In this exclusive interview, Zeina Sakr, General Manager for The Qode, shares her wisdom on embracing challenges, empowering others.
A lot has been discussed on the influence of women and their leadership in PR. In your view, what has changed in these last few decades?
Women have played an integral role in PR, Communications and events for millennia, no matter what cultural background or status. The main change from those earliest days is that we’ve transitioned our honed common practice to becoming a viable capability and instead of focusing our efforts on promoting a patriarchal family leadership structure, which was the global societal norm, over the past few decades, women have assumed the leadership role and refocused our efforts on the companies we champion. Instead of communicating, hosting and introducing our family brands to our communities through kitchen conversations and community events, today we harness these sharpened skills to weave communities around the brands we represent and shape the modern narrative. Women have always been the underlying network that binds; the difference is that today, the network speaks for itself.
Tell us about your career journey. What inspired you and who has been your hero?
Throughout my career, I’ve worked with top-tier clients across diverse industries, shaping brand narratives regionally for renowned global brands. With a multi-lingual background in advertising, marketing, and journalism, I’ve led The Qode’s regional expansion as General Manager in Dubai.
Starting as a culture and arts reporter in Lebanon, I discovered my passion for public relations, aligning with my educational foundation. I then ventured into PR at a local agency, building practical skills. In Dubai, I managed communication strategies for international companies, continuously up skilling.
With a strong network and reputation, my goal is to provide impactful strategies to clients across sectors in MENA and beyond.
I draw inspiration from professional mentors and personal heroes, including my supportive family. As a Lebanese National, I admire my country’s resilience, positivity, and hospitality amid challenges, reminding me of life’s true essence.
With your wealth of experience in the GCC and MENA region, how has the industry changed since you started?
Public relations, communications, and events industry has undergone a significant transformation, mainly due to digitalization and the influence of social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok. Influencers have become pivotal in brand communication, making it crucial for businesses to incorporate them into their marketing strategies to enhance relatability and engagement.
This digital evolution has led to the rise of smaller local agencies and increased competition, pushing larger agencies to collaborate with local partners for region-specific campaigns. Communication has shifted from one-way messaging to interactive engagement, demanding a deeper understanding of the audience.
The Middle East region is gaining global attention with events like Expo 2020 in Dubai and FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar, attracting major brands, investors, and agencies. Corporate social responsibility and sustainability are now integral to PR and communications, reflecting the region’s commitment to these values.
Challenges ahead include keeping up with rapid technological advancements, addressing the impact of artificial intelligence on work-life balance and mental health, and ensuring information accuracy. Sustainability offers opportunities for businesses to demonstrate environmental commitment and build customer loyalty.
The geopolitical landscape in the MENA region requires adaptability and strong crisis communication. International events like COP28 in Dubai provide platforms for global visibility.
To succeed, businesses must foster adaptability, innovation, and resilience, prioritize sustainability, and invest in physical and mental health. They should also align strategies with customer expectations and be prepared for geopolitical shifts.
How will you address these challenges and turn them into successes?
We prioritize digital transformation by keeping our team updated on the latest tools and platforms, ensuring our readiness for the evolving business landscape. We also emphasize mental health and work-life balance through supportive policies, aiming for a productive and resilient workforce. Sustainability and corporate social responsibility are key, as we assist clients in implementing these practices to enhance their brand reputation and customer loyalty. We maintain a proactive stance on political developments to craft robust crisis communication plans. Leveraging international events in the region, we align PR and marketing strategies for global visibility. With effective planning and a focus on employee well-being, we aim to foster adaptability, innovation, and resilience, ensuring success amid potential challenges.
As a woman in business, what is the importance of having a good work-life balance and how it can help you and other women leaders become more successful?
Balancing professional and personal life is crucial for well-being and career success, especially for women in leadership roles. It helps maintain focus, efficiency, and mental health, preventing burnout. Leading by example in prioritizing work-life balance can inspire others and foster an inclusive, supportive work environment.
Collaborating with like-minded individuals, such as Ayman Fakoussa and Dipesh Depala at The Qode, who prioritize employees’ well-being, has been instrumental. A balanced perspective enhances decision-making and innovation by bringing fresh insights from outside work.
Work-life balance is essential for all leaders to achieve personal and professional success. Emphasizing its value creates a supportive and productive workplace benefiting everyone.
Do you have any advice to offer aspiring female leaders?
Embrace your uniqueness as a woman in leadership. Celebrate your individuality and use your perspective to make valuable contributions. Advocate for yourself confidently, whether it’s for promotions, raises, or new opportunities. Believe in your capabilities, as confidence is magnetic and inspires others. Overcome self-doubt to cultivate resilience and a growth mindset. Invest in continuous learning and be open to feedback. Support and empower others in your career, building a strong network. With determination and authenticity, you have the potential to achieve greatness as a female leader.