Alex Malouf | The Innovator 25 2016
Charting the future of public relations
Alex MaloufThe Innovator 25:

Alex Malouf

Corporate communications manager, Arabian Peninsula

Procter & Gamble
Dubai

"The better you know who you're trying to engage with, the more innovative you can be"

 

Former journalist Alex Malouf has carved out a niche as a lively voice in the Middle East's burgeoning media scene, combining razor-sharp observations with a keen understanding of the forces that underpin the region's digital transformation. Much of which, no doubt, is informed by Malouf's day job at P&G, where he manages reputational affairs for the Middle East's largest FMCG. Malouf's experience and roots in the region are not the only things that set him apart — he is also a highly visible advocate for modern public relations, serving in senior roles on numerous industry organisations.

How do you define innovation?
For me, innovation is a dash of insight, a sprig of creativity and a hint of fearlessness. When you combine all three, you can create concepts which resonate, which capture the imagination and which move our industry forward.

Most innovative PR/comms campaign you’ve seen in the last 12 months?
Can I say the Trump campaign? On a serious note, I love the work that my colleagues have done with both #LikeAGirl and Thank You, Mom campaigns. They're based on strong insights, they're universal, and they're changing perceptions. I also love the hype generated around Pokemon Go. It's captured the minds of millions with smart use of augmented reality partnered with gamification. And the game (or hype) isn't running out of steam yet.

What brands and/or agencies are most innovative when it comes to marketing/PR?

For me, the best brands are those that understand their publics the most. They're the brands that understand consumer needs, that are aware of how people communicate and engage, and they know how to use both technology and tradition to get the message across. I have had the fortune to work with some amazing brands and agencies, and there's nothing more I love than to sit down with my agency team from LeoComm and Leo Burnett to hear their creative insights. For brands, I respect Ikea's creativity, GE's ability to tell a good engineering story to the masses, and how challengers such as Tesla are challenging preconceived notions.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider ‘innovative.’
It sounds whimsical today, but it was a number of years back when I was back at ABB. We had a scholarship programme running for Saudi students, and I wanted to take this initiative online and onto social media. I remember the resistance, but I persevered. It's a simple lesson in knowing and understanding your audience, even during times of change. The better you know who you're trying to engage with, the more innovative you can be in the approach you take to engagement.

In what area of marketing/PR do you see the most innovation?

Content & creative

How would you describe the communications/PR industry’s level of innovation?

Lagging other marketing disciplines

Where do you see the greatest opportunity for marketing & PR to become more innovative?
Planning & analytics.

Who most influences how innovative a brand’s marketing/PR is?
I'd like to say the external environment and our stakeholders such as consumers should have the greatest influence on how innovative we are. For many brands, the top executive still has a strong impact on how innovative the brand's communications is.

Who is your mentor and why?
I work with some amazing colleagues, and I'm fortunate that I'm working with such talented people, both in my own organization as well as on the agency side. The person I learned the most from was my editor in my first media role in Dubai. Stuart was a journalist's journalist, always chasing a story. He taught me to do my homework, ask the right questions, do the analysis, and come to the right conclusions. Those skills have stood me in good stead until today.

How do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration by reading about what others are doing, and talking to them about their own ideas and concepts. I support a number of industry bodies, including CIPR, IABC and MEPRA, and nothing beats the opportunity to network with peers and learn from their own experiences. My wife is also in the same industry, and her energy and passion are a constant source of inspiration to me.

Advice for people seeking to bring new ideas, ways of doing things to their organizations?
Be brave, step out of the organizational box and seek different perspectives. My general advice to anyone in the business is that we need to step out of our comfort zones and take on more responsibility if we're going to be taken seriously as a function by our business leaders.

In your opinion, what’s the most innovative place in the world?

I love any place where you find a mixing of cultures. London is a great example of this, where'll you'll find dozens of languages and cultures thriving side-by-side. There's so much we can learn from others, particularly from people of different cultures.

What’s your favorite time of day and why?
It's first thing in the morning, when my daughter wakes up. She's a toddler, and so many of the things she is experiencing, she is experiencing for the first time. I just love playing with her, taking her out and watching her expressions. It refreshes me.