. It can ultimately inspire action and start a movement around your brand.

Three reasons why corporate entities and businesses are joining the selfie movement:

• Guaranteed participation – People on social media platforms prefer visual content. Since the selfie movement is a world-celebrated phenomenon, it guarantees great audience participation.

• Attention grabbing – It has been proven that user-generated content grabs attention and gathers a great deal more public interest than brand-generated promotional content.

• Personal touch – Unlike most advertising imagery and campaigns, selfies are not generally digitally enhanced by Photoshop. They can provide the audience with a more realistic and genuine perspective that they can relate to.

Although selfies can integrate humour and reality for social media campaigns in ways in which generic marketing tools can’t, they still have to be used in the right way in order to be successful. This is where professionals can step in to ensure the maximum impact of such campaigns.

The benefits of hiring social media specialists to run your selfie campaign:

• Wider coverage – communication experts know how to make a campaign popular and enable it to go viral through multiple media platforms. Even if you are running a simple selfie campaign on Facebook, these professionals can devise ways to attract other followers from different social media networks to participate.

• Greater visibility – Through the use of hashtags, SEO, engaging graphics, as well as utilising their personal established networks, they are able to create better visibility to campaigns and promotional activities.

• Better engagement – By linking incentives such as promotional offers and prizes to your brand, social media professionals guarantee greater engagement and participation.

• Dedicated team – Running an online campaign is time consuming and can often be too much to handle for someone who has no prior knowledge of the online market. Overall, a team of social media marketing specialists will guarantee much better results compared to non-professionals running a campaign online.

So there you have it. Don’t let this marketing opportunity pass you by. Get on board the self-regarding selfie bandwagon and use your skills to harness the craze’s power to do great things for your brand. You never know, your simple snap could turn out to be the most effective tool in your marketing armoury.

It is said that human capital is the most important asset for aHappy employees company. Motivating employees for better performance should be a major concern for any commercial organisation. In a highly competitive market, just as reputed companies are sought after, so is unique talent. Ensuring retention of your skilled workforce will keep your business on track.

There’s no disputing that happy workers produce the best results. This, in turn satisfies clients, increases profits and generally benefits the business all round. Factors such as a high turn-over rate, low productivity and falling client business can signal that staff members are disenchanted and not performing to their optimum capabilities.

So how can managers make sure their workers are happy and highly productive ones? Below are four ways which can help employers take care of their employees… and ultimately their business.

1. Recognise job satisfaction

whilst a salary is indeed a very important motivational factor, not all employees work solely for financial gain. It may be something of a cliché, but some people really do wok for other non-tangible reasons, such as job satisfaction. This can come from the simple act of being appreciated. Managers should ensure that those employees that are performing well are adequately encouraged through praise, thanks and a pat on the back. It all serves to keep up morale and promote job satisfaction.

2. Look out for warning signs

Absenteeism, inflated sick leave and unjustified excuses for absences are all factors hinting at employee dissatisfaction. When an organisation starts losing business and losing it quickly, the problem could lie with reduced employee esteem, not operational or servicing issues. Management should have mechanisms in place to flag up such issues. They should familiarise themselves with how overall employee morale links to client servicing and the financial fitness of the company.

3. Adopt a flexible approach

Flexibility in working hours, holidays and part-time employment is one aspect of working life that employers often tend to overlook. If applied properly, flexible working schedules suit parents with young children, expecting or recently delivered mothers, students, or indeed any employee with special circumstances. Sometimes the nature of work dictates flexibility, so applying it may not just be a job perk, but an important aspect of your healthy business operations.

4. Remunerate your employees adequately

Employers should constantly ensure that their salary bands are aligned with averages in the market and slightly higher than the competition. A highly qualified employee will remain satisfied for a while, but in a constantly changing market, the good ones will either be headhunted or will simply leave on their own accord when they find better remuneration elsewhere. Adequate rewarding is only fair. If an employee excels at his or her performance, they’ve earned their compensation. Employers must pay active attention to those factors that affect their very staff force, implement change where necessary and observe industry trends to make for an ultimately successful business.

Facebook is gradually losing its appeal… or so it would appear.Facebook Researchers from the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the renowned Princeton academic institution released a study at the start of this year predicting that the social media site would witness a rapid decline between 2015 and 2017 and lose 80% of its peak user base. In the United States, Facebook now adds only 1 million people per quarter compared to its heyday of 50 million users a quarter. So with people deserting Facebook for other social media channels, such as Instagram and Twitter, should you consider following suit?

Here are some reasons why you should continue to keep your Facebook account active, from both a professional and personal perspective:

Unrivalled social connection: Facebook is still the best way to connect with relatives and friends and to seek out those you have lost touch with over the years. These people can become your biggest advocates and help expand your influence into new territories.

Fantastic personalisation: Facebook gives you unrivalled personalisation options for your page, allowing you to tailor it to appeal to your audience. Good posts will create a memorable experience and keep you front-of-mind.

Great content building and sharing: Facebook is the ultimate tool to build your content and effectively disseminate it. You can syndicate links and share these on many other social media channels.

Enhanced visibility: By continuing to post on Facebook, your information can create leadership for you and your brand.

Superb security: Facebook has stepped up its security features, allowing you to be as private as you want. You can fully customise your security options and control your posts, tags and photos. You choose who you share your content with.

A huge database: Facebook allows you to search and find out about people and brands. The site space it provides for profiles can be wealth of important information and gives you superb access to highly useful personal and professional data.

So there you have it. Six good reasons why you shouldn’t deactivate your Facebook account just yet.

It’s common knowledge in our industry that a company’s ownEmployee superhero employees can be an effective marketing tool and a brand’s best ambassadors. However, if not carefully controlled, this policy can backfire, causing more harm than good for the company’s brand image.

Here are five key elements on how to engage employees in ways that have an overall benefit for your company:

1. Set clear guidelines: A clear set of guidelines on how to participate in conversations on behalf of the company should be established. These should also include criteria for when not to participate. The guidelines should cover an employee’s personal social media platforms. This is to ensure that no harm is done to the company’s image by a representative posting content that, although personal to them, compromises the brand by association.

2. Social training: To amplify company messages, you should empower employees to share company news and product information. Make sure that they are up to date with the company’s recent activities, as this will ensure consistency in both the content and the flow of information

3. Governance: Establish a central point to assess information or to raise issues that may require company involvement. Identify clear communications channels and procedures that employees can follow when dealing with enquiries or requiring clarifications.

4. Content engine: Regular content should which is easily accessible for employees should be developed. This can be in the form of newsletters or daily/weekly news updates via e-mails or company intranet.

5. Recognition: Keep track of how employees are performing and where their engagement is most effective. Recognise the efforts being made by instigating a process of acknowledgements and rewards.

There are many companies out there that boast about their socialSocail media business media presence and number of followers, yet fail to see that it is important to ensure that their platforms are integrated with conventional marketing strategies and campaigns.

Social media is often viewed as a contemporary marketing tool that can replace traditional media. However, it should actually be seen as one that is complementary. Operating social media activities independently will lead to conflicting, inefficient and mixed messages. Marketing and public relations campaigns should be drivers to online destinations where consumer engagement is enhanced and brand key messages collectively conveyed.

An integration workshop is a session that we always recommend our clients to conduct prior to any communication activity, regardless of the scope of work that they have signed up for. In these sessions we explore how social media can be effectively integrated with traditional advertising and public relation campaigns for best results.

Here are five key points that we look at during the integration workshop and which we consider are vital for success:

• Define your goal: Prior to identifying you communication purpose, realise your business objective, your vision and your future positioning.

• Understand your target audience: Don’t just focus on the mundane demographics. Brands need to align with their consumers’ behaviour and lifestyles. The consumer is your start and end point and creating high quality content and experiences which they can relate to is key.

• Choose the best means of communication across various platforms: This is where innovation comes in – having the right balance of media, a story, and a myriad of ways to share it. As different platforms reach different consumers within the audience pool, brands must communicate the universal message by using exclusive angles through each channel in order to leverage its power and limit its weaknesses.

• Maintain the conversation: Once you have built the right audience, keep the conversation going. This can be through having the audience buy, talk about or talk to your product or service.

• Encourage your audience to refer you to others: This will result in you becoming an active participant in representing a reactive brand. This is a crucial aspect of the framework that ensures return on investment to the various communication means, be it advertising, public relations or social media.

So are you fully integrated?

For many people, presenting in front of others is not an easyPresentation thing to do. Unless you are a confident natural, it can be just that bit too easy to overelaborate, go off topic, bury important points in superfluous fluff and generally lose your audience.

The aim with a presentation is to engage the interest of those seated in front of you and have them pay attention to what is being said. You don’t want them slumped in their chairs and thinking to themselves: ‘Will this ever finish?’

To help avoid such audience ennui, I’ve put together 10 tried and tested tips that can help you successfully reach out to your audience. These pointers will ensure that your presentation goes with a bang.

1. Practice: practice until you are totally comfortable with what you are going to be talking about. You will then only have to glance at the slide or the screen to remind yourself of the key points. You can then expand upon these facing your audience.

2. Open strongly: How you start your presentation will influence its overall impact. You should aim to capture your audience’s attention straight away. If you can captivate them early on, you stand a good chance of holding their attention throughout.

3. Use the ‘B’ key: Consider the ‘B’ key when you go off topic or want to fully bring your audience’s attention back to you. Pressing the ‘B’ key when using PowerPoint will make the screen go blank. Pressing it again will restore the slide. Using it can have a powerful effect.

4. Keep it short: The temptation when speaking on a topic is to show you have done your research by creating a long-winded presentation. This will likely turn people off, as attention spans are short. Instead, cut down on the amount of discursive talking you do by framing the key points or messages.

5. Maintain good eye contact: In conjunction with the first point, knowing your topic well should mean that you are able to maintain good eye contact with your audience. You will lose your audience if you are constantly looking down or away from them. Good eye contact should involve you looking around at different audience members as you elaborate on the key points.

6. Use fewer slides: Using a large number of slides and copious amounts of text is another off-putter. Keep things concise and simple – you should be able to expand on a few bullet points. The presentation should not be just about what you have on the screen.

7. Tell a story: It can help if you plan your presentation as a story. Giving it a structure such as a beginning, middle and end, will assist with the narrative flow. It will take the audience on a journey and can make what you say a whole lot more interesting.

8. Add images: Using eye-catching images can greatly help you express what you are trying to explain. Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words.

9. Inject a bit of humour: A little bit of well-placed humour while you’re presenting will help you and the audience to relax. It will create an atmosphere of informality and help to break down barriers. Presentations should be fun.

10. Encourage questions: Allowing your audience to ask questions throughout your presentation increases the level of interactivity and is more likely to keep them engaged. Encourage them at the beginning to stop you if they feel the need to ask something. When they do, don’t forget that ‘B’ key!

Dieting is a phenomenon that has become embeddedHealthy eating 3 in our collective psyche as being an essential part of the way we should live in the modern world. The promotion of slimness and healthiness is a ubiquitous feature in glossy magazines that disingenuously feature airbrushed models alongside articles promoting whatever dietary fad is currently in vogue. These pieces cause a huge amount of pressure for people to lose weight, with some critics blaming the obsession with dieting as being behind a rise in eating disorders. At the very least, these lifestyle articles have helped promote what is now a culturally accepted norm – we need to watch what we eat.

So how much truth is contained in these articles? Is there a supreme diet that is better than all the others? It is hardly surprising that we are confused. One day a particular type of food is bad for us, the next day it is being hailed as a ‘superfood’ that possesses a vast array of health benefits. The information we are given in these media articles can at times seem completely contradictory.

I would suggest that it is important to realise that the primary function of these dietary features is to sell magazines, not to provide valuable information relating to nutrition. I would also say that if we really want to know what we should and shouldn’t be eating, we need to look at more scholarly pieces that are the result of serious research and peer review. The conclusions from these articles carry much more weight than lifestyle text that has been designed to create interest and shift magazine copies.

In one such in-depth study, Yale colleagues Dr. David Katz and Stephanie Meller compared the major diets of the day; Low carbohydrate, low fat, low glycaemic, Mediterranean, mixed/balanced, Paleolithic, vegan and elements of other regimes. They published their findings in a paper titled: ‘Can We Say What Diet Is Best for Health?’ which appeared in the scientific journal Annual Review.

The authors’ findings were that, despite the pervasiveness of diets in the media, no one was clearly the best. This, they said, was because “There have been no rigorous, long-term studies comparing contenders for best diet laurels using methodology that precludes bias and confounding.” They concluded by saying that that “A diet of minimally processed foods, close to nature, predominantly plants, is decisively associated with health promotion and disease prevention.”

So there you have it. The best diet according to rigorous scientific study summed up in a single, tidy sentence. Happy eating!

Late February 2013, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Islamic Financebin Rashid al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, launched a new initiative aimed at transforming Dubai into being the global centre of Islamic sukuk (bonds). The strategy was part of his bigger vision for Dubai to become an international capital for Islamic economy, with plans for Islamic finance products such as sukuk, re-takaful (Islamic insurance products), an Islamic digital economy, Islamic financial services regulation, sharia best governance promotion, halal parks and Dubai halal certification for meat products. With these aims, Dubai intends to compete directly with London and other financial centres to secure the title of global capital for Islamic economy.

Islamic finance, which is based on principles that forbid interest and pure monetary speculation, is growing increasingly important around the world, although its profile remains much smaller than conventional finance. Dubai has been one of the pioneers of Islamic finance, with Dubai Islamic Bank (DIB) having the distinction of being the world’s first Islamic bank.

In December 2013, the Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre was established to lead the transformation of Dubai. The key objectives of the centre are to promote Dubai regionally and globally as a main centre for Shariah-compliant goods and financial and non-financial services. 2013 saw the centre launch the annual Islamic Economy Awards which seek to recognise innovative world-class business initiatives and ideas that are sharia-compliant and contribute to the social and economic welfare of the Muslim population. On June 21, 2014, the second year of the awards was announced.

Many supporters of Dubai’s Islamic economy initiative believe that the strengths of the emirate make it the ideal place to be the global capital for Islamic economy. Dubai’s location sees it as a regional hub for Asia and a convenient destination for Africa. The emirate is more accessible than Malaysia (Asia’s leader of Islamic finance) from Europe. The blend of Eastern and Western cultures in Dubai is ideal for Islamic economy that is not just limited to Muslim consumers or Muslim-owned companies. Dubai is attractive for companies setting-up and operating Islamic focused products and services products because it has a globally-recognised judiciary system. Its high standard of support services that the Islamic economy requires – such as banks, brokers, accounting firms and law firms – are already in place in the country.

For public relations in particular, the push of Islamic economy by Dubai offers up considerable food for thought. On a global-level, we can expect to see more PR activity by other cities competing for the title, as each location tries to differentiate itself, sell its USP and attempts to secure the title of global capital for this form of finance. It is a near certainty that Dubai will use PR and marketing to showcase its Islamic economy pedigree and credentials and to announce new initiatives.

The push will also require Dubai communications professionals to formulate their strategies within the confines of Islamic finance. We need to better understand this new and growing group of stakeholders important to the Islamic economy – i.e. those who will purchase Islamic financial products and Islamic insurance services, or buy halal meat products soon to be certified by Dubai. A whole new understanding is required of their purchasing needs, habits, priorities and preferences and we need to be able to tailor communication to reach all Islamic economy stakeholders. We will have to develop new messages appropriate to reach these audiences and determine the media – both traditional and social – that are appropriate for PR around Islamic economy.

It is not uncommon for a PR professional to prepare a detailed andGirl on phone well-researched pitch for a feature on behalf of a client, only for the media to give it a big thumbs down. So how can you reword, repackage and re-sell your client’s idea to get coverage? Here are four tips to help you make your feature article more interesting to editors:

• The most common reason content is rejected is because it’s overly self-promotional and written in an obviously slanted, marketing way. When your pitch isn’t working, this should be the first thing you should address. Rework it with a critical editor’s eye. Take out the subjective and be more objective. Getting your client’s brand name, product or service out there is the name of the game. Coverage with a lack of promotion is still coverage and arguably has even greater value than a piece that reads like an advertorial. This is because with an advertorial, readers can detect they are being sold to. Less is sometimes more.

• Managing your client’s expectations is essential when reworking a pitch. They might think that their carpet cleaner is the most exciting development on earth, but that doesn’t mean everyone else will. Take some time to figure out how you can make your content more exciting, perhaps by adding topical information to make it catchier. If there is some development already in the news relating to the industry, use this to position your client as a leading market commentator offering a knowledgeable and seasoned perspective.

• Consider adding charts, graphs, pictures, and multimedia to your text. An editor will appreciate visual elements when it’s time to publish, so get ahead by crafting your content around something that is visually compelling and adds another dimension to the written word.

• Some of my most successful pitches have come from offering the editor a selection of by-line angles that they can pick and choose from. This way, instead of trying to force-feed them, you’re offering them a number of choices that allows them more flexibility. This form of consideration can help establish a mutually beneficial relationship – which, along with getting your client coverage, is exactly what you are aiming to achieve!

Good luck with reworking your pitch!

We all know that the Holy Month of RamadanRamadan is a time of reflection where working hours are reduced to allow time for family, social & religious activities and rest. But we can’t ignore the fact that it also carries some interesting PR opportunities that allow us to enhance messaging, reach out to our target audiences during a special time, and bond with clients, journalists and business associates.

In order to make the most of Ramadan from a professional perspective, here are a few recommendations for PR agencies and professionals:

Revolve your PR activity around Ramadan and its values: For example, intensify CSR and community-oriented activities, or participate in a local government initiative where other players will also be involved. This will lend you credibility through being genuine.

Identify publication supplements: As a special season, Ramadan will see many newspapers and magazines dedicating supplements or pages for the Holy Month. Get in touch with them early to identify relevant opportunities for your clients. Make sure also that you supply information on time.

Ensure quality rather than quantity: Aim to consolidate your clients’ messaging and stick to one or two key message points so as not to bombard the audience, especially at a time when so many other brands will be talking loudly, but futilely. Unless you’re a rice or Arabic sweets company, it’s best not to deliberately intensify communications during this time!

Be aware that one media event will suffice: Ramadan is generally characterised by plenty of Iftar and Suhoor media invitations where PR agencies compete for the media’s time and attention. With half the media wanting to attend and socialise outside work, the other half prefer to stay at home with family. Others are simply double-booked between two Ramadan tents on the same day… with the tents usually at opposite ends of the town! It is a good idea to therefore limit the number of gatherings to just one time in the month. Invite only your closest media contacts for a cosy meal to catch up on clients’ latest news, their own news, and generic industry happenings. They will appreciate the gesture to talk work in a relaxed and informal setting without wasting too much of their time.

Finally and most importantly, enjoy this special month that comes by once a year. It is a time when we are meant to rethink our ways and simplify… not overcomplicate!

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