In light of CCPlus’ upcoming event “Narrative,” Daily News Egypt sat down with the company’s managing director, Lamia Kamel, to delve into the reasons behind organising the event, which issues will be addressed, who will attend, and the role of SMEs in the economy.
What issues will be addressed during the conference?
We have an issue with developing the right content, the right message, and finding the right forms to share these messages. Sometimes, we fail to find anyone who is able to collaborate on this dynamic, to participate in the making of the content, to be able to portray the message properly, and to effectively share it with the audience.
Having said that, we thought of creating “Narrative”. The idea is based on getting the right people from different walks of life─from the private sector in telecommunications, fast-moving goods, and real estate, and the public sector through the government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
We were able to pull together speakers from different walks of life for this event.
Former minister of telecommunications and information technology, and current chairperson of Orange Egypt, Atef Helmy, will be talking about the dynamics of the movement of and between the public and private sector and the challenges.
We also have Wael Fakharany, who has just resigned from Google and returned to Egypt to be the regional director of Careem; former dean of the faculty of mass communication at Cairo Univeristy Samy Abdel Aziz; and president of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations Jason Mackenzie. Regional public affairs and communications manager of Coca-Cola Company MENA, Ghada Makady, will speak about how to stop a crisis from happening, and the needed parameters and pillars to do that. Christian Eid, marketing director of Careem, is going to talk about competition and the problem the company, along with Uber, faced with Egypt’s white taxis.
We have also two panels. The first panel is about corporate social responsibility (CSR), which is all about what NGOs can’t say and what the media and PR don’t know. Misr El-Kheir, PepsiCo, Vodafone, and multinational companies who have a huge stake in CSR will be talking about the challenges they face and will share some of their experiences for the first time.
The second panel is about nation-branding and the role of investment in nation-branding. This very strategic panel is going to be attended by the president of the General Authority for Investment and Free Zones, Mohamed Khudeir, the head of the New Administrative Capital, Ayman Ismail, and regional director of Hill+Knowlton, Andrew Bone. Fakharany will also participate in the panel because he has the digital experience to tell attendees how to promote investments and utilise digital tools to position the nation.
How are small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) supposed to help the Egyptian economy rise again or be revived?
Introducing new methodologies, utilising technology, having more people involved in the creation of new businesses, and targeting niche markets are some of the ways through which the Egyptian economy can be revived through SMEs.
I believe that the creativity of people working in SMEs will have a direct impact on the economy. They will create niche markets that have not been tapped into before. I also think the government is starting to see that, and is giving whatever it takes to support this initiative.
SMEs are given massive attention by the government and the president. The General Authority for Investment and Free Zones is working on a new law for the companies that operate with one person, which basically helps people establish a company and have little liability. This is supposed to encourage young investors to come and participate in the economy.
I believe that Egypt has a magnitude of great wealth when it comes to SMEs. We have a great deal of creativity.
Start-ups are able to reach unprecedented levels, and you can see the lengths they can go to, for example, by looking at the Egyptian entrepreneur who met with US president Barack Obama. You have all those women establishing their own businesses and trying to get out of the box and export their work.
SMEs are great contributors to the economy. They are much faster than large institutions. SMEs are quicker because the people who manage them are young, so their usage of technology is pretty advanced. You would find them thinking out of the box and utilising digital media, mobility, and applications in a way that really supports the business and decreases the learning curve for others.
What do you think of the PR market in Egypt?
I think it is very embryonic. It is very young, despite the fact that it has been around for some time. We have great practitioners, great calibres, and a great need, but until now we did not realise the strategic importance of PR─this is why we created “Narrative”.
People think that PR is confined to providing press releases, speeches, simulation articles, and holding press conferences. This is part of PR─namely corporate PR─but it goes beyond that. It goes beyond tradition. It is the core of policy-making when you are doing a project. When you create the platforms of your projects, you create the PR for it at the same time.
The idea of “Narrative” is to empower PR and enable it to be part of all the disciplines that touch the lives of the people. If you have policies, regulations, projects, and initiatives, PR should be an integral part of how these things are translated into messages, communicated to the public, and steered.
PR is very strategic and although this is the role it should have, it is not assuming its role yet. This is because a lot of people are unaware of this role and do not believe in it.
How do you envision PR in the future?
I envision that with gruelling work and a lot of discipline and persistence, institutions will wake up because it is in their culture to listen to people. You see a lot of governmental, public, and private institutions talking about PR, but how far they are utilising it is another thing.
I envision it will take time, but we will get there because we have no other choice. We are trying to build the platform where all stakeholders are present in one room, share their experiences, and present something to the world that exists and that could be of benefit to society.
How many years do you think it will take?
I think this process will take two to three years, but if we don’t tackle the education file in Egypt, it will take us far longer than that. Without the right background, nothing can change.
What are the challenges that face you as an SME and PR company?
Mainly money and funds. I need to be able to do more business, and that requires funding. Another challenge is a gap between where I am and where a lot of people from my generation are.
The people participating in “Narrative” are very excited, but here you are talking to international associations, great speakers, and people who have the knowledge and empowerment to do things and create change. However, you do not always deal with such people.
Sometimes, you have to deal with different people, and different people have different mentalities. Sometimes, it is very sad because they do not see what you are trying to achieve and rather than absorb it and endorse it, they fight it, thinking that it is affecting them. This happens due to education.
If they were given a better education that is based on teamwork, participation, and partnership, they would not see you as an enemy or a rival. They will see you as a partner, and together you are helping the industry grow.
In “Narrative”, we are hosting our competitors. They will be on stage and have branded tables in the summit. We are doing this because it is our industry and if we are helping the industry grow, we are all going to benefit, because no company can take on the whole market alone. But if we grow the market together, and realise the importance of our work, all of us will benefit, one by one.
How big is your current market share?
I like to see myself as a leader, so I don’t know. I have never calculated it, but I think we are one of the top five dynamic companies in the market.
What do your clients currently think of Egypt’s economy?
They believe in it. They were suffering from other aspects, but they believe in the Egyptian people. They believe in the Egyptian ability to withstand defeat, to go to work every day, to buy products every day, to buy new mobile phones every day, and life goes on. This kind of life makes large investors look at Egyptians because the people and the culture assure them that it is not going to fail. It is going to be sustainable, and it just takes great mindsets, discipline, and persistence to support it and to help it grow and continue.