Katia Yasmine, Managing Director of TRACCS Lebanon elaborates on the agency’s DNA and what makes this PR firm ahead of the curve. In a market where the rules seem to be changing almost daily, TRACCS network is showing a strong ability to keep up with those rules. Yammine explains how they are adapting their strategies to accommodate the rapid pace of change and what continues to define TRACCS’s success moving forward.
Tell us about your agency… What's your team made of?
In just over 20 years ago, TRACCS opened its doors, during a time when public relations was still quite misunderstood and under-utilized. It was a time when most companies did not have a dedicated public relations function, a time when choosing a career in public relations was not in the thought process. That was the market then and this was the opportunity for TRACCS, to create an indigenous and homegrown public relations network able to provide a suite of services to define and drive the image and reputation of companies.
Fast forward today, TRACCS is the largest public relations (PR) network in the Middle East and North Africa region, with 14 offices across 15 markets. TRACCS Lebanon, which was established almost 10 years ago, includes a team of professionals with areas of expertise focusing on strategic advisory, internal communications, crisis, digital, and media outreach.
What makes it unique?
The uniqueness of TRACCS is actually in its uniformity where each office operates in exactly the same manner and lives by the same ideals. This was a painstaking process that took many years to perfect and required systems and protocols to ensure this uniformity and structure. We never refer to ourselves as TRACCS Lebanon, but TRACCS and this is the ethos that is carried out by the 275 employees in our growing network.
Every company has its unique selling proposition when it comes to driving its business forward. At TRACCS we have an ethos that says: “Great people bring great business that create a great brand.” We have been living by this ethos since our beginnings. Add to that our deep local understanding and insights into the socio-economic framework of every country we operate in, we are more than strategists and implementers, we have been able to successfully position ourselves as “trusted advisors” to a multitude of local, regional, multinational, and government clients across the network.
Another important element that makes us unique is the power of the idea. Creativity is in our DNA and we believe in creating and executing great ideas. This is especially relevant in a market like Lebanon where the real challenge lies in turning constraints into creativity without drawing attention to the difference.
Moreover, today you are not just competing against other PR teams for budgets, but also against advertising, digital, marketing and even startups. Everyone wants a piece of the cake. What are you doing to keep up with those rules?
We don’t believe in competition but in compatibility. Over the years public relations had to create and define its own space, not only globally but regionally and locally as well. Advertising and digital agencies have a completely different offering that public relations forms. We understand this, we respect this, and cooperate with many agencies across the region as this will ultimately drive benefit and value to our clients; this is the main goal of anything and everything we do.
Market dynamics are drastically shifting and the client expectations from any firm whether public relations, advertising, digital, or activation is also changing. Companies are expected to be more strategic and provide more value in markets with huge budgetary constraints. This means that everything we have been doing in the past has to align to this new sense of purpose. At TRACCS, we don’t just look at the rules but fully embrace values we have been upholding for the past two decades and our ability to continue providing strategic counsel and value will keep us ahead of the game.
Because of the growing competition in the sector, PR agencies are constantly expanding their service spectrum. In your case, what are you focusing on to stand out from the competition?
It was Edward de Bono that said “Companies that solely focus on competition will die. Those that focus on value creation will thrive.” We believe in these words, practice them and truly embrace them. Competition has existed even before the rise of public relations. We had to compete against the market, against the norms and status quo to create and define our own space. This educational and awareness process has laid the foundation of what PR is today and will continue to propel it forward.
With regards to our focus, it was, is, and continues to be providing a deep and meaningful understanding of the communications processes and challenges and identifying and deploying the necessary solutions to manage them. It is a complete value chain that we build, deploy, and evaluate.
“At TRACCS, we don’t just look at the rules but fully embrace values we have been upholding for the past two decades and our ability to continue providing strategic counsel and value will keep us ahead of the game.”
What have been your agency's biggest project in 2017/18?
“Be The Drive” is a campaign that TRACCS Lebanon implemented in 2017 that is very much the closest to our heart. The love for Lebanon was the drive of Antoine Iskandar and Jad Comair to be the first ever Lebanese team to participate in Dakar Rally. Both Antoine and Jad decided to be the drive of Anta Akhi members on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the NGO, taking care of adults with disabilities. To raise awareness around the cause and raise funds to Anta Akhi NGO, a fundraising campaign was launched under the hashtag #BeTheDrive encouraging every individual to be the drive of Anta Akhi members. Our involvement in the campaign included creating the strategic approach and providing support in partnerships, media coverage, influencers’ involvement, on-ground activations and social media activation.
In your opinion what are the trends that will characterize the PR industry in the upcoming year and going forward?
The Rise and Rise of Communications can best characterize the overarching theme that will drive the industry forward with the digital age serving as a backdrop and a strategic force for the future. Anchoring this platform will be a series of strategic trends such as public sector buy-in, bigger budgets in key MENA markets such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and smart youth interest.
Another important trend that will drive the business is the amalgamated role of the “Trusted Advisor” and how this role within the agency will further underscore its value and expertise.
Moving beyond this, it is expected that the role of the Trusted Advisor will further transform from simply providing strategic advisory to a total Trusted Advisor Solution ranging from coaching and mentoring to full-scale training services and the deployment of advisory solutions.
But perhaps the most important breakthrough is the combined role of the advisor as a key agent for organizational change, especially in the public sector where the heads of these organizations are expected to change the thinking process of the entire organization and need the help of communications experts to drive the change. This transforms the inherent image and mandate of the Trusted Advisor to more institutionalized thinking that is solution driven.