CIPR President Jason MacKenzie addressed around 100 PR and communication practitioners who had come to together in Muscat, Oman this week for two days of workshops on internal communication, crisis management and modern PR.
The workshops were led by one of the CIPR’s Accredited Teaching Centres, PR Academy, which has a number of students in Oman studying CIPR qualifications.
PR and communication is growing in importance in Oman. Jason said: “The delegates had a real thirst for knowledge which was inspiring to see, but it was also very much two-way learning as we heard about practice in Oman.
“For example, they are a very technology savvy community. Mobile is important and most people in the room seemed to have Yammer in their organisations – although from brief conversations it seems they have similar challenges to many UK companies in rolling it out successfully. It was also good to see such a strong commitment to professional development so messages about CIPR CPD and Chartered status were well received.”
Dr Kevin Ruck from PR Academy and course leader on the CIPR Internal Communication Diploma, took the delegates through the drivers of employee engagement and explained how internal communication helps to deliver engagement.
Jason explained: “There is an appreciation in Oman of the importance of keeping employees informed and engaged. Many conduct annual employee satisfaction surveys, but Kevin was encouraging people to do smaller, more regular “pulse” checks with their people.”
The crisis session took a look at apology with case studies from Thomas Cook and Alton Towers prompting discussion. Few in the room had been in the position of having to manage a crisis but it was clearly a topic that was high on the agenda.
The message from the workshop was to prepare, prepare, prepare. As in the UK, some were keen to know how to engage their senior leaders in the need to have crisis communication strategies in place which led to discussions around developing the business case for good crisis comms and focussing on the financial value of a good reputation. Again, as in the UK, there was some discussion about what a crisis actually is and the important of “separating the incident from the crisis” was discussed.
In the session on modern PR, Ann Pilkington from PR Academy discussed content creation and curation. The concept of content curation was something new for the delegates. One or two people were doing it on their own personal blogs – but nobody was thinking about it from an organisational perspective. Native Advertising was also an entirely new concept.
Jason commented: “Overall, I would say that many of the challenges that practitioners in Oman face are similar to those in the UK and in countries where PR is perhaps more developed. In some ways they have an advantage over us in that PR and communication is a pretty new function so it is developing and becoming established in an era of social media so will be well placed to meet modern communication challenges.”
The event was hosted by NAMA Group which is a major utility in Oman and has set up an organisation for training and development for those working the sector. The event attracted media attention with a broadcast on TV and an interview with Jason for Oman Economic Review, Oman’s leading business publication which is due out in March.