We let the facts do the talking.


But the question no one is asking is WHAT MUST NOT CHANGE.

When I first moved to Cicero & Bernay (C&B) as Director of Brand Outreach, Ahmad had a very clear vision for the future of the agency. He said to me, “J, I founded C&B not because I envisioned an empire. It is simply because I LOVE public relations. I sense that some things that have always been par for the course are about to be disrupted. Ride this wave with me and I promise you, your creativity will not go wasted.”

Today, two years down the line, as I find myself Executive Creative Director with C&B, I realise the true worth of the gamechanger’s words. What Ahmad had first anticipated back in 2016, is alive and thriving NOW. Public Relations has been disrupted, and disrupted for the better. It was disrupted when the first Vlog happened. It was disrupted when the first head of state Tweeted. It was disrupted when the first computer written book appeared. It was disrupted yesterday. It is being disrupted as you read this post.

Ephemeral content, block chaining, big data, micro-moments, iOA, hyper-reality – these is not mere jargon. These are articulations of what is already surrounding us. As many of my colleagues in the office are known to pull my leg on, led by Tariq most times, I am somewhat of a nerd-geek. If I were to go on this stream, I’ll probably fill the next 1000 words on these changes. Instead, I would like to put my journalism hat on (not many know that my first job was as a journalist and features writer with The Times of India when I was all of 16) and actually speak about how JOURNALISM should never leave CONTENT.  In fact, this is the story behind the term Content Journalism™ that us at C&B have adopted over the last few years. Let me elaborate.

Contrary to popular belief, Content Marketing has more in common with Journalism than we can imagine. How? Good Journalism focuses on the five Ws – who, what, when, where and why.  Great branded content must ensure who the audience is, what they will get out of engaging with the content, and where, when and how they should respond.

Another very important thing to factor in is the fact that we live in a world where TRUST is becoming highly volatile. Fake news is often becoming an area of key concern among consumers across the world. While on one hand boundaries are shrinking between what is Media and what is Content, as we notice from the Edelman Trust Barometer 2018, people across the world trust journalism slightly more than platformed content.



Which brings us to the dichotomy Engagement Vs Amplification. How do we, as PR Practitioners stay true to the ethos of brands in our portfolio, and the larger question of adherence to journalistic values? As Ilana Plumer says, “follow the three”:

  • Do not deceive the reader.
  • Minimize harm to sources or subjects of stories.
  • Credit sources of content and ideas.

And finally, the question of engagement. Is Content Journalism™ meant to be an experience? A deliverer of news? A harbinger of an offer? An enhancer of reputation? What if I say all the above, but MOST IMPORTANTLY, great Content Journalism™ is meant to deliver to my customer what my brand truly stands for. Deliver it in a way that reaches the heart and stays in the mind. In an increasingly complex world, where Gen Z is now poised to become the new Gen X, where boomers are influencing tomorrow’s post-millennials, where values that our grand parents inculcated are being seen in our children all I would like to end on is ADAPT to the medium, not the INTENT. PR may be changing, but the reasons behind the necessity of the RIGHT public relations counsel must never change.


Jamal H. Iqbal is Executive Creative Director at Cicero & Bernay Public Relations. An independent PR agency headquartered in Dubai and offering new-age public relations consultancy to the MENA region. |