Wha sets strong PR mavens apart amidst a 'new normal'?
Sandra Abi Chahine, strategy and communications consultant based between Kuwait, Dubai and Beirut demonstrates what sets strong PR mavens apart during COVID-19 and beyond.
1. Describe yourself as a retail-focused, boutique PR Consultant in one sentence.
Bringing people and brands’ stories to life in the most “soulful” way.
2. How did your experience in PR and Comms for so many years at renown companies like Al Tayer Group and Dior in Dubai, shape the way you understand consumer behavior in the region today?
The corporate world shaped my strategic thinking. Working in depth with big International brands and being exposed to their knowhow and strategies has given me the right tools and confidence to be launching today on my own.
Moreover, when you are working in house for a brand like Dior, Chanel or a big retailer such as Al Tayer who have so much history, you learn the power of good storytelling. These brands unfold their heritage beautifully through amazing content and features.
A costumer can visit a store to discover new products, but he can only understand the story of this product, why it costs this much and the Savoir Faire and inspiration behind it through a good PR story.
Lastly, throughout my corporate experience I’ve learnt the importance of working hand in hand with other departments mainly the retail team in order to understand what is working and selling on the ground.
Sales people know the consumers best and it’s always crucial to ask them their feedback even though it’s very hard to measure the correlation between a PR launch and sales. However, with e-commerce nowadays we have more tangibility.
3. Do you define yourself as a PR agency? Why or why not? What makes your services different than others?
I don’t define myself as an agency, at least not yet. To be honest with you, I don’t aim to becoming one anytime soon. I want to keep my consultancy very niche, focused on very few clients and projects with ethical stories and products. My main aim is to introduce Sustainable Fashion to the region as I strongly believe we all need to shift our consuming practices to greener ones.
Moreover, I don’t want to overwhelm myself with so many accounts as my main aim is to keep a close relationship with each brand/project I work on. I want my clients to feel that they have an in house PR person and not an outsider agency handling their account amongst many others.
4. In your opinion, how has the PR landscape shifted since COVID-19? Are brands expecting new or different types comms support these days?
The pandemic gave a deeper meaning to the PR and the Fashion industry. I felt there was a beautiful universal awakening that happened on all levels. Brands realized that they need to shift their practices and communications strategies from ones that were merely pushing product sales to ones that had greater impact on the collective wellbeing. Moreover, with the strong power of PR and social media a lot of malpractices were highlighted which pushed brands to change their behaviors.
Nothing can be hidden anymore, transparency is key and therefore everyone needs to be ethical in the way they operate or else they will be thrown off the train.
"The Pandemic gave a deeper meaning to the PR and the Fashion industry."
5. What do you think the role of influencers should be in the industry moving forward?
Their role is to be ethical in what they promote and bring awareness to. The audience is not dumb and is no longer “influenced” by anyone blindly. Influencers need to stay real to themselves and understand that they have a social responsibility towards their followers.
Before jumping on a collaboration, influencers need to search the brand/product and make sure they are being very transparent and ethical with what they communicate on.
6. What’s the most important tip you have for other Communications Strategists who are looking for ways to support fashion brands during times like COVID and #BLM?
My advice would be not to stay quiet during these times and say, “oh it’s not the right time to be talking about fashion.” It might not be the right time to communicate about a product launch, but it will be the right time to take a stand and actions against any kind of racism or unfairness that is happening.
You need to push the brand to be socially responsible through concrete actions and practices and not just an Instagram post to show support (raising money to a specific cause, giving work opportunity to minorities etc.)
Thinking long term community wellbeing and not short-term product sales is key today.