Georges Najm, Partner and Director of Advertising Agency Clémentine and sister PR Firm Noise & University Lecturer believes companies are going to worry much less about which kind of firm to hire and look simply for the one that works best for them. Najm explains that Noise has built an offering that can identify the precise needs of a brand via its expert team and then develop the campaign that will lead to the best results. The agency doesn’t seem encumbered by any legacy models or teams, which allows it to be agile in how they think, build and serve their clients.
Today Noise is not just competing against other PR teams for budgets, but also against advertising, digital, marketing and even startups. Have you done anything to adapt your services, structure and skill sets in response to the changing nature of the communications landscape and to remain competitive?
We were established as a boutique PR firm, in 2013, but we managed thanks to our business ethics, the integrity of our PR services, and thanks to our human capital that includes high caliber talents with two Ph.Ds on board, to mark the Beirut PR scene. We have proven to be the number one PR firm in Lebanon, and this is supported by a number of facts that I will shed light on as we go. This leading position enabled us to acquire a big chunk of the market. Nonetheless, we didn’t We have worked relentlessly to develop our competencies and skills. We have expanded our team structure to include 15 seasoned experts, which we worked on strengthening with internal and external trainings. Moreover, we conducted a re-adaptation operation on the original structure to be more flexible and more responsive to the clients’ changing needs. In addition, our services have become more clustered in a smart way, enabling us to leverage our competitiveness and this was recognized in the market by both Lebanese and international investors.
What are the difficulties and challenges you're facing along the way?
The challenges we face today are more market-related than anything else. You always face challenges on the economic financial plane, relevant to the overall critical economic situation. The second type of challenges relates to the scarcity of talents in the Lebanese market and I believe this is an industry crisis, whereas finding proper personnel possessing the major competencies to work in a professional PR firm is really hard.
“The PR effort should be dealt with in an integral and holistic matter, thereby, we can’t choose à la carte from a ‘PR menu’.”
What are the trends that characterize the PR industry nowadays? And what's the practice you've been involved in the most?
The PR industry is a relatively novice practice and domain, which was established in the early 1900’s in America, started taking shape scientifically as of the 40s, and came to us even later by the turn of the 20th century. Yes, we always witness new trends and moods, yet the same basic mission and philosophy of PR remain. What is the way you deal with the PR challenges. The channels are continuously evolving and the needs are more sophisticated, as more pressing subjects such as the environment, the corporate responsibility and corruption are being dealt with today more than ever while using the same main philosophy.
Speaking about the featured trends, we note that the first trend is a channel-oriented approach, as online takes over as a top choice for marketers and clients nowadays, and a pillar in any PR campaign.
Elaborating the modern issues that need to be communicated through PR, as aforementioned, there is a huge inclination from corporations and governments to communicate their efforts in areas such as environmental protection, fighting corruption, governance and transparency in financial matters.
It seems that event marketing has become the core function of independent PR agencies. In Noise's case, where are clients' budget and attention being focused on the most?
The PR effort should be dealt with in an integral and holistic matter, thereby, we can’t choose à la carte from a ‘PR menu.’ So it is hard to say which practice can be a stand-alone pillar in our work and this also varies upon the industry or the scope you have been assigned to do. What I would advise to a telecom company wouldn’t be the same as for an energy consortium, yet we still have a fixed platform based on media relations, crisis management, and online campaigning. We have a lot of clients that require only PR consultancy and crisis management without managing events. While others mandate us to exclusively manage their events and other PR activities. Anyway, our understanding of PR events is a different approach than the standard market is doing in Lebanon and the Levant. We produce events from A to Z; the production is there, but our edge is that we do lobbying for the event; we insure high caliber media and VIP presence, while guaranteeing a splendid media coverage. To respond to your question, events are an important chunk yet big companies will ask our extra leverage in advising them in crisis communication and other strategic matters.
What has been your agency's biggest projects in 2017/18?
In 2017 and 2018, we continued our expansion and we acquired strategic accounts and prestigious names in the public affairs and corporate world. We became the agency of record for Beirut Municipality and we did big jobs for Microsoft, YouTube and US Lebanon Tech Hub, Karpowership. We also conducted some wonderful work for Rotary (Having organized its First Presidential Conference in Lebanon), Cigna Insurance, and we organized for the fifth consecutive year the Lebanese Diaspora Energy (for the account of the Lebanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigrants), which is the biggest event of the year. We are currently planning big projects in Lebanon and abroad and you will see Noise reaching to greater heights in opening a couple of branches in the Middle East. We are finalizing also a deal to seal a partnership with a major US PR firm.