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Business Leader of the Week: Meet Sunil John, journalist turned MENA’s PR behemoth

IFM_PR Behemoth Sunil John
According to Net Worth Post, as of January 2023, Sunil John's net worth is around USD 5 Million Dollars

ASDAA BCW, also known as ASDA’A Burson Cohn & Wolfe, is a leading public relations and communications consultancy firm operating primarily in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Founded in the year 2000, the company is headquartered in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and has become one of the most well-known and influential PR agencies in the region.

ASDAA BCW offers a wide range of services including public relations, strategic communications, digital marketing, crisis management and public affairs. They work with a diverse portfolio of clients including government agencies, multinational corporations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and various industries such as technology, healthcare, finance, and more.

One of the company’s notable strengths is its deep understanding of the cultural, political and business landscapes across the MENA region. This local expertise enables ASDAA BCW to offer its clients tailored and effective communications strategies, helping them navigate the complexities of the region’s diverse markets.

The company has received numerous awards and recognition for its outstanding work in public relations and communications. The company is known for its commitment to delivering innovative and impactful campaigns that drive positive change and improve the reputation of its clients.

ASDAA BCW is part of the BCW (Burson Cohn & Wolfe) network, one of the world’s largest global communications agencies. This affiliation gives the company access to an extensive international network of resources and expertise, enabling it to provide comprehensive communications solutions on a global scale while maintaining a strong local presence in the MENA region.

ASDAA BCW is a reputable and highly respected PR and communications consultancy firm with a strong presence in the Middle East and North Africa, and its commitment to providing strategic, culturally sensitive and impactful communications solutions has made it a trusted partner for organizations seeking to navigate the dynamic and diverse markets of the MENA region.

The brain behind this successful venture is 63-year-old Sunil John, an Indian national, who is the founder of the company.

    Who Is Sunil John?

  • Sunil John was born and brought up in Kundara, near Kollam in the state of Kerala, India
  • He holds bachelor’s degrees in Science (1980) and Masters in Communication and Journalism (1982) from Osmania University, Hyderabad
  • Soon after completing degree, Sunil John started working as an investigative journalist with the Deccan Chronicle, Hyderabad, before moving into the Public Relations sector with the Indian Oil Corporation in Mumbai
  • In 1994, he moved to Dubai to join the nascent PR sector in the Middle East region
  • In 2000, Sunil John founded ASDAA, which merged with the global public relations firm Burson-Marsteller in 2008 to form ASDA’A Burson Cohn & Wolfe
  • In 2012, he chaired the organizing committee of the 20th Public Relations World Congress held in Dubai
  • Sunil John is the only person from the PR Industry on the list of the ‘Arabian Business Expat 50’ and he was named as the ‘most powerful Indian expats in media’ in the GCC by Arabian Business in 2013
  • He also received the SABRE Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement from The Holmes Report in 2014
  • Sunil John served as a director at DAR Motion Pictures, an India-based movie production and distribution company that has produced a dozen feature films
  • According to Net Worth Post, as of January 2023, Sunil John’s net worth is around USD 5 Million Dollars

‘PR Will Thrive In The New Era’

In an interview with Campaign, Sunil John spoke about how PR agencies can grow their business in this dynamic industry.

“Firstly, PR has always been about storytelling. As the late Harold Burson, the father of modern PR, observed, we are being paid to tell our clients’ side of the story. We are in the business of changing and moulding attitudes, and we aren’t successful unless we move the needle. That fundamental insight is as relevant today as it was before the advent of online and social media. However, in the earned-plus era, we need compelling content strategies that are increasingly platform-agnostic,” he said.

“Newspaper journalists were once our primary ‘content creators’, today, our storytelling must appeal to social media experts, podcast creators and digital natives, and be adaptable to their particular channels. As Harold rightly explained, the core of our business, the message, will never change. But today we must repurpose it to the fragmented, always-on media environment that serves an ever-growing and increasingly distracted audience,” Sunil John added.

He also emphasised building subject expertise.

“PR agencies must understand the fast-changing business landscape of their clients to build relevant narratives that resonate with specialised audiences. While crisis management and internal communications were crucial during the pandemic, now clients demand advice and counsel on sustainability, purpose, behavioural science, and health and wellbeing. All of these need subject-matter experts,” the PR behemoth concluded.

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