Total PR: here’s to the next 25 years

It started with a fax machine screeching to life, scaring the heck out of our first office manager who had never heard one before and screamed as if she’d seen a mouse. 

At our first office, above Magrudy's bookstore in Jumeirah, the fax was an essential PR tool in 1991.

It allowed us to introduce media worldwide to Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club as part of Sheikh Mohammed’s initiative to make the emirate an all-round sporting destination.

We still have a fax machine at our office in Business Bay as we look back over 25 years that have flashed by. 

It’s just a museum piece now, as is the iMac which travelled in an airliner cockpit to Phil Collins’ Swiss wedding in 1999. 

That was before laptops, and cabin crew looked perplexed when our Founder and CEO, Tony Lewis, boarded carrying the computer.

A friendly pilot saved the day, and we showcased the rocker’s marriage to Orianne Cevey from a suite at the Beau-Rivage Palace, our Swiss hotel client which staged the reception.

Hotels have been a big part of our business over the years. We managed four name changes for Holiday Inn Worldwide through to InterContinental Hotels Group in our 8 ½ years together from 1996.

During that spell we launched the Crowne Plaza brand, welcomed InterCon into the fold, and opened hotels from Abu Dhabi to Amman, including one in Muscat which saw us send images by internet for the first time 17 years ago.

Six years earlier Tony sat on the stairs of a hotel in Argentina waiting more than hour for a wire machine to transmit a photograph of Mohammed Ben Sulayem celebrating a World Rally Championship win.

While technology has transformed the way we communicate and create visibility for our clients, the fundamentals of PR are largely unchanged.

A good press release putting a company or an event into proper perspective is still a multi-functional starting point for a PR programme reaching across all media platforms, old and new.

For 25 years Total has worked with a variety of famous brands, among them Microsoft, Marlboro, Ford, Gulf Oil, Hertz, Porsche, and Planet Hollywood.

That was in 1996 when Patrick Swayze rode into Dubai’s Wafi Mall on an Arabian horse, opened the brand’s first Middle East retail outlet, and rode away on a Harley Davidson.

There have been difficult times, including two Gulf wars. And some challenging PR scenarios, including one day in 2001 when we swung into crisis comms’ action as the Israeli army forcefully occupied an Inter-Continental Hotel under our watch in Bethlehem.

So many memories. Here’s to the next 25 years.

Photograph from the official opening of Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club 1993 courtesy of David Cannon: L-R Seve Ballesteros, Isao Aoki, Nick Faldo, Ernie Els.