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Focus on Bahrain

VitalStatistics

Population: 1,216,000
Monetary unit: Bahraini dinar (BD)
Capital city: Manama
Major languages: Arabic
Major religions: Muslim 82.4%, of which Shi(i c. 58%, Sunni c. 24%; Christian 10.5%; Hindu 6.3%; other 0.8%
Ethnic composition: Bahraini Arab 63.9%6; Indo-Pakistani 14.8%, of which Urdu 4.5%, Malayali 3.5%; Persian 13.0%; Filipino 4.5%; British 2.1%; other 1.7%
Age breakdown: under 15, 21.1%; 15–29, 29.1%; 30–44, 31.7%; 45–59, 14.3%; 60–74, 2.8%; 75–84, 0.7%; 85 and over, 0.3%
Life expectancy: male 71.7 years; female 76.8 years
Education: Percentage of population age 15 and over having: no formal education 24.0%; primary education 37.1%; secondary 26.4%; higher 12.5%. Literacy (2008): percentage of population age 15 and over literate 90.8%; males literate 91.7%; females literate 89.4%
Urban/Rural split: urban 88.5%; rural 11.5%
Income per household (USD): -
Broadband internet users (%): -

Source: Encyclopedia Britannica

Introduction

With a population of just over a million, only around two-thirds of whom are Bahraini, Bahrain is one of the smallest countries in the world. With dwindling oil reserves it is also one of the poorest in the Gulf. So, it has sought to position itself, through its Economic Vision 2030, as an alternative financial centre to Dubai. Its excellent communication and transportation facilities have helped with this; the Spring 2011 television images of Saudi tanks rolling into the country to crush protests will not.

The PR industry is nascent with most brands and agencies running Bahrain campaigns out of Dubai or Saudi Arabia. “There is a lack of budget for PR,” says Bassam Kameshki, PR Co-Ordinator at property developer Cluttons Bahrain. “This is partly because of the credit crunch, and partly because the unrest in Bahrain led a few companies to put their planned projects on hold and as a result stop or decrease PR activities.”

Where PR does exist it tends to be in close contact with the media. Agency sources report that ‘buy an ad and get a press release free'
deals are common. Yet, some raise the hope that the country's recent troubles have highlighted the need for clear and constructive communication between the government, the business world and the people. Both the media and the PR industry will have a role to play in facilitating that discussion.

 

 

Media

News in Bahrain is driven by daily newspapers. There are seven daily newspapers with significant circulations and it is not uncommon for Bahrainis to read two newspapers a day.

Indeed, despite its small population, Bahrain boasts a well-populated media environment, with Arabic offerings, in particular, targeting niche segments. Key newspapers include Arabic dailies

Akhbar Al-Khaleej, Al-Ayam and Al-Wasat. The leading English newspaper is the tabloid Gulf Daily News.

Bahrain's broadcast market is led by the state-owned Bahrain television and radio. Morning radio shows, such as Sabah Al Khair ya Bahrain, are particularly popular.

Kameshki reports that relationships between journalists and PROs are close. “If you know

someone on the inside you get good coverage,” he says. “If not, you have a hard time.”

As of June 2010 the country had nearly 650,000 Internet users, a penetration rate of 54%. There are several influential bloggers such as Mahmood's Den, a pioneering commentator on society and politics. Online community forums such as bahrainforums.com are also popular.

Major Brands

Banks and telecommunication brands such as Batelco and Zain lead the way, alongside the country's Economic Development Board. Key consumer brands also include the Bahrain Grand Prix and Gulf Air.

Important b2b brands include investment intermediary Investcorp, Gulf Petrochemical Industries Company (GPIC), and Aluminium Bahrain (Alba). Finally, the Government and its various agencies are heavy spenders on PR.

Agencies

Many agencies claim to have a presence in Bahrain when in fact they operate campaigns there out of Dubai or Saudi Arabia. Others maintain a skeleton, mainly administrative, staff, and fly in senior director as and when needed. It is therefore difficult to get a clear picture of the agency scene in the country

There is a trade body, the Bahrain Public

Relations Association, which launched in 2006, but it is yet to provide any bjective information on the agency market in the country.

The country's longest-running agency is Middle East heavyweight Hill + Knowlton Strategies. Other key multinational agencies include Bell Pottinger, Asda'a Burson-Marsteller, Promoseven, Weber Shandwick, Memac Ogilvy and Action PR.

Public affairs remain nascent in Bahrain. While lobbying does not exist in the same sense as it does in say the US because there is very little structured external influence in the legislative process, government relations are critical due to the importance of public sector spending to the economy. Government ministers regularly meet with representatives of the private sector.

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