Zainab Ansari is the Chief Executive Officer and the Director at Xenith PR Ltd. A PR veteran with thirty-seven years of experience of working with large multinationals and reputable organizations, she is extensively exposed to Television, Radio and the literary circles and is an established writer, poet and a free-lance journalist.
In 1999, Zainab established Xenith PR in affiliation with Fleishman Hillard of USA which has since provided Public Relations expertise to a number of large companies in the country. Zainab has previously worked with ICI Pakistan where she became the first female to be appointed in the management cadre and established a robust PR department. She has also held the position of Vice President PR with an agency, and successfully increased the client base from two yearly retainer clients to 20 yearly retainer clients within a span of one year.
Zainab has conducted several training programs for Creative Management Services, British Council and Marketing Association of Pakistan on Marketing Strategies & Analysis, Management Techniques, Public Relations, Time Management to marketing/sales and public relations managers of various commercial organizations.
She had also been involved with the student community and has delivered numerous lectures and talks to MBA students on Public Relations and Hospitality Marketing at various universities.
Wordsmith had the opportunity to discuss Zainab’s insights into how PR has changed in Pakistan and how difficult it has been to rise as a woman leader in Pakistan. Here’s what she says.
What do you think has changed in PR in Pakistan over the last decade?
Even today, Public Relations remains an enigma to the common man.
Having said that, we do acknowledge that we have come a long way since the last two decades in the field of public relations in Pakistan. From the perception of a PRO (better known as protocol officer) whose main job was to escort the Saabs to and from airports, arrange for shopping sprees for begums of visiting dignitaries and performing any duty that other departments would throw in their direction to today’s respectable discipline that plays a pivotal role in corporate image building and below the line marketing activities.
Most multinational and local organizations have realized the value of Public Relations in their respective concerns – thanks to the influx of mainly IT and Telecom companies in the country and increased awareness of global trends.
Another mistake in the past has been the confusion between socializing and public relations. People thought giving huge parties and knowing everyone was PR; thankfully that has also changed over time.
Which PR trends do you believe need to evolve with social media becoming an important aspect of PR in current times?
Within the communication landscape, social media, blogs, wikis, podcasts, social networking sites and the like have sparked profound change in the media, publishing and marketing industries. Public relations, with its focus on building dialogue and relationships, can and must play a critical role in helping today’s organizations succeed in this new world of communication.
Why does this matter? For one thing, the emerging media will continue to define and shape our profession, our industries and our jobs. Also, these new media will impact how organizations and their brands ultimately communicate with their various audiences.
The PR industry finds itself at a historic juncture. PR has always been about social influence . i.e., relating to the public. Now that the rules of social influence are gaining precedence over other approaches, public relations looms larger than ever.
As a woman in the business of PR, what have been the biggest challenges to work with businesses in Pakistan and own a PR agency that offers services to different sectors of the business community?
Times have changed; women today have made their mark in every possible field in the corporate sector including public relations. Acceptance level is high; people today encourage their wives, daughters and sisters to get into professional life.
New subjects have emerged besides Business Administration of our time; the field of information technology has opened up avenues unheard of when we were students. Girls today are entering fields unheard of in mid seventies and thanks to technology; we are no longer isolated from the outside world. The young generation today is more exposed to the global trends than ever before.
The world as a global village has not only expanded our horizon but has also opened up our limited vision. Today a woman is not made conscious of her gender at any work place rather she is viewed as a competitor that in turn has also improved the efficiency level of men in the corporate sector.
The opportunities today are mind-boggling. As a professional I always welcome challenges and turn them into opportunities.
What are the reasons for Xenith being a female-centric organization?
Is it perceived as such? Interesting. We do have quite a few men working with us in all three stations (Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore). But yes, women are more inclined to join this particular field maybe because they see a role model or maybe because PR demands innate sensitivity, a lot of thinking and planning as well as discipline in action and women by nature are more sensitive, disciplined and are good planners.
Have you thought about affiliation, partnerships with foreign PR players?
Xenith PR was established in partnership with a leading PR company Fleishman Hillard of USA, which has a strong worldwide presence. Besides this very interactive partnership, we also enjoy strong association with most of the reputed international PR companies such as Ogilvy, MS&L, Porter Novelli, Adfactors PR etc. We are the go-to-agency in Pakistan for these PR companies.
What made you decide to set up a digital media agency in Pakistan? Do you think the business market realizes the potential of social media and is ready to get into digital PR?
The natural succession of traditional PR is of course becoming everything ‘social.’ The idea is to effectively utilize the online platform for mass communication. Most of us have our own habitation on one or more social networks, be it Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.
However, social media used for businesses is altogether a different ball game. As with any good business strategy, you need to set objectives, understand the tactics for reaching and engaging with your audience and decide what metrics you will identify and evaluate to gauge success.
Xenith Digital is geared towards being an integral part of a connected digital marketing strategy to provide businesses an improved return on investment – with an aim to give holistic solutions to our old and new clients, in addition to public relations consultancy and event management.
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