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It has been a while since I last blogged, but I wanted to wait to write something that I am interested in and could write about with enthusiasm and passion. So here goes…

I have just returned from a very short trip to Abu Dhabi. As part of my Public Relations course I took part in an international project called the Global Communications Project 2012 or Globcom. The project involved 11 universities from around the world and were virtually teamed up to work on a live brief.
The brief was provided by the Abu Dhabi Global Environmental Data Initiative (AGEDI) and the Abu Dhabi university – Zayed University were kind enough to host all the students that took part. Unfortunately not everyone was able to make it; just four UK students attended the conference due to funding and costs.

Last week I packed up my bag and boarded my plane to Abu Dhabi. Being a slightly uncomfortable flyer I wasn’t particualrly excited about the trip, but seven hours later I could not believe I had arrived in Abu Dhabi about to experience two days of insightful PR knowledge and Middle Eastern culture.

Arriving at 4am, I hurried to bed only to awake at around 7.30am on Friday morning. Zayed University, a two billion dollar development hosted the Globcom symposium. Our groups spent the morning working on cutting down the proposal presentations with the aim of presenting the whole concept in 10 minutes. Not an easy task, considering our presentation consisted of 60 powerpoint slides and four strategies. That said, it was an opportunity to work as a global team face-to-face. No more Skype meetings and sharing documents via email and Google Docs.

Mazen Nahawi talks about social media in the Middle East and the importance of PR measurement.

The rest of the conference featured guest speakers covering currently popular PR topics such as measurement and ethics. The guest speakers then assembled as a panel and the floor was opened to questions from the students. The afternoon was tiring but worth every minute of forcing my eyes to stay open. I was completely impressed by the knowledge held collectively across the students from all the universities. Questions proposed were insightful, thought-provoking and intelligent. The panel’s response was just as much encouraging as the questions and I can safely say the topic of ethics is never going to be black and white!

The panel addressed key issues surrounding ethics in Public Relations and the role of Journalism versus PR.

In the evening, a gala diner was held and the winning team was presented with trophies. While my team did not win, we topped two of the marking categories – our proposal was the most feasible and had been commended for its global scope. All-in-all we were a happy group and pleased to walk away with certificates in hand.

The second day of my trip involved a tourism and culture day. We paid a visit to the UAE’s largest mosque – Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, one of the most architecturally impressive buildings I have ever seen. We then went on to visit the cultural centre where we informed about Abu Dhabi’s plans for Saadiyat Island. Saadiyat Island will become a world-class leisure, residential, business and cultural hub.

Grand Mosque

The plans even include building the Louvre Abu Dhabi, Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, a performing arts centre and maritime museum. The concept has been developed with top designers, architects and creative minds. The plans are impressive and encompasses everything you imagine Abu Dhabi to be. 

To round off the trip, the students were taken out to the middle of the desert, for a safari and evening meal. Land Cruisers picked us up from the side of the road and sent us flying across the sand dunes.Dropped off somewhere next to a camel, a large dinning space had been created out of carpets, cushions and soft lighting. The evening was filled with local food, belly dancing, henna tattoos and magical music.
I ended in bed at around 2.30am and woke at 8am ready to catch my flight back to Heathrow!

For all my PR class mates – it was such a shame not to have you all there to share the experience.

If I could do it all over again… I absolutely would!Globcom, at times, was a frustrating process but the trip to Abu Dhabi made everything worth while. The knowledge I have gained in working in a virtual global team and taking a trip to a Middle Eastern city has excelled my expectations. It was great to be able to meet my group and see how different they are from the characters they portrayed when working as a virtual team.

Here are some key points that interested me at the conference;

  • 90million out of 300m people within the region are online.
  • Social Media is the driver of Arab revolutions (Mazen).
  • It is OK not to achieve the goal you set out. Use evaluation to justify why and adapt (Mazen).
  • Social Media is eminently the domain of Public Relations – it is a natural fit to what we do in PR (Mazen).
  • In relation to ethics, guest speaker Stephen King highlighted a Plato quote – “Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find away around the laws.” – food for thought?