Interview: Tarek ElMoukachar, Dubai PR Expert

Less than ten years ago, while I was working for a tech publication, I received an email from a new PR expert who was at that time representing Microsoft Xbox. To my astonishment, and as I discovered later on after meeting him face to face and running through thorough interrogations by yours truly, he knew a lot about videogames. He was a hardcore gamer not a fake one. When I asked him about anything, he would get to the bottom of it or simply say I don’t know. I always liked to work with a PR man whom I can trust and rely on. His name is…

Q1. Please tell my readers about yourself.

My name is Tarek ElMoukachar, and I am happy! To date, I’ve lived a third of my life in three places each; Australia (born and raised), then moved to Lebanon where I received my Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science from the University of Balamand; and now, residing in Dubai with my beautiful wife. We are expecting our first child anytime soon now.

I love what I do, especially since I didn’t study for it – 10 years ago, I started as a junior in a company that gave me the best education in all-things PR and Digital – ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller. I love to travel, which only got better when I met my wife who also loves to travel, I have a mad passion for cars and gadgets, and also like to relax by going fishing (in the cooler months).

Q2. Say a startup company is looking for a PR agency, what criteria should they consider, and if you were to recommend 3 Dubai PR expert agencies (Apart from Asda’a), what would they be?

Tarek ElMoukachar

Tarek ElMoukachar

For a start-up, the first thing that the agency part of the mind comes to is budgets – how much can the agency afford to spend on PR. Second, their knowledge of PR. If the founders know PR well enough, then they can go with any agency that has a good reach and network for distribution of their announcements and key messages.

If said start-up is new to PR, then they’ll need a really good communications agency that has had previous experience establishing key messages and communications strategy. Besides ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller, the three-agencies that I would recommend (based on me actually collaborating with them in the past); Hill and Knowlton, Ogilvy and Weber Shandwick.

Q3. Tell us about the funniest, most bizarre, and totally unexpected tales from your days as a PR professional, in any day of work.

Client: “Why did we only receive this tiny piece of coverage in the newspaper today” (points to a small piece of 5x5cm)
Me: “Well, we did send a small press release announcing a sponsorship.” (5th sponsorship that quarter)
Client: “Why didn’t they publish the full press release?”
Me: “That is up to the editor to decide as they know what is newsworthy.”
Client: “I thought we pay for the coverage, are you saying that press release coverage is free?”
Me: “Yes it is”
Client: “Wow… Wallahi PR is better than advertising”

True story!

Q4. What’s so unique about the PR scene in Dubai – compared to any other place in the world?

The exposure to multinationals and the many cultures. Dubai is pretty much a hub for a major area – Middle East and Africa. So many different people, languages, markets, traditions, ways of education and business, yet all managed from one single place… Dubai.

In other areas of the world, you’ll have certain markets grouped together by their similarities, but here the world meets in one city. So, to be in the PR field for a major organization based in Dubai exposes you to so many things. For example, in one week I had an announcement in Pakistan, a press event in Nigeria and a product launch in the Gulf.

Q5. Is it easy or so hard for a new PR company to enter the Dubai PR market? Why so? And when would Tarek ElMoukachar start his own PR company?

Tarek El-Moukachar, a PR Expert in Dubai

Tarek El-Moukachar, a PR Expert in Dubai

Entering the market is pretty much the easy part – there are many agencies that will help you setup a company within a couple of months – that is of course if you have the capital to invest and the ‘cojones’ to fulfill your dream. The difficult part is starting the business! All it takes is pulling in that first client – no matter how big or small.

Based on the size of that client, you can source your team (there’s a lot of talent in the region hungry for a job) or fly solo while you try to find the next client. Then, maintaining your client and growing the business could be the hardest part (obviously).

The thought has crossed my mind but, I have a career plan and I am happily (and thankfully) sticking to it.

Q6. Now that you’ve moved to the other side, the client side, what are the main differences from working at a PR agency, and working as a PR expert at the client side?

The first and most obvious is working on one and only one brand. My whole time is dedicated to learning about the business. Second is being able to make my own decisions based on things I believe can work better. Finally, it is managing budgets and figuring out the process along the way.

Tarek ElMoukachar is currently working as the Head – PR and Communications at Dubai Parks and Resorts.