A Saudi market profiling and opportunity mapping for communications agencies by CARMA's Mazen Nahawi
Posted on 2024 Jan,05  | By Mazen Nahawi, CARMA & SOCIALEYEZ

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Why Saudi Arabia is such an important market for comms-related companies to be present in, especially now more than ever? Mazen Nahawi, Founder & CEO of CARMA and SOCIALEYEZ, shares his take on this.

Every single organization is Saudi Arabia is facing a reputation challenge for the ages.

In government, Vision 2030 programs and other programs are leading a broad-based public service renaissance where the Crown Prince and the Saudi public are putting a premium on quality results and efficient execution.

A key part of this premium is effective communications, without which, no amount of technical excellence or operational savvy, can deliver.

In the private sector, the national landscape has changed with thousands of new start-ups created in the technology and knowledge-services sector, legacy corporate powerhouses undertaking modernization programs and financial-based organizations having to reengineer their entire brand, funding, and customer models to cater to a new ecosystem which would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.

Here too, communications are essential for success: from the re-brand of SAB and Saudia to the creation of Digital City and KAFD, every corporate story is having to be retold and communicators are at the heart of ensuring this happens successfully.

To do this well, communicators in Saudi Arabia must take the following into account:


It’s a Different Country

The old models are out, and new ones are in - on everything, everywhere and all the time. The most obvious example is the fact that most Saudis today are young and digitally savvy. Their expectations of everything from quality products and excellent customer service to how and where they are communicated to, is radically different from the analogue world and its analogue expectations.

Communicators would do well to ‘Show Up’ and be part of this young community. This can be through simple dialogue and youth forums, or through gamification of campaigns and university programs.

The key is to understand who these young people are and what they are passionate about: build your campaigns and messages around them and for them.


Saudi Redefines Scalability

Many in the MENA region know what it’s like to work hard and fast. From construction and finance booms across the GCC to mega-events and projects like the World Cup in Qatar and Cop28 in Dubai, everything in the region seems to be growing super-fast and super-quick, all the time.

This ecosystem is helping transform the MENA region and lifts millions out of poverty, creates a new era of peace and prosperity as well as a cultural, social and political renaissance, which is good for all people in the region, and for the world.

It does however challenge working professionals to frame their life with a mental fortitude and physical strength, which allows them to manage hyper-growth and its many demands.

Saudi Arabia takes hyper-growth to a completely different level – one not seen since the early rise of China a generation ago: from Neom and Qiddiya, to LiV Golf and the World Cup, game-changing projects and initiatives are tearing up the play book on what it means to work hard and fast.

Regional communicators must find a new way of communicating at high speed and at scale across numerous platforms to a complex audience, while maintaining their mental and physical health – and that balance is just not easy to find. But without finding it, you will simply fail to deliver or burnout and walk away.

A key element in finding this balance is pushing back against unreasonable demands – they are usually made by reasonable people, who will usually adjust their expectations when you make it clear that a bit more time will simply deliver a better result for all.


Saudi is a Global Play

Nearly everything Saudi Arabia does now has some form of impact on global audiences.

This is most clear in the energy sector where mega-organizations dominate the oil, gas, petrochemical, and plastics market. Aramco intermittently trades places with global tech giants like Google and Apple as the largest company in the world in terms of shareholder value, Sabic executives are keenly sought after at every plastics event and other organizations like Sipchem, Yasref and Sasref all hold major sway in the sector across nearly every market.

A wave of globalized leadership in new sectors is now underway: think AlUla and Neom as new global tourism hotspots, alongside one of the world’s largest religious tourism markets in Mecca and Medina – and you have a global tourism powerhouse.

Saudi investment in global sport leadership has landed rights to the World Cup, the Club Winners’ Cup and a possible merger between LiV and PGA tours, as well as leading events in boxing, Formula 1 and horse racing.

Traditional leaders like Saudia are also on the march with a major re-brand and global value proposition.

Communicators will need to ensure their research, planning, messaging, measurement, and consultation are all built around engaging with and persuading global audiences of the value these Saudi majors offer the global community and economy.

This will not be easy, as it requires careful segmentation of audiences, crafting the correct messages in different languages and choosing stories and platforms which resonate with people around the world.  

Saudi Arabia’s renaissance is also one for PR & Communicators not just in the region but around the world: there is a massive, complex, exciting and epic story to tell across every element of the kingdom’s growth, and communicators will have to be at the best they have ever been to do their part in delivering this story to the world.