Lisa joined Hill+Knowlton Strategies (H+K) in 2011 and is currently Managing Director in METIA, working with H+K’s in-market teams and clients across the region to provide strategic communications planning, creative campaign development and high-impact implementation. She has held a variety of roles during her tenure including General Manager of H+K in the UAE, setting up and leading the firm’s Health+Wellness Practice across the region and driving Knowledge+, H+K’s in-house training academy.
Lisa was voted in this month as a Strategy Board Member for the Middle East Public Relations Association (MEPRA) following her highly successful two-year term as Vice Chair of MEPRA.
As she transitions into her new role with the association, we share our warm congratulations with Lisa and ask her to share reflections on her in-depth involvement with MEPRA.
What motivated or inspired you to take on the role of Vice Chair of MEPRA?
My first role in PR was interning at a PR agency in London straight from university. It was extremely competitive and I really valued the people who gave me opportunities. It always stuck with me how important it is to help people break into the industry, and grow to be future leaders. Since moving to the UAE 14 years ago, MEPRA had always offered support and events to help PR professionals learn and grow. H+K was a founding member of MEPRA 20 years ago, and always places the value of giving back to the industry and the next generation of leaders as the utmost priority. I always knew that I wanted to do more.
I first joined MEPRA with a more defined role within the Executive Board three years ago, joining board meetings once a month and leading on one key project – creating and launching MEPRA’s creative communications festival, REMAP, aimed at junior to Account Director professionals seeking ways to be inspired and creatively brave. With H+K as the Creative Partner, we branded the event and invited Simon Shaw to fly out to Dubai and speak to the audience about the importance of creativity in our work. This led me to want do more, and I moved into the role of Vice Chair a year later.
What were the highlights of your two-year term as Vice Chair of MEPRA?
I’ve led REMAP now for three years and the first person we contacted to be our keynote speaker was Rory Sutherland – which he promptly declined. In year two, he was top of our list again, declining again within 10 minutes, stating a diary conflict. Last October, when we took the festival online – we reached out again, and he immediately accepted. Whilst online sessions have of course made such sessions globally accessible, I’d like to think the work we have done over the years to elevate MEPRA across the region and beyond, and the impact we’ve had on the industry, played a part in him accepting. He conducted a fantastic session on how all problems are really just marketing problems and wow’d the audience. Getting to do a 1:1 Q&A with him has certainly been an career highlight.
What developments have you observed in the PR industry in the Middle East over the last two years and how has that impacted the evolution of H+K in the region?
People are hungrier than ever to learn new skills especially around creativity, to connect with each other and also celebrate what the industry is achieving. For H+K, we are positioned at the core of the creative communications campaigns in the region, and I think the industry awards we have won over the past three years highlights this. There’s certainly room to grow and develop, but I think hiring a creative strategist for the first time has been a game changer for how we approach creativity for new business and our clients, and also how we talk about it in the industry, as well as our perception in the market.
What learnings have you taken from your role as Vice Chair to your day job at H+K, or vice-versa?
For me, being the Vice Chair has really been about the people I have been lucky to engage with. The connections I’ve made over my two year tenure at MEPRA from corporates to agencies, to students and leaders of new Government initiatives, have led to conversations, opportunities and collaborations that I am extremely passionate about and proud of.
As you transition into a Strategy Board member for MEPRA, what is your outlook of the PR industry in the Middle East, of MEPRA and of H+K going forward?
It’s going to be hard letting go of the reigns! We have a new Emirati Chair and Vice Chair for the first time, and we are all excited about the initiatives communicated. I’m looking forward to celebrating both the region’s heritage and its future – with Expo 2020 Dubai launching in October this year and celebrating 50 years of the UAE – we have some groundbreaking milestones, and the communications work around these never cease to impress. For H+K METIA, it’s all about the work – with the best clients and talent in the region, we are running some tremendously exciting campaigns that are at the heart of the region’s rapid and impressive development.