Business Banking

Regional business growth in an ever-evolving industry

Social media and digital content consumption are transforming the PR landscape in the Middle East. And nimble start-ups like Seven Media have seized the business opportunities emerging from this paradigm shift.

When Matt Slater launched Seven Media in the UAE nearly 10 years ago, he was quick to recognise the trends that would shape the future of communications in the region. Fast-forward to 2019, the company has grown from a “fairly small boutique PR agency to a fully regional and international” independent communications firm with more than 70 employees.

Seven Media’s business presence has also expanded from its headquarters in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, to offices in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and London, United Kingdom. “What we do better than anyone else is tell a really modern story, in forms of written communication both in Arabic and English, but across video production, animation, and graphics.”

From journalism to PR

As a former journalist, Matt understands the importance of telling a clear story. After university, he plunged into journalism by becoming a beat reporter, covering local news.

“Then, from there I went into news desk and news desk management. When I came to the UAE 15 years ago… I launched media titles in Dubai, and then went to Abu Dhabi to launch The National newspaper, which is still thriving today,” he says.

Over the years, he witnessed first-hand how the media industry in the UAE, and the rest of the region, has evolved. He also saw the need for an independent PR agency that can succinctly package and deliver messages geared towards an increasingly tech-savvy audience.

“I think the future of media in the Middle East is really interesting,” says Matt. “We've gone digital and video-driven, and the consumption of media is fascinating. It's been an interesting experience over the last couple of years… and people are excited about these next five years and some of the newer markets that are opening up, such as Saudi Arabia.”

Growing with HSBC

To succeed as a start-up, Matt appreciates the value of having a solid relationship with a bank, which he found with HSBC. This relationship spans decades – since he was a university student and throughout his working life.

“When I moved to the UAE, it was a natural choice to hand my personal banking to HSBC… So when it came to opening Seven Media, it made sense to partner with HSBC, which held our hands and helped us start the business,” he says, underscoring the importance of having a Relationship Manager at HSBC, which adds a “human touch” to the overall banking journey.

“It's a great way of sorting out a problem by going to the branch and having that open and honest conversation about some of the challenges we're having.” But for a small business like Seven Media, the introduction of HSBCnet has been a game-changing experience.

“We needed access to banking on a daily basis and at a very sophisticated level. HSBCnet offered us all the solutions we needed, from setting up salaries to making international and GCC payments. We're able to track everything that's happening and issues get solved pretty much immediately. One of the most interesting things about HSBCnet is that it allows people who don't have a really deep understanding of online banking to get everything they need, and it's fairly foolproof.”

As Seven Media expanded into other markets, HSBC’s global reach also proved beneficial. “As a banking partner, we want guidance, but we want the safety element of it and to feel there's an understanding as we progress into different territories, where HSBC has presence, local knowledge, and can be a perfect partner for Seven Media.”

Torchbearer of independent PR

After almost a decade, Matt is proud of what Seven Media has accomplished and how it has contributed to the redefinition of PR in the region.

“I think we're one of the pioneers who've been pushing PR. We'd also like to be a flag bearer for independent companies that can challenge established international companies by working extremely hard, nurturing talent, and being bold and innovative with our PR strategies,” he says.

Nurturing local talent – rather than relying on international hires – is vital, he added. “It really shifted the dial over the last few years in terms of local talent, and it's where we first look now when we come to bring people in.”

We want guidance, but there is a safety element too – knowing that as we progress into different markets, HSBC is in those markets, has the local knowledge and can be the perfect partner.

Matt Slater | CEO Seven Media

Some parting words from Matt…

What do you want your legacy to be?

“Nurturing local talents in PR by showing and working with them and making them a vital part of Seven Media”

What advice do you have for future leaders?

“take advice from people as much as you can, be bold and stick to your beliefs

What inspires you?

“Telling modern stories”

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