Building bridges to success

Born in Jeddah and raised in London, Intisar Alyamani returned to her homeland almost two decades ago to work with Arab News, the leading English language newspaper, subsequently becoming diplomatic correspondent for another leading regional newspaper. She later led the operations of the communications team of one of the world’s most prominent global investment companies. For the greater part of those years Alyamani worked alongside one of the world’s leading businessmen/entrepreneurs, a premier league player in the world of global investment and commerce. Now, Alyamani is back in the British capital bringing with her a wealth of knowledge and entrepreneurial zeal. She recently launched her own bespoke PR consultancy Elite Whisperer. This communications maven talked to The Middle East Magazine Online about her life’s passion and Elite Whisperer.

Intisar Alyamani brought years of experience, gained in top flight Saudi Arabian organisations, to the UK

When did you first decide on a career in communications?

I think everyone has a childhood story pivotal to the rest of their life’s journey. From a young age, I often found myself in a position of being an advocate for “improving a situation”. If my friends bickered about a ball game in the school playground, I would mediate. I became the go to person for a solution.

I didn’t always know the answers of course, no one does but to be trusted is a powerful position, naturally it made me feel responsible.

I saw special gifts in people and believed in their talents. Especially with young people, many don’t leverage their unique skills. A person might be brilliant at drawing or storytelling, but do not possess the confidence to share their creativity.

I did not know then, my ability would manifest itself in a Masters degree in Communications from Goldsmiths, University of London and a life’s mission. I feel blessed it did.

Do you think most people, not involved in the industry fully understand the role of communications and PR?

There is a popular belief that hiring a communications and PR expert is aimed at making a personality, brand or service popular with the public. On the surface, this appears to be true, and is commonly practiced. However, I believe there is a deeper meaning; if the personality, brand or service is not authentic and if it does not add tangible value to others, it will lack longevity. PR and communications is about giving you the tools to share your creativity to make a difference in the world even if it is a small difference. Simply, to make others feel good. Fame and wealth are by-products of authenticity, service and value.

What makes your consultancy Elite Whisperer different to others?

We are culturally sensitive, use a holistic approach and want to stay boutique. Our strategic advice is directed towards corporate businesses with a focus on Arabia. These businesses need to understand the cultural nuances if they are to achieve optimum communication with their niche target. We take on an advisory role and prefer to work with their existing PR agency, who may have a void in our particular area of expertise. In this way we aim to create a comprehensive and pro-active team.

It is not just about explaining the etiquette of drinking Arabic coffee during a meeting but about grasping specifically where we have become globalised, and, through shared knowledge, bridging our deep rooted East-West cultural differences and behaviours. With the super pace of evolving technology, this is continuously shifting in real-time. Keeping up with this unremitting advance it is at the core of what we do. We also consult private individuals and related talent reservoirs if we find they require specific guidance.

What kind of talent?

Mainly, but not limited to, Saudi individuals including those in the arts and innovation, frequently those who are active in the Middle East region yet remain relatively unknown to the West.

We have found little to nearly non-existent coverage of Saudi talent in genre specific western publications; including art, music, choreography and poetry. We aim to change this. For example, we recently shared a success story of a female Saudi opera singer who has since been featured for the first time in her career in a US-based opera magazine.

You refer to employing a holistic approach. This is mainly a term used in alternative therapy, how is it relevant to communications?

One size does not fit all and we do not believe that viewing things in ‘parts’ is effective either. No two entities or individuals are the same, so our approach leans towards the more bespoke. Our priority is establishing rapport and developing empathy with the client. It is important to us to understand their ‘emotional’ dynamic, concerns and dreams, before the addressing technicalities. This has proven to sustain strong relationships and positive outcomes.

For example; one of our clients is a British law firm. We advised them on a their niche target and on diplomatic protocol, and are delighted with the momentum they are now gaining.

In addition, we are currently working on launching an online lifestyle magazine owned by a media personality.

We receive requests from public figures to advise on their digital/website content, those mindful of how critical it is to their public image. Often, you can see clear differences in content between those who receive expert advice and those who do not!

Elite Whisperer has secured live stream interviews and online performances for clients.

Furthermore, western book authors and researchers on the Arab Gulf have sought our advice on specific topics related to society and culture in the region. We have been acknowledged in their writings.

What are the most challenging aspects in your field?

It is natural to evolve, tweak and sometimes reach a dead end where it is necessary to go back to the drawing board! These hurdles are never easy to overcome but if embraced, tackling them at the root is essential for strong and healthy growth. Trends, habits, technology, lifestyle and even working with those who have different methods to your own is demanding.

Having said that, one of the most challenging aspects is being selective in choosing who we work with. Sometimes we see great potential for a client who we feel we could really help but, when we establish that our work expectations are incompatible, we amicably explain why we choose not to collaborate.

What are your other passions and do they complement your area of expertise?

I am a communicator, which means I appreciate the many forms of communication; I love the visual arts, writing and getting lost in music. I also studied fine art at Goldsmiths and while I actively practiced painting and exhibited in London, Europe and the Gulf in the early 2000s, I now prefer to paint privately. Personally, as a Trustee and Board Member of the Saudi British Society, (a charity) I am grateful to be able to contribute to bridging our cultural friendship.

Reading is when I wander in magic!

Given the current economic crisis, how do you think communications is going to change?

It is unfolding by the hour and going digital has become a necessity. Being offline and living in the tangible world is now  a luxury only a few have time for. I think priorities have changed, we are re-evaluating our beliefs about how they work and what is sustainable. Excessive materialism could become a thing of the past. Social responsibility has taken centre stage through social media where live streaming and dialogue are replacing traditional advertising. A stand alone logo is losing its lustre. If narrative was once king, it has now become an emperor!

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