The impact of social media and digital communications on government, brands and charities as well as on raising awareness and deepening understanding of social media among public relations (PR) professionals in Qatar was the focus of an interactive workshop held in Doha yesterday. The workshop was anchored by Rishi Saha, British PM David Cameron’s former head of digital communications. The Middle East Public Relations Association (MEPRA) hosted the workshop. Communications and social media professionals from various sectors in Qatar, including education, banking, construction, aviation, research and hospitality took part. “Across most organisations, there is a tendency to focus on quick wins, such as broadcasting news rapidly to new audiences, placing job ads, sharing photo galleries of events and conferences, and so on. All are valuable exercises, which can help build the business case for broader adoption. But I would call these activities ‘secondary applications’. Fundamentally, they use social media to report or amplify,” Saha explained. Saha, who has been named the sixth most influential person in Britain’s digital economy for his pioneering work in communications and campaigns, said: “The long-term trend is, I believe, for social media to assume a more primary, strategic role in the delivery of government services themselves, rather than simply being a reporter of them.” The workshop addressed five main areas including building the internal business case and strategy for digital communications; creating sophisticated social media experiences to engage citizens and residents; managing social media crises and reputational risks; setting up and managing a digital team; and measurement frameworks, analytics and setting realistic key progress indicators. MEPRA general manager Carine Duvignaud said: “We are thrilled to see the growing interest in social media and digital communications on behalf of organisations across all sectors in Qatar. This was just the right time to provide PR practitioners in Qatar with a forum where they can explore the versatility of social media with someone like Rishi Saha, who comes with immense experience in the field.” MEPRA’s first event in Qatar involved a trip to Al Jazeera Network, where PR professionals toured the facilities and had the opportunity to engage with the news network’s team, including renowned senior members of the media.