Sending News to the Middle East? Q&A with News Services Group’s Tony AbiHanna

February 6, 2014

Matt Allinson, International Media Relations Supervisor

by Matt Allinson, International Media Relations Supervisor

I recently had the good pleasure of speaking with Tony AbiHanna, a Managing Director at News Services Group (NSG) in Dubai. NSG is a leading news service provider in the Middle East and North Africa and a distribution partner of Business Wire.  With more and more client news going to the Middle East, I was curious to know if he had any tips for conducting business in the region. During a short question and answer session, Mr. AbiHanna touched on the proper timing of a press release, what social media are popular in the region and whether sandstorms whipped up by shamal (wind) ever impact business.

Q: What is the single biggest thing to keep in mind when trying to successfully distribute news in the Middle East? Is it timing? Is it the headline? Is it the tone?

A: Normally media outlets across the Middle East tend to publish news related to the region.  So it would be best if clients can highlight a relation (if any) to the Middle East, a country in the region, or the name of a company based here in the headline of a press release. Otherwise, the news release most probably will end up in the international news page (if there is still space for it).

And timing plays a big role if the client is targeting print media.  Any release distributed after 3:00pm or 4:00pm (at the latest) has less of a chance of being picked up by the print media.

Q: What is the best day of the week and the best time of  day to send out a press release in the UAE (or the region – if there’s an agreed-upon standard)?

A: We advise avoiding distribution on Sundays (the first day of the week here) and Mondays.  Otherwise, all other days are fine.  Keep in mind, however, that Saturday is an off day and therefore an easy day news-wise.

Q: Are there any meeting customs/traditions unique to the Middle East that outsiders coming to conduct business should be aware of? For instance, in Japan, they have the “kamiza” seat and the exchanging of business cards. Does anything like this exist where you are?

A: There is a tradition of drinking Arabic coffee (which is the white coffee), and it can be considered an offense if the visitor doesn’t drink it as it is part of Arab hospitality. Plus, the professional classic and conservative outfits (especially for females) are advisable.

Q: From your point of view, what social media sites are most popular in the UAE and Middle East? What sites would be best utilized to complement the distribution of a news release?

Twitter is very influential and on top of the list and then Facebook and Instagram, respectively.

Q: Do sandstorms/shamal ever severely affect business in Dubai or elsewhere in the region?

Sand Storm

A: The UAE, Abu Dhabi and Dubai roads and business centers are highly equipped with the latest infrastructure, so sand storms don’t affect business here. However, if the visitor is traveling by car between Abu Dhabi and Dubai or any other Emirate for example, he needs to allow more time as traffic slows down on highways during such storms.


Business Wire International: India

April 20, 2009

Today we continue our series of posts from colleagues outside the US with a look at our operations in India, from Archana Kachru at Business Wire India, a licensed affiliate. Previous entries in this series are available from London, Frankfurt, Paris, China and Japan.

The Rise of Social Media in India

Amongst the mayhem that recession has brought, the communications industry is witnessing an emerging trend in the Indian corporate sector. With constrained budgets, PR professionals are ready (or forced) to look at non-conventional and inexpensive modes of increasing brand visibility and recall. The communications teams in India at large are now more open to using online/social media as a possible way to reach out to target audiences effectively.

With the entry of online/social media the rules of the game are gradually changing; the masses have evolved and so has the medium. And this time around the epicenter of this media is not editorial desk, not the advertiser, but the consumer himself.  On the other hand, corporates are curious but skeptical about the New Media. As of now, it largely remains an unexplored territory for business brands, with perceivably unstructured format.

What scares them most is the fact that each news item that gets floated in this universe can be commented upon without any editorial gatekeeping. The larger picture for consumers, investors and the general public, however, outlines greater transparency and the power of accountability.

Over the past few years, the online media space has become exciting and has gained some momentum in India. This has largely been limited to social issues. Any event which has affected the nation at large has had a social media movement supporting it. From the Mumbai terror attacks, the 26/11 episode, to outcry over Hindu fanatics, social media has successfully engaged the audiences across the various segments to highlight the national sentiments. More recently, political parties in India have joined the league and have given social media a decent share in the media budget. Online and social networking platforms including Twitter, Facebook, Orkut, and YouTube have been used to engage their audiences for the forthcoming general elections.

There is no single process or formula to effectively use social media for public relations efforts. What may have worked for a particular product today may not work for another product tomorrow. While several organizations realize this and are totally avoiding the social /online media route due to lack of knowledge of the medium, a few of the companies are currently trying to play safe till they actually understand it. They are for now just letting their feet into the water by going the content marketing route. Conversational marketing may be the next step but does not seem to be very near in India.

The biggest beneficiaries of any change are the products and services which either have a futuristic outlook or have managed to successfully reinvent themselves in changing times.  As far as newswires in India (such as Business Wire India) are concerned, the dynamics may change at our end too.

The market in India is still in its nascent stages but is rapidly evolving. In the coming times, the newswires will probably be much higher on the checklist for a communications plan. However, once social media assumes a greater importance, as everyone presumes it would, the focus of the PR / communications plan will change from “print media generated coverage” to “real time content on online media” and later to “social media generated conversations”. The change from first to second phase is already in place and from second to third phase may not be too far off. This shift from a mass-medium lead communications to a micro-medium lead communications will probably change the way we define Public Relations and Corporate Communications function. We may then need to reinvent ourselves to suit the changing needs of the market.

Business Wire India plans to be ready for the change.             

Archana Kachru

Business Wire India


Business Wire International: Japan

April 14, 2009

Today we continue our series of posts from colleagues outside the US with a look at our operations in Japan, from Atsushi Suzuki, Newsroom Supervisor, Business Wire/Tokyo. Previous entries in this series are available from London, Frankfurt, Paris and China.

Business Wire Tokyo is unique in the Business Wire family in several ways, especially how it came to be and how it operates.

We became part of Business Wire when the company acquired its former Japanese affiliate in 2005. (That is when I joined Business Wire, along with the office furniture and equipment!) So we are the only Business Wire office that has firsthand experience being an affiliate before joining the company. To this day, we retain some of those affiliate functions, including distribution of news releases from abroad to Japanese media.

The Tokyo office is one of the few Business Wire offices whose primary language is not English. Many Japanese people have trouble overcoming the language barrier between Japanese and English, and some people are downright allergic to communicating in English. As a provider of primarily English-based services, Tokyo is providing support to Japanese clients in the local language to make our services as accessible as possible.

Business Wire has been committed to localizing its services and accommodating the non-English speaking clients, and the effort has started to bear fruit. BusinessWire.jp was launched in October 2008, providing a more accessible portal to Japanese users. The website provides a basic tutorial on how to write an English press release and a step-by-step guide of the operational and editorial workflow of how releases are processed and distributed via Business Wire’s platform, highlighting the added value of our distribution.

Also, Business Wire’s in-house press release editing software will soon support Japanese and Chinese. This is expected to accelerate our media relations effort in Japan as well as improve the presentation of Japanese press releases at various media outlets.

bwjp

However, language is not the only issue we have to contend with when promoting Business Wire in Japan market, and our struggle to penetrate other barriers is ongoing.

Public relations in Japan is quite different from that of the United States. Just a handful of Japanese companies have dedicated international PR departments, due to heavy emphasis placed on the domestic market. There are also companies that do not release information in English, hoping to contain negative news within Japan, which really is a bad idea in this day and age. All this is changing steadily, albeit slowly, with the increasingly global economy.

In addition, international media characterize the PR efforts of Japanese companies to be “passive” in general. There are a small number of exceptions, but Japanese companies are not known for being good at spin control, and this tendency is magnified when it comes to international PR. Quite a few companies are even reluctant to include contact information in their press releases for fear of inquiries flooding in from journalists abroad.

The media community in Japan is also quite different from western countries. One example is a system called Press Clubs, associations of journalists, which is still quite strong in Japan. The companies go there to physically put their press releases into inboxes to get them to journalists. The big disadvantage of this old-fashioned system is that the journalists tend to pick up only the news from big and prestigious companies. Small/medium-sized companies would need strong connections with journalists to get decent media coverage through this system.

Business Wire Tokyo has had a distribution partnership with Jiji Press, one of the two dominant news agencies in Japan, for almost a decade (counting the affiliate days). Thanks to this partnership, the summarized version of virtually every news release we handle is posted to their website and distributed to Jiji’s news outlets consisting of websites and news portals, financial databases, general-interest and trade-specific newspapers, etc., irrespective of the size or status of the issuing company.

Business Wire’s services are a perfect antidote for respectable Japanese companies suffering from international anonymity, as well as big name companies looking to boost their international presence further. Wire service is still a new concept for most Japanese, and we have been encouraging our prospects and clients to use us in order to actively take control of the information flow and use the media to their advantage to more accurately represent themselves in the international arena.

Now that the average ratio of overseas shareholders among  listed Japanese companies amounts to around 30%, many companies have realized the importance of communicating their corporate messages internationally to improve and maintain their presence in the global market. We see a bright future here in Japan.

Today we continue our series of posts from colleagues outside the US with a look at our operations in Japan, from Atsushi Suzuki, Newsroom Supervisor, Tokyo. Previous entries in this series are available from London, Frankfurt, Paris and China.

Business Wire International: You’re Opening an Office in China Now?

April 3, 2009

Today we continue our series of posts from colleagues outside the US with a look at our operations in China, from Kevin Chiew, Director, Asian Business Development. Previous entries in this series are available from London, Frankfurt and Paris.

This month marks my five year anniversary at Business Wire, and when I was offered the job to head up business development in Asia I was told two things. The first was that I would never be bored, and the second that was my job description was whatever I wanted it to be, as long as it improved the business. No truer words have been said to me, especially in 2009, as we embark on expanding our sales presence in China with our Business Wire licensed affiliate, Interfax China.

In the last five years Business Wire has pursued a multilevel approach to distribution in the Asia region, at the top using the networks of AP and AFP for region-wide distribution — just about every major media organisation in Asia subscribes to either one or both of these feeds. Then, on a country level, we’ve worked with country distribution partners to get country-by-country blanket coverage. Finally, our own NX technology and PressPass services have provided vertical market coverage. We have developed a distribution network that is second to none and which is continually evolving, improving and expanding.

We have been expanding our sales network in the region as well, with offices in Tokyo and Sydney, and sales channels in India (a licensed affiliate), Thailand, Taiwan, South Korea and now China (a licensed affiliate).

Business Wire appointed Interfax China as a licensed affiliate of Business Wire, and began operations this month. When we reviewed the China market, it quickly became evident that we needed a strong local partner, who understood the market and had operated there successfully. Interfax China has been operating in China since 1998, and they are the largest commercial foreign news service in China. They understand the local market and have good relationships both in the government and in the business community. Our relationship with Interfax China began two years ago, when they began to disseminate Business Wire press releases into the China market as part of their news service. Interfax China’s network disseminates to more than 9,000 journalists, 600 newspapers, 3,000 magazines and trade publications 300 websites, with guaranteed postings to more than 40 websites for every release.

With such an overwhelming presence, it became obvious that Business Wire and Interfax China would make a powerful force in China. Combining the local support of Interfax China with the global network of Business Wire, as a licensed affiliate, Interfax China would be able to offer the same services and support that any Business Wire office would be able to supply.

But I digress. The title of this piece is, “You’re Opening an Office in China NOW?”

Back in early 2008, when we began to study China, opening offices there was a slam dunk; any business selling anything could justify opening up in China. In 2009, it is a totally different story. The world economy is looking like a train wreck and companies are closing offices, not opening them. So why did we continue to open up in China, when so many others have backed away?

In a word: PERSPECTIVE, which the Oxford dictionary defines as “the understanding of the relative importance of things.”

Despite the world economic gloom you can read in any newspaper in the world at the moment, the fundamentals of doing business in China remain the same:

  • It is the third largest economy in the world, rapidly challenging Japan and even the USA in size.
  • Even the revised growth forecast of the World Bank predicts economic growth of 6.5% in 2009, which would be enviable in any other economy.
  • It has a population of 1.3 Billion people with a growing, educated middle class.
  • It has a strong domestic market, which will be supported by the government stimulus package of some $586 billion dollars.
  • It has foreign exchange reserves of $1.95 trillion, which is predicted to rise to $2.5 trillion by 2010, which means it has a strong buffer against economic down turns.

Although the USA subprime mortgage collapse may have helped lead to the global economic recession, the recovery may well be led by Chinese consumers and investors. The Asian Development Bank, OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) and World Bank all predict economic growth to in China for 2010 of some 7.5% to 8.5%.

So as my grandfather, who lived through the last Great Depression and beyond, used to say, “It was a great time to make some money.” If your business wants to catch the next wave of the economic boom, now is the time to establish your business in China.

Business Wire is in for the long haul, as is its affiliate Interfax China. Our PERSPECTIVE is not the next 12 months, but the next 12 years and beyond. When our clients want help on their China strategy, we will be on the ground for them, as we will be on the ground for our China-based clients looking to expand into the rest of the world.

Business Wire is in China — why aren’t you?

Kevin Chiew

Director, Asia Business Development, Business Wire


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