Joyce Hallak: ‘What happened on August 4 was the tipping point and beyond what any single human can absorb’
Posted on 2020 Dec,10

Joyce Hallak, General Manager, Starcom Levant, believes in Lebanon and its people. This is what pops up from her talk, when asked to narrate what happened to her and her team on August 4, after the terrible blast at Beirut port. In the following, she goes back recalling her feelings upon seeing the damages and desolating scenery that affected her workspace and Beirut. And most of all, she shares how, at Publicis, they intend to bounce back as a team and move forward.

I was in Brummana at the time of the explosion and obviously it took some time to realise what had happened and where. We have a lot of friends, clients and family living or working in the vicinity of the Port so obviously we were worried. First priority was to make sure none of our employees were at the office and that no one was hurt; thankfully nobody was. Immediately after, we checked on each of the 177 employees; a lot of people had their places damaged and we had a couple of injuries. As a Groupe, we followed up with every single affected person, making sure they had the necessary medical attention and a place to stay.

At the time, I didn’t feel the stress or the anxiety. I used to be a Red Cross first aider, and we are taught to respond under pressure and chaos. That came when everything settled.

Two days later when the road was opened, I returned to the office for the first time. I knew from the security cameras that we had suffered a lot of damage, but being physically there was still shocking. The one thing that kept coming to my mind was: ‘Thank God no one was there’.

Rebuilding will take time. Obviously there is the financial aspect to it but also the fact that our offices are located within the Solidere area where processes take longer than usual. And honestly we are rethinking whether we rebuild in Downtown or move to another space, as first and foremost we need to think about the safety of our employees and unfortunately this amazing area is unceasingly affected by protests and violent actions.

It is definitely hard to keep up the positivity and the morale of the teams. We live in a market continuously subjected to unrest, be it political or economic, you kind of get used to it and learn to deal with it. But what happened on August 4 was the tipping point and beyond what any single human can absorb.

As Publicis Groupe, we put the safety and the mental wellbeing of our employees first. Our Talent team carried out a number of sessions with specialised people and this has definitely helped in managing some of the tension and the anxieties we were all going through. We’ve carried one-on-ones as well so we’ve been making sure to take care of our people, not just as a whole, but on an individual level as well. This is not to mention all the support and messages of hope we received from our global network that also contributed in bringing back some of the positivity.

We are still planning for the future similar to other agencies but we believe in this country. We were the first network to open a hub in Lebanon because we believe in the pool of Lebanese talent and their capabilities and the potential role that this country can play on the regional and global map. And we haven’t lost hope yet.

On a personal level, like all others living in Lebanon, it is definitely not easy to be Lebanese. It’s a continuous struggle from the day you are born. But I have hope, I believe in this country and its people, and with the right management – I’m not going to talk politics  – this country can flourish and have a brighter future.