Communication challenges in digital age focus of Riyadh conference

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Fahad Bahdailah, VP Corporative Communications, SAUDIA. (AN photo by Ali Aldhahri)
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Anne Donnelly, Head of Communications, British Embassy Riyadh. (AN photo by Ali Aldhahri)
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Noor Nuqali, Senior Correspondent, Arab News; during a panel discussion about the changing face of modern media. (AN photo by Ali Aldhahri)
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Experts at MEPRA discuss ways to keep the communications industry relevant in today’s world. (AN photo by Ali Aldhahri)
Updated 22 October 2019

Communication challenges in digital age focus of Riyadh conference

  • Fahad Bahdailah, vice president of corporate communications at Saudia, discussed the power of partnership between Saudia and Formula E, and the export potential of a Saudi brand

RIYADH: The KSA Middle East Public Relations Association (MEPRA) Leadership Majlis explored how communications professionals can remain relevant in a time of change for the industry.
MEPRA included speakers from the UK government, the Red Sea Development Co., the Center for Government Communication, Arab News, Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) and Page.
The conference, held on Monday at the Hyatt Regency, brought together senior communications professionals to address the industry’s biggest challenges, trends and opportunities.
The 2019 KSA MEPRA Leadership Majlis covered the theme “Impact and Influence” through presentations and panel discussions on the Saudi brand and changing perceptions of the country.
Faisal Al-Zahrani, executive board member of the International Public Relations Association, discussed some of the challenges and changes in the communications field that Saudi Arabia is experiencing.
“The internet revolutionized the public relations and communications industry, traditional skills like writing, crisis management and public speaking are not adequate anymore. We need to have an enhanced expertise in social media content.”
During the panel discussion on “Shaping Perceptions of Saudi Arabia,” Sultan Al-Bazie, chairman of the Arab Network for Communications and Public Relations, said that the Vision 2030 reform plans are not presented as they should be. “There is a lack in communication and the only person who was able to convey that was Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman,” he said.
Al-Bazie added that the Saudi government’s communications are not able to convey the right message.
He argued that these entities must be more open to the audience and more able to communicate directly and professionally.
Noor Nugali, senior correspondent at Arab News, was part of the “Changing Face of Modern Media” panel discussion, where she discussed an important topic that most journalists appreciate: Speed.
“From a journalistic point of view, we have to be the first, however, most importantly we have to be accurate and this is something we pride ourselves on.
“Everybody wants to be the first. Everyone wants to have that person of information. Obviously this is important but it is not as important as accuracy and getting the full truth. It may not be easy, but it is something that we pride ourselves on,” she added.
Nugali also discussed how the quality of information is essential but challengeable, especially when spokespersons do not cooperate, she said: “This is something journalists in Saudi Arabia or around the world might complain about.”
Fahad Bahdailah, vice president of corporate communications at Saudia, discussed the power of partnership between Saudia and Formula E, and the export potential of a Saudi brand.
When Bahdailah was asked of how to reduce the lack of communication between the government and the public, he said: “A lot of people have this misperception about spokespersons. The spokesperson should not be in the media all the time. He should be in the media when there is a need for him to be in the media.”


Comic book fans unite at Stan Lee Super Con in Riyadh

Updated 1 min 24 sec ago

Comic book fans unite at Stan Lee Super Con in Riyadh

RIYADH: The Stan Lee Super Con kick-started at the Riyadh Front, providing a place for comic book fans to express themselves.

The conventions were divided into two parts — Anime Con and the Stan Lee Super Con. The Super Con was a comic nerd’s dream come true, bringing together everything from the Batmobile, the Delorian from “Back to the Future” and the time-traveling Tardis from “Doctor Who.”

The convention also brought together a variety of celebrities, including actors, creators and famous artists.

The comic book artist Bob Layton, best known for his work in Marvel Comics’ “Iron Man” and “Hercules” sat in a booth to give autographs to star-struck fans.

“I am looking forward to seeing Saudi Arabia very much — because of work I haven’t seen much. When I travel, I am more interested in where culture is than where it has been, especially in Saudi Arabia because this country is opening up and it is very exciting,” Layton told Arab News.

“I am very glad to be meeting so many Saudis here, since they come here to see me. Americans have a very warped perception of Muslim countries and I don’t share that because once you get to meet the people you see that we are very much alike.”

He shared his story of how he got into comics, which tells of how useful of a tool comic books can be: He learned how to read by reading comics.

“All the pictures made sense to me and as a child it made me want to understand what was in the text balloons, so I became a reader at the age of four. If they can teach a four-year-old how to read, they can teach a lot of things to a lot of people.

“Part of my achievement as a comic artist is that my work has transcended comics and became global. So, now wherever I go in the world I see that comics have become universal.”

The actor Sam J. Jones, who played the infamous “Flash Gordon” in the 1980 film, was also present.

He said he was thrilled to be in Saudi Arabia for the first time, and was deeply moved by the positive attitude of the Saudi people.

“Even before I stepped in Saudi Arabia I traveled with Saudi Airlines, and even in Los Angeles when I arrived at the ticket counter everybody was smiling, and people haven’t stopped since.

“I did the panel and met people afterward and the fans have been amazing. It is a blessing to be here in Riyadh for the first time, I am used to doing comic cons but this being my first time in Saudi Arabia is amazing and hopefully, there will be more to come.”

Melinda Jean, a cosplayer, walked among the crowd with a magnificent cape, dressed up as the popular villain Hela from “Thor: Ragnarok.” She was extremely excited to be a part of the Super Con, she said.

“I am so excited — it is my first time being in Saudi Arabia. It is so surreal that we are here, and we get to do this. I will be sharing my tips and tricks on how to become a cosplayer and get into cosplay so I will be here all weekend.”