Apr 22

Five years, five lessons from Cityscape

Created by Jonty Summers

Having personally attended five Cityscapes in Abu Dhabi, and drawing on our Corporate practice team’s combined 20+ years of attendance, we’ve compiled the below communications lessons for one of the region’s largest real estate and development shows:

  1. Don’t underestimate Abu Dhabi’s vision

In August 2008, I dined in a restaurant overlooking an empty piece of land opposite Abu Dhabi Mall. As my Emirati companion outlined the vision for the island that wasn’t yet called Al Maryah Island, it seemed an incredible plan. Last month, after the launch of Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi (disclosure – Edelman client), I dined looking back at Abu Dhabi Mall from a restaurant in the Rosewood Hotel and reflected on how far Abu Dhabi had developed in half a decade. The models that we see this week at Cityscape may seem as ambitious as those for Al Maryah, Reem Island and Saadiyat Island did five years ago, but they are now realities that are continuing to roll out. As communications advisors, we need to ensure our counsel reflects our clients’ ambitions.

  1. Mind your numbers

It is however tempting to get swept away with the excitement of future promise at Cityscape. Project launches, numbers of units, gross leaseable area: Abu Dhabi real estate deals in big numbers, but don’t be tempted to “overshare” ambitious plans. Reporters (and the internet) have long memories and an overpromise today could come back to haunt you for many years to come.

  1. Explore new relationships with media

It’s time real estate companies looked at different ways to build their media presence.  Digital media for the most part is still untapped. Recent research by the Interactive Advertising Bureau and our research arm Edelman Berland confirmed that a consumer’s primary expectation from digital media is good content, whether it comes from brands, publishers or people. The lesson for real estate companies is to think like a publisher when creating brand content and they’ll have a better chance of having their communications welcomed and shared. By producing entertaining, informative, useful content and experiences that resonate with consumers and spur action, you’ll find that people choose to interact and share your story for you.

  1. Don’t make them lug stuff

Beautifully designed and written brochures are pleasing. But at Cityscape (or indeed at almost any trade show), brochures will not help you stand out. Everyone does them, and after most visitors have picked up a couple, they don’t want to carry them about. It’s time to think of other ways to create a long-lasting experience for your brand – driving visitors to useful, in-depth information they can review even after ADNEC closes its doors. A USB key, a dedicated URL, an innovative giveaway, a beautifully executed brand film, some interactive on-stand experience…get your creativity on.

  1. It’s not just one day

Building reputation takes years. The most successful real estate developers know this and focus on nurturing long-term relationships with the media to help them tell their stories at all stages of a project’s development. These strong media relationships help them when progress is good, and when difficulties need to be managed. Like all good relationships, they are more fulfilling for both parties when you invest consistently. Don’t just turn it on for Cityscape.

Jonty Summers is Director and Corporate Practice Lead for Edelman in South Asia, Middle East and Africa, based in Abu Dhabi.

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