Monday, July 7, 2014

A world without PR?

This spring Leah and I had the opportunity to meet with Sabrine Ben Ali, a 2014 Women’s Initiative Fellow, and small business owner from Tunisia. The purpose of this Fellowship program, which is supported through The Bush Center, is to empower and equip women to become effective leaders, so Leah and I were honored to share with her a little about what we do every day.

Sabrine is the sales manager and co-owner of Edisciences, an advertising and editing agency in Tunisia. As part of her trip abroad, Sabrine’s mentor, Diane Paddison, planned a full day for her in Dallas, which included stops at D CEO, Hart Advisors and C.Pharr. The goal during each of these visits was for Sabrine to learn as much as she could about ad design, social media, public relations, marketing and networking. These are all things still very new in Tunisia, and in fact, public relations is pretty much unheard of.

That fact more than anything was the most surprising part of our visit with Sabrine. While there are two to three large, and several small, advertising agencies in Tunisia, the idea of strategic, non-paid publicity was completely new to her. In the course of our conversation we explained a lot – the importance of establishing solid working relationships with media, thought leadership positioning, business development and other basic PR principles.

As Leah and I tried to understand a world without PR (gasp!), we learned that in Tunisia journalists simply do their own research and investigating for stories. They don’t have PR agencies like C. Pharr that pitch them story ideas and help facilitate necessary interviews. The idea that we help journalists do their jobs was enlightening to her, and it is a strategy I hope she will be able to implement at her agency back home. As part of media relations, we explained the importance of building working relationships with key reporters, especially in areas like Tunisia where media is somewhat limited.

Finally, we talked a lot about the importance of business development and networking. Leah shared a little about her experience as president of PRSA Dallas, as well as her involvement on the boards of several local organizations in order to help explain how networking and business development go hand in hand. This was something we also learned was foreign to Sabrine.

As summer gets in full swing and many workplaces begin to welcome college student interns, I was reminded of our mentoring experience with Sabrine, and wanted to reflect on the importance of sharing knowledge to empower others. 

This post was contributed by Shelby Menczer
Twitter - @shelbymenczer


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