CEOs and online profiles in the Middle East – Chapter 3

Our exploratory journey through the top 100 CEOs in the Middle East, as defined by Trends Magazine and Insead in their Top CEO awards of 2016, continues apace as we step into the digital estate of 3rd place Mr Nasser Abdulrahman Rafi, CEO of Emaar Malls Group. Mr Nasser, welcome, we’ve been expecting you.

Without further ado let’s step into page one of a Google search for his name, and here it is:

Ashton and Ashton Mr Nasser Abdulrahman Rafi Emaar Malls Group CEO blog and online profile

I find particularly striking that the most popular/ relevant piece of content as deemed by Google (get in touch if you need more of an idea of how their algorithm works, as this whole exercise of reputation building and blogging is based upon Google’s selection) is a video from 2015, by Trends Magazine themselves no less. We are told repeatedly by the experts that video content is much more important than mere text, something I do agree with if done well. Where a content strategy anchored around video tends to fall down is due to investment (of time and budget), and the ability of a company to identify useful and insightful content that can be turned around in a timeframe that means the video is still relevant. In other words: is it evergreen?

There will be many factors at play as to why this ranks top out of everything Google can find on Mr Rafi, including:

  1. Content type – it is video and every channel, such sa Facebook, pushes video content to the top of feeds because people stay with it longer which means they can charge more in terms of advertising around it; Google also likes to include a content mix in search results wherever possible, such as images, videos, news, blog posts, social media chunks – bear this in mind when planning your content to dominate page one of Google and control your own brand.
  2. Author – the video was posted by Trends Magazine, an authority as a media outlet and an authority in the business world due to its annual CEO awards and relationship with Insead.
  3. Keywords and tags – clearly labelled with Mr Rafi’s name and title, making it easy to find and share.

Although it doesn’t have rthat many views, all the above elements add up to something Google has deemed useful to us as we search for “Nasser Abdulrahman Rafi”. And, to be fair, although it isn’t a recent video it is of interest in my humble opinion. It shows he is a human being and can talk to the camera without any issues.

Beyond the first result, we have a collection of images and media interviews. Unfortunately, as for our CEO in Chapter 2, we also have a LinkedIn result which links to the wrong man. A little more detective work into LinkedIn, by far my personal favourite after blogging for boosting your online reputation, and we find a basic profile but a profile nonetheless. I am not surprised Google didn’t pick up on it as it did not include the middle search term “Abdulrahman”. It lists an impressive series of leadership roles but is lacking a photograph which to me means literally it is a faceless profile. One reason for my undertaking this survey is to discover how many leading CEOs are in fact showing their real face in public.

There are many other great profile pieces in the media on the rest of page one of Google, even some social media links to the top-listed video, but we are lacking a couple of paragraphs from the CEO himself, an insight into what challenges make him get out of bed every day. A small ask and for something that many communicators would deem too trivial for a leading regional CEO. But an ask nonetheless.

 

CEOs and online profiles in the Middle East – chapter 2

Coming in at second place in the Winners List compiled by Trends Magazine and Insead, we find Mr Ali Mohammed Ali Al-Obaidli from Ezdan Holding Group. As is my wont I like to do a basic Google search to see how his reputation is shaped by the world’s online filing cabinet. Let’s take a look:

Ashton and Ashton Mr Ali Mohammed Ali Al Obaildi Ezdan Holding Group CEO blog and online profile

And what does Google reveal? That the best piece of content associated with him is from 2014, an arms-length profile piece positioning Mr Ali Al Obaidli and Ezdan Holding Group comfortably as leaders in construction and real estate in Qatar, with a growing focus on high net worth individuals of late. The second link Google offers up is a CEO letter as he wraps up 2015 and outlines the successes and future growth plans for Ezdan holding Group. Well-written, but possibly by his impressive team or external PR agency – definitely no shame in producing these kinds of communications but it leaves me craving for something more personable from the public face of the company.

Most of the rest of the URLs in the screengrab are to similar pieces of corporate content, so let’s now turn our attention to other channels Mr Ali may be present on.

LinkedIn offers company leadership the opportunity to display their business pedigree, personal and professional successes and also, during the last few years, provides a platform for longer form content to reach your focused network in the form of a blog post. It is unfortaunte in the first instance that Google adds in a link to the wrong Ali Mohammed Ali Al-Obaidli LinkedIn profile, but do not fear, we will go direct to the horse’s mouth, or social network if you prefer,  and discover that after a laborious search effort Mr Ali does not have a personal profile. I would only claim this was a missed opportunity should he be interested in raising his own profile alongside Ezdan Holding Group and have the interest to maintain his profile. One element of digital estate management I always preach, apart from blogging builds reputations, is to avoid over-exposure if you cannot uphold it. There is nothing worse than a derelict social media profile. Having said that, LinkedIn is slightly different and can be used for SEO (Google loves it as it identifies skilled and authoritative individuals) and does not necessarily need frequent updates.

And so, I will leave Chapter 2 with this advice: please create a LinkedIn profile as a minimal requirement. It will let you tell your story and also link directly to the Ezdan Holding Group company page. All good for corporate reputation and discovery.

 

Bassel Gamal Qatar Investment Bank Top CEO Middle East

CEOs and online profiles in the Middle East – chapter 1

I hinted at starting the search for prolific CEO bloggers in the Middle East and how this might affect their company and also their individual standing in the business community. I also noted previously that there was a dearth of obviously accessible Best-Of lists on this topic so I would start with the Top CEO awards as selected by Trends Magazine and Insead, the 2016 winners list available for your pleasure here. With this in mind, I wanted to assess the full list of individual CEOs via their digital footprint and present my findings in this blog.

Chapter 1 opens with the winner, Mr Bassel Gamal, CEO of Qatar Islamic Bank.

I always like to begin a reputational audit by Googling the person or company in question: search engines effectively decide which specific pages from the whole of the Internet we see and therefore represents an important indicator on the digital estate in questions. Let’s have a look:

Ashton and Ashton Bassel Gamal Qatar Islamic Bank CEO Google Search Results

What we can see here is a clean collection of images and articles, both from the media and the QIB website, outlining the profile of Mr Gamal. There are no interviews or insights on page one of Google except for the Oxford Business Group piece of content which is straightforward text Q&A which may or may not have been handled at arms length by a PR agency. A glance over Mr Gamal’s profile on LinkedIn gives no clues as to his deep business expertise or interests outside successfully management of one of the largest financial institutions in the Middle East. This, by the way, is not necessarily a criticism, but merely an objective observation.

My purpose here is to try and dig a little and see if the Edelman Trust Barometer findings, that people look even more towards CEOs for brand authenticity, actually holds true but specifically if it holds true here in the Middle East.

On very first glance it appears that a CEO does not necessarily have to blog to be known as the best in his field, in fact he just has to do his job very well. Should we conclude that leaders for lesser-known companies that are not as successful might be the ones in need of blogging and more direct lines of communication?

Ashton and Ashton search for GCC CEO bloggers and thought leaders boosting their SEO through content creation

Kicking off the CEO blogger search

After being thoroughly un-inundated with suggestions of CEO blogs from across the GCC to sift through,  I have decided to begin under my own steam. The sleeves are rolled up and I will now trawl through the interweb, using the TopCEO list created by Trends Magazine and Insead as part of their annual regional award ceremony.

What I’m hope to find is a variety of things:

  • CEOs of successful companies are shining examples of how to communicate with their peers
  • The blogs I hope to find will reveal another side of the CEO, beyond purely corporate communications
  • Alternatively that very few of the CEOs in fact blog at all and there is a vast communication opportunity for PR agencies and consultancies like Ashton x Ashton to step into and generate the much-needed “thought leader” Google-friendly content craved by all and sundry

According to Edelman’s Trust Barometer released at the start of 2016, CEO credibility has increased the most since 2015 on a global scale:

Screen Shot 2016-10-04 at 22.29.40.png

What this clearly indicates to me, and hopefully to those leaders who want to be seen and heard as influencers across the omnipotent communication channel that is “online”, is that CEOs need to talk with the authority, transparency and credibility we have begun to expect. The beauty of a blog, as opposed to an Instagram or Facebook account, is in the form factor as much as anything.

  • The writer lays out their wisdom for all to see and engage with in their own time without any expectation of the immediacy of response expected on social media. It is a more relaxed sharing experience all round.
  • The content is longer form, therefore more considered and, if required, researched. It is something to be cherished over a coffee, not glanced at briefly whilst in the elevator.
  • Frequency is less of a concern. Whilst it is recommended to tweet many times a day, blogging on a weekly basis is a good minimum rhythm to start with. Richard Edelman is someone who has maintained this routine for many years and is globally revered for his dedication and insights. Seth Godin shares his thoughts on a daily basis.

Blogging is a habit I am fighting to get into on a regular basis, somehwere between Richard and Seth would be ideal. The communicational benefits are becoming clearer to me on a daily basis as my audience grows. How about you? Could you and your business do with an SEO boost?

Ashton and Ashton LinkedIn SEO Profile Refresh Advice From Forbes

Recycling Excellent LinkedIn Advice From Forbes For Your Personal SEO

This blog post appeared on my personal LinkedIn profile just moments ago. I hope you arent reading it twice in quick succession by accident.

I am in the midst of a huge research project, attempting to compile a Best Practice list of CEO bloggers right here in the Middle East. During recent training presentation research I was inundated with international CEOs who blog, mainly from the US and Europe, but left bereft of any from the UAE or wider GCC region. Hence why I feel I need to try and fill the gap with my own findings.

During said research I was also completing a digital communications strategy for a client, and find myself recommending more activity from the whole company on LinkedIn – apparently it boosts your SEO and inbound lead hits from potential buyers, even in the slightly unglamorous realm of IIoT and smart city infrastructure. And I stumbled upon this article on Forbes: 50 Ways To Get More LinkedIn Page Followers. Which turns out to be a really useful compendium, so I thought I would share.

Thanks, Forbes, much appreciated.

In the meantime, I am cranking the gears of the Ashton and Ashton blog once more in an effort to discover and be sent links to stunning, shining examples of stellar CEO bloggers in the Middle East. Not Instagrammers, not Youtubers, but bloggers. Less fashionable in this day and age, I grant you, but infinitely more useful for positioning yourself as a thought leader in the niche of your choice. Firing out two paragraphs on sustainability in the desert is definitely more liked by Google than posting a square picture of a solar farm with a dozen hashtags.

Picture courtesy of the ever-awesome Stocksnap.io, as ever. Thank you for making my blog posts look slightly more interesting!

Ashton and Ashton CEO Must Blog

The CEO Must Blog

Everything points in one direction: successful “thought leaders” blog regularly. Simple as that. For your ideas to be heard you have to communicate them, and Google is one of the best discovery tools available, if not the best.

Thinking about what content I read as a communications professional, it strikes me I’m attracted to readable human truths that I can read on my mobile during downtimes. Usually with a picture or two for good measure too.

When making recommendations to colleagues or clients on how to go about this I’ve had a pretty decent search for UAE-specific examples of successful leaders who blog, to share case studies. Unfortunately all the best examples are international, hence why I’m now launching this project:

“CEOs Who Blog”

The focus will be on the UAE and wider GCC, blogging predominantly in English, also with some analysis on the blogs themselves and how they contribute to the CEO profile and company reputation in general.

I’ll be searching under my own steam but of course any submissions for investigation/ inclusion are much appreciated!