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Sun 19 Jun 2005 04:00 AM

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Media crisis expert eyes move to the Middle East

Media Counsellors, a UK-based crisis management and media training consultancy, has announced it will be opening an operation in the Middle East.

Media Counsellors, a UK-based crisis management and media training consultancy, has announced it will be opening an operation in the Middle East.

The branch will cater for the growing demand from senior executives to hone their media communication skills in light of an increasingly “hostile” media.

David Wheal, managing director of Media Counsellors , and a former BBC World Service presenter, was in Dubai last week to lay the groundwork for the move.

It will be the company’s first base outside the UK and Wheal hopes it will be up and running from September this year.“I firmly believe there is a need for this kind of service down here,” he said. “At the moment we are looking to establish a foothold.

“All our counsellors are ex-BBC journalists. We have that background, but we also have to reflect the Arab side.“We are looking to establish people on the ground here who we can work alongside with so we can combine the credibility and expertise of our BBC training with their local knowledge and expertise.”

Wheal, who has already carried out training for McDonald’s executives in Dubai and managers at Kuwait Oils, claims the consultancy is not taking over the role of public relations but providing a service where senior executives can become effective “ambassadors” for their companies by using the media more effectively.

“My analogy is that PR professionals are general medical practitioners, we are the heart specialists. We are not interested in 95% of what PR does.

“The media is expanding in the region and becoming more international in its outlook and more hostile.

“As more and more companies come into the Middle East, they will need to be able to get their corporate voice to the outside world,” said Wheal.

Media Counsellors, whose clients include Microsoft, Motorola, Toyota and Visa, offers a range of services to clients, including, radio, print and television interviews and press release writing.

Costs range from US$3000 to more than US$7000 a day for training of between four and six people.“There are two halves of the game we play,” said Wheal. “That is the talk — what are you going to say, which is usually put together by PR companies — and then walking the talk. Can the chairman or CEO get in front of journalists and get their message across?”

“From looking at Europe and the rest of the world, I believe there is, or certainly will be in the future, a need for senior company executives to communicate better.”

Media Counsellors was established 12 years ago in association with Financial Times television. Wheal spent 20 years at the BBC, including training Foreign Office ambassadors how to handle the media.

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