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Break Through: Communications Trends Brands Need To Watch Out For In 2018 A new year signifies a fresh page, a fresh calendar of days that are overflowing with hope, exciting unknowns, and a chance to reset the button to get focused on big goals.

By Maha Abouelenein

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You're reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.


Hello, 2018. Pleasure to meet you, and we can't wait to own you! A new year signifies a fresh page, a fresh calendar of days that are overflowing with hope, exciting unknowns, and a chance to reset the button to get focused on big goals. When it comes to communications, there are some key trends to watch that will impact how we do storytelling in 2018 in the region.

1. Local is cool. Micro-trends and local understanding of the consumers and markets is going to be essential. Local brands, local businesses, and homegrown ideas are the heroes that consumers in the Middle East are paying attention to. Are you Team Careem, or Team Uber? Grab the popcorn as noon.com takes on Souq.com after they team up with Amazon. Upwork or Ureed? Consumers here support local hometown heroes, and brands need to tap into this- from football clubs to local food hangouts, localization wins. Did you hear about the Saudi actress Ahd Kamel taking Netflix by storm this year? There is also a huge rise in wearing local brands and designers to support the community, our culture, and ultra-local urban trends.

2. Influencers will still be influential. As annoying as this may be for some of us, the influencer trend is here to stay in 2018. Some of the influencers have become really frustrating by hawking all kinds of brands and unboxing endless gifts they have been showered withthat's really not the point of being an influencer. Some really do add value and credibility to brands, and I have learned about some really cool products and services because the people I was following shared their experience. So, yes, it does work! I am living proof. I would have never bought a product for Vital Proteins if it wasn't for a local influencer trying it. In 2018, brands and companies are going to use their influencers differently- and by this, I mean that they will want them to experience the brand, and take their followers along on the journey. A really good influencer that I love to follow is Hana Elawadi (@hanagoeslocal on Instagram), and she is a champion for all things local. That's a 2-for-1 trend: #winning!

3. 2018 is going to be eventFUL. This is the year of events -major eventsand this presents exciting opportunities for brands to boost engagement and build customer experiences around events that are part of their lives. So, keep an eye on everything from the Royal Wedding to the Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi, and, as a bonus, note that the Holy Month of Ramadan overlaps with the World Cup hosting four Arab nations- your post-Iftar food coma just got pumped up.

4. Authenticity is key. No fake news here; keep moving. Press releases are dead. Nobody wants to read how great you are. Be authentic, tell a story about real people and real experiences- tell a story of your impact, your purpose, and your added value. No gimmicks or publicity stunts, just the real stuff please.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com.

Related: Good Full Circle Communications Strategies Start At The Top (Really)

5. Leverage digital formats to tell fresh stories. One of the things you should take advantage of are the endless possibilities to tell fresh stories using video and new technologies like augmented reality. Even the digital formats and updates from Instagram alone can give you opportunities to tell fresh stories- you can save your stories to your page, and they are now testing sharing Stories straight to WhatsApp. Remember: Facebook owns both Instagram and WhatsApp, so look for the integration to come to life in 2018. The company also owns Oculus- so look at virtual reality as another way to tell fresh stories. Basically, start using the tools that are already available to you.

6. Personal brands matter. People behind companies are interesting, and they are brands by themselves. You're going to hear about personal branding a lot in 2018. You can take advantage of this trend by focusing on a brand called you. Yes, you are a brand, you have influence, you have value, and you can make solid efforts to build your brand equity. What's even better? Your brand is unique- because there is only one you. And the kicker? You are a brand you can actually control. Did you think about that? So, start working on your personal brand, your digital footprint, your personal profile, and what you stand for. Make yourself heard.

7. Say hello to the SEO + PR marriage. At long last, public relations (PR) and search marketing are finally coming together; the battle between the two is over. In fact, PR is on track to be one of the smartest ways to drive your SEO results, and it will be the gold star to get you visibility, drive traffic, and help with lead generation for marketing. Your site rankings will improve if you have more stories out there about you on big websites from news organizations and popular online platforms, with links to your website and social channels, and you will get more traffic from them as well. So, getting good PR is not just going to boost your reputation to get you coverage; it will also improve your search rankings, search listings, and your discoverability on the web. And what action do people take after they hear about something they're interested in? Yes, they Google it!

8. What's your reputation currency worth? Powerful storytelling isn't just about the message, it's about the reputation currency- how to spend it, and how to earn it. Reputation is the only currency that matters. With real-time life happening, thanks to social media, reputation is the most valuable currency a business has. Money cannot save your reputation, but your actions and words can build it, protect it, and help you manage it. Your reputation is your most valuable currency- without it, your business cannot function, not with employees, not with stakeholders, nor your customers. Reputation is about trust, and no relationship or business succeeds without it. So, ask yourself: what's your reputation currency worth- and what lengths will you go to increase its value every single day.

Related: Corporate Communications Will Never Be The Same Again (Thanks To Social Media)

Maha Abouelenein

Founder, Organizational Consultants

Maha Abouelenein is a communications expert and founder of Organizational Consultants, a communications consulting firm and Digital & Savvy, which aims to educate and coach people and brands on all things related to communications. You can follow her at @mahagaber, or check out her podcast Savvy Talk, which is available on all podcast players.

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