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Knowledgeable brand influence

Public relations in the hands of consumers

Few are the sectors as dynamic and ever-changing as the public relations one. Most fields may be cookie-cutter, with experience in them compounding on a timely basis, yet with PR, if an agency is not on top of its game or aware of the changing trends, it will be doomed to irrelevance. In today’s landscape, the power of information is no longer in the hands of corporations, and neither is the narrative being defined behind closed doors. Vox populi, the voice of the people, is what is resonating, bringing forth a generation of vocal, opinionated, and influential humans.

No more are traditional PR strategies causing the impact they once did, and as C&B’s director of client services mentioned in her recent blog entry, inbound PR will be the game-changer of not only PR in Dubai, but in the UAE and beyond.

One of the elements of inbound PR is the utilisation of influencers and key opinion leaders (KOL). At C&B, we have fully embraced this new approach by being the first PR agency to assign its own influencer/KOL division, See & Be. Through this entry, I will set out to highlight the distinct difference between influencers and KOLs and when each should be utilised in public relations campaigns.

Though both have influence over an audience, there is an integral difference between influencers and KOLs. Where the former may have a strong online presence on their desired platform(s), basing their impact upon their persona, the latter need not be present online and are rather regarded as experts in their fields.


An influencer is one who builds an online following based on their portrayed personas. They don’t have to be experts in any field, as their main intention is to establish an audience base that relates to them or likes them.  In Dubai, there is an abundance of influencers, and building strategic PR campaigns within agencies to reach an intended target group requires the use of specific individuals. Influencers are also defined by their demographic. If a PR agency in Dubai is looking to launch a fashion-centered campaign, it will have to assign the assistance of an influencer who targets the brands’ respective demographic.

Key Opinion Leaders:

Unlike influencers, this group is comprised of experts, regardless of their online presence or lack thereof. These are individuals who have mastered their crafts and have built a following based on a robust knowledge base. PR agencies can tap into these experts when a campaign requires authentic, expert opinions or when the aim is to educate and not simply promote. It is interesting to note as well that while influencers follow KOLs for inspiration and ideation, the inverse is not true.

Consumers in the hands of PR agencies

When it comes to Dubai public relations, not many KOLs are utilised for a myriad of reasons that go beyond the PR field. This is not for a lack of experts or a network that connects agencies to them, but rather audiences tend to lean towards influencers and the personas they adopt. However, this trend can easily be changed by PR agencies by introducing KOLs to the right audience.

The rule of thumb is influencers and KOLs appeal to different audiences. Where the former gets the attention of average consumers, KOLs speak to a particular demographic. Influencers, when used by a public relations agency, may generate a wide online buzz on a certain subject or product by driving engagements and conversations. This heightened attention is pivotal for brand recognition, but if an agency is looking to target specifically, assigning KOLs who speak to that audience will result in a much bigger impact than reach and numbers will accomplish.

KOLs are not valued by their online following or the reach they possess, but rather by the knowledge they have and portray. Dubai PR agencies need to know when to best put KOLs’ experiences to use in accordance with the right demographic. Agencies must identify the demographics of their audience to deliver the best results. Is the campaign meant to simply generate awareness, or is it setting out to educate? While influencers love something, KOLs live it and engage with it.

We at C&B, have already taken measures to redefine how we approach a target audience and are actively taking further steps towards becoming an even more progressive PR agency in Dubai and beyond. There are many talented people online, the trick is to know how to best employ their respective expertise.

Ahmad Itani is Founder & CEO at Cicero & Bernay Public Relations, an independent PR agency headquartered in Dubai offering new-age public relations consultancy to the UAE and across the MENA region. |