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New media office follows Dubai debt crisis PR disaster

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The poor handling of the public relations surrounding the Dubai debt crisis has been followed by a shake-up at the top with the creation of the new Dubai Government Media Office with the Media Escort to the Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum as director general.

This brings the Dubai Press Club, Falcon and Associates and Dubai Brand under one new office. A statement issued on WAM said ‘the media office will mobilise necessary resources and coordinate with government bodies to provide media outlets with accurate news and information on the activities of Sheikh Mohammed and Dubai Government’.

Public anger

There has been considerable public anger about the city’s inability to defend its reputation, particularly in international media where the government cannot exert the same kind of influence as over the local media. A centralized PR office with access to the top is a good start, but an infusion of global PR best practice is also advisable.

The ill informed critics of Dubai are not about to shut up. For example, local businessman Mishal Kanoo defended Dubai’s reputation in the Doha Debates aired by the BBC on Saturday night. His opponent was the former editor of The Times, Simon Jenkins, author of one of the least accurate recent articles on Dubai who has only visited the city once for a couple of days.

But it is important for local media personalities to try to put the record straight, and not to leave it all up to the new media office.

ArabianMoney is taking part in an hour-long BBC Arabic documentary on Dubai to be broadcast in March. Correcting the misperceptions about Dubai is an ongoing process, and will be helped if global and local media have a clearer line from the government. But we all need to speak up to defend the reputation of the city we live in, and not stay silent.

Business reality

In terms of PR image the Dubai boom created the vision of a business paradise in which anybody could make a million, and from that high point there is only one way for an image to go. The problem is that having created this nonsense the global media then feels duty bound to kick it to bits.

The distortion then swings from one extreme to the other. So far the response from local media has been largely a risible attempt to pretend that nothing has happened, and that is also hopelessly inadequate as it leaves the door open for the global media to do their worst. Dubai has learnt a painful PR lesson from this experience.

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Written by Peter Cooper

January 11, 2010 at 8:32 am

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