Make some Noise
Posted on September 15, 2017

Beirut’s Noise wants to be the most professional independent PR firm in Lebanon. But first it has to negotiate the country’s challenging market

“Things are changing in Lebanon as they are changing worldwide, yet the changes aren’t as fast as they are elsewhere,” says Georges Najm, founder and general manager of Noise PR & Events.

Najm is a straight talker. He is detailing the obstacles that restrict Lebanon’s PR industry from advancing: a lack of good talent and resources; the turbulent economic outlook; and the slow and overly bureaucratic nature of Lebanon itself. “It’s a slow country,” he says with barely contained exasperation.

If the PR industry in Dubai and the rest of the world is in a protracted period of transformation, it is still playing serious catch up in Lebanon. Old school public relations practices are alive and kicking, diversification is limited, and the positioning of PR within companies is sometimes misguided.

“I would like better human resources and more professionalisation of the industry,” says Najm, who founded Noise in Beirut in 2013. “I would like to see more and more use of new media tools – everything pertaining to bloggers and social media influencers we are still improvising on. I would like to see it more scientifically managed.

“[But] this takes time, it takes research, it takes training, and it takes lots and lots of trial and error. It will take money and it will take a few years, but things have to go this way, otherwise you cannot survive.”

Yet the old ways are alive and well in Lebanon, says Najm. 

“People want them,” he admits. “You still have press releases, you still have traditional media interviews, you still have TV coverage, you still have all of that. And we’re still doing them, applying new methods and new techniques, but we’re still doing them the old way. Until now they did not die. So let’s be realistic. We still have print, we still have radio, we still have TV and clients are still asking for them. They’re still asking for TV interviews, they’re still asking for press releases, even though the press release as a tool is dying worldwide.”

All of this could be viewed as an opportunity for Noise, a young and independent PR agency that seeks to be recognised as one of the most innovative and professional agencies in the country. With a core offering of events management, PR and media relations, it aims to take an even bigger share of the market than it already has, with Najm critical of many of the other agencies circulating in the market.

“If you don’t have solid media relations, you cannot claim to be a PR firm. If you don’t have lobbying power, advocacy, and public affairs power, the ability to get things done and open doors, you can’t claim to be a PR firm. If you don’t have impeccable writing skills, and if you don’t have impeccably well organised crisis communications cells with proven delivery and track records, you cannot claim to be a PR firm.”

“There are no more than 10 agencies who do business the way business should be done, and who deliver the way they should be delivering,” says Najm. “It’s about the business they have and the services they deliver. Organising a wedding is not the job of a PR firm. If you have an agency that is organising weddings and organising parties for bachelors, you can’t claim to be a PR agency. I have a problem with positionings in Lebanon.

“If you don’t have solid media relations, you cannot claim to be a PR firm. If you don’t have lobbying power, advocacy, and public affairs power, the ability to get things done and open doors, you can’t claim to be a PR firm. If you don’t have impeccable writing skills, and if you don’t have impeccably well organised crisis communications cells with proven delivery and track records, you cannot claim to be a PR firm.”

Najm, who is also the co-founder and managing partner of advertising agency Clémentine, knows that the use of social media is slowly transforming the country’s PR scene, with influencers and video content slowly but surely increasing in importance.

“If you don’t do social media you are dead,” says Najm, who advises many Lebanon’s top-brass politicians. “Lebanese people have PR in their genes but they don’t have it in a professional way. With some training and some institutionalisation of the new tools things will definitely go forward in a better way.”

Noise’s strategy going forward?

“We are aiming to be the biggest independent PR firm in Lebanon, and the most professional independent PR firm in Lebanon,” he replies. “The action plan is to recruit the proper talent to support big accounts, to recruit big corporations, and to keep delivering and making Lebanon’s name shine as a PR destination.”