The Business of PR
Starting out in Saudi Arabia in 1998, TRACCS PR Agency was set up with a simple vision in mind: communication for the Arab World run by local experts, with an international flavour. Now with 14 offices across the Middle East, and Bahrain being the latest office to come into effect, the award-winning agency has become more than just a PR Agency, transforming itself into an educational hub for PR. Managing Director of TRACCS in Bahrain, Shereen Bushehri spoke with Perle Magazine about her journey as a PR Specialist and the importance of understanding Public Relations industry.
With over 13 years experience in Public Relations, Shereen Bushehri got her start in the communications industry initially as a journalist, working for daily newspapers in Bahrain as well as wire agencies. Deciding to challenge herself further, Shereen moved to the PR industry and worked at the Bahrain International Circuit for a couple of years before moving out of Bahrain. Joining a regional telecommunications company enhanced her knowledge of public relations as it exposed her to a new side of how the PR industry works on a much bigger scale. At the time, she says, digital media was just starting out and social media was directly impacting the industry, adding, “It was a completely different world out there.” Returning to Bahrain, Shereen says, she was unsure of what career path she wanted to follow and even though she had occupied herself with freelance opportunities, she was not convinced. Having dealt with TRACCS as a client herself, Shereens hard work did not go unnoticed as she was approached by the Vice President of the agency and was asked to take charge of their Bahrain office and become a partner. Though the Bahrain branch had been established since 2008, it was not until Shereen came on board that TRACCS was launched as an official entity in Bahrain, in March 2012. By the end of the year, Shereen had successfully been able to represent her first client with only two employees and herself. “It was a struggle because people didn’t know who and what TRACCS was. Sure, the company was known outside of Bahrain, but over here it was like ‘who are you?’ and there was a lot of hesitation. It took time to build the office; it took time for me to understand the agency side of the business, as I was always the client. Developing and understanding how I wanted to position TRACCS in line with the way I think definitely took time”, she says.
Through the transparent process of getting clients through the Tender Board as well as good feedback about TRACCS Bahrain through word-of-mouth, the agency was able to attract the right clients. Shereen also credits the corporate culture of TRACCS as a whole for their success in Bahrain, and thus was able to launch itself into the PR industry in the Kingdom. “I had the support of the other offices and so I was able to do it”, she says. Maintaining a strong relationship across all TRACCS offices, has been crucial for their growth and development.
Winning the Paul Holmes SABRE Award for the Best Agency to work for in the EMEA Region, TRACCS places great focus on educating and training its employees. A yearly training program takes place in which one TRACCS office hosts of all the other TRACCS offices for three days. The 2015 training took place in Bahrain and was inaugurated by the Minister of Information, His Excellency Isa AbdulRahman Al Hammadi and gave a speech before opening the floor for a Q&A session. Shereen says they are also thankful for Tamkeen and its Career Progression Program through which each of the employees in TRACCS Bahrain is able to receive the necessary training over the course of two years. Receiving training in translation, digital, and various other certificates, Shereen says it is a key trait they have to invest in their employees. Going a step further, Shereen explains that not only do the employees get training and education on the various kinds of PR, but also the agency actively trains and educates its clients. “It’s not about drafting a press release and pushing it out, we need to work with them as their consultants and this is what we want to do. We can do the press release, but it’s our experience the clients require and that is what we focus on”, she says.
Passion and commitment to their work combined with a firm understanding of the industry and its players has allowed TRACCS Bahrain to form a clientele of loyal customers across the region. “If our clients are happy with our work they will recommend us to others and that is how it is happening. Our very first client was so happy with us that she is still our client three years on and still recommends us to others”, Shereen adds.
Hoping to further enhance the knowledge of their clients and the general public in terms of PR, Shereen says they are working on training programs to clarify what is PR and what it can do for a business. Being PR partners with the Capital Club, Shereen aims to use the facility to carry out seminars and workshops to inform people about the different segments of Public Relations such as Image Building, Reputation Management, Crises Control as well as media training by PRCA (global body for PR) certified trainers. Shereen stresses that training programs as such are essential as the media has changed so much over time, varies greatly from country to country, and it is important to also take note of the cultural sensitivities in each region.
TRACCS Bahrain is also getting ready to give back to society by aiming to pair up with the community and support local societies and causes. Focusing on empowering the youth of Bahrain, TRACCS Bahrain is also joining hands with an educational institution and launching an internship program open to any student. This will not only give the students other career options to explore, but would encourage them to learn and understand the media much better.
Having had her fair share of worrisome days and sleepless nights, a word of advice that Shereen passes on is to have patience when starting out in a new business or a new line of work. “A lot of people lose hope, but you have to think long term. It takes time because whatever you make you have to reinvest in the company and do that until you are stable enough. You need to do it because it is your passion and not for the quick buck, it will never last that way.” Creating a strong presence in the Bahraini PR industry, TRACCS Bahrain started off as an interesting challenge for Shereen and was transformed by the visionary into a distinguished and one of the top PR agencies within the Kingdom.
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