About Loretta Ahmed, CEO of Houbara Communications

Loretta is the founder and CEO for Houbara Communications, a leading independent PR consultancy in the UAE.  Shaping regional communications for some of the world’s leading names across the Middle East, Houbara’s portfolio consists of government entities, multinational corporations and start-ups in fast-moving sectors including FinTech, AI and automotive.

Loretta is a public relations, brand reputation and crisis communications expert with over 30 years’ experience guiding clients through transformational times.  She is experienced in leading multi-channel campaigns, creative thinking, business planning and nation branding.  

Loretta has previously been recognised for her ‘outstanding contribution to the PR industry’ by the CIPR and as Middle East PR Leader of the Year by PRCA MENA.  She is a former chair of PRCA MENA and former Vice President for the Middle East Region for ICCO.  She is now co-chair of the board for Global Women in PR MENA and a board member for PRCA MENA.

Thoughts, wishes and reflections for our industry in 2023

So much has already been said about the change, challenges and predictions for 2023 and as I read through the contributions made by Brandberries ‘Wonder Women of MENA’ I’m inspired and humbled to be part of this collective.

So, what can I add?  Amidst this sea of change why should we feel so ready to tackle it and what can we do to create a future for the next generation that is as exciting as ours?  

There are multiple factors that should make us feel pretty good about our potential to navigate the headwinds and tailwinds in equal measure.  

Firstly, we’re in one of the most exciting countries in the world – here we are absolute masters of change.  The air of confidence that is alive and kicking on the streets of the UAE makes us feel anything is possible.  This intoxicating energy we all get from living and working here is heady stuff – and not to be underestimated.  

Secondly, the diversity of thought we can apply to our work here is second to none.  I’ve sat in brainstorms where the age ranges from 21 to 51, where there is always gender balance and where there have been 9 languages and 11 nationalities contributing to a brief.  Nowhere else in the world can we generate this breadth of thought for clients in an instant.  We must all continually check and recheck how diverse our businesses are – with the talent churn in the market now is the very best time to make any adaptions that need to be made to address any chinks in your diversity armour.

Thirdly, from VR to AI, our ability to embrace and embed new technologies into how we live and work comes naturally.  It is led from the very top of the country and instilled into every business’s mindset.  Most of us are frightened by the things we don’t understand – so feel that fear and get to grips fast.  My 12-year-old daughter keeps me on my toes with technology – she is born in a generation where there is a natural intuition with technology, and a fearless approach to embracing it.  I believe that comes from a total inhibition to trialing new ways of doing things and not fearing making mistakes.  There is much we can learn from our younger team members if we take the time to listen.  This is counter to the agency culture that existed when I first joined the industry.  In those times an intern or an account exec would rarely be called on for their counsel by the CEO and we were pretty much directed and told what to do.  How times have changed (for the better!).

I would like to see 2023 act as a catalyst for change in how we lead and operate our business models.  Let’s stop talking about remote vs hybrid vs office working and just allow individuals to work in the way that most suits them – there is no one size fits all and for each of us our needs change as our lives change.  Let’s stop talking about climate change and look to our businesses and the way we live and ask if we are individually doing enough?  And if we’re not, what can we each do to play our part?  Let’s continue to embrace every aspect of change that comes our way with positivity, curiosity, reinvention and speed – the pace of change may be about to get a whole lot faster and sitting on the sidelines to see how it plays out is not an option.  We must get in the thick of it, feel it, embrace it, live it and work it.