An inspiring journey that started with art and continued into journalism, not ending with public relations. Thanks to a lot of effort, determination, and resilience, Atteline Agency has now positioned itself as one of the top public relations and advertising companies in Dubai.
“Arabisk London” is honored to host Mrs. Sophie Simpson, the founder and director of Atteline Agency, in an exclusive interview to learn more about the secrets of leadership and success.
Interviewed By: Wassim Razzouq
⦁ Sophie Simpson, founder and director of Atteline, an inspiring journey that began with art, continued to journalism and did not end with public relations. In your own words, who is Sophie Simpson who went through that journey?
I started Atteline in my 20s and have often tried to hide my youth but now, I have never felt more inspired and confident to share my story and reflect on its successes and challenges.
While there is no definitive recipe for breaking the bonds of age and tenure, I hope that I may inspire a younger generation of leaders to believe in their unbridled creativity, drive, joie de vivre, an affinity for risk and harness the power that they are not yet burdened with the “organizational group think” to which many tenured employees are subject.
Today I have an office of exceptional colleagues, from multiple different nationalities that speak multiple languages and together we have done amazing work.
⦁ You started your professional career as a newspaper editor specialising in fashion, and later you took many job positions in significant companies between London and Milan. Tell us about the most central stations of your career that contributed to refining your experiences.
I am London-born, Bermuda-raised and was educated in the UK at Downe House School and then Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, London and it was here that I truly cemented my passion for the business of fashion and set forth into the workforce as a university graduate.
I started my career in London as Junior Fashion Editor with Vogue, and then I later joined Style Magazine (The Times Newspaper) before transitioning from journalism to PR. My communication journey kicked off with Lee Publicity in the UK, and then I split my time between London and Milan, Italy in an exciting “in-house” role with luxury international lingerie label, La Perla. In 2013, I responded to the call of the Middle East and moved to Dubai to lend my prowess to the region’s blossoming agency landscape as an Account Director.
In the UAE I had the opportunity to represent an impressive portfolio of clients, and then I went on to found Atteline in 2016, with the vision of transforming the industry by setting a new benchmark for quality and specialisation.
⦁ “Endless passion, innate talent, and absolute positivity” are the qualities that made you the founder and director of one of Dubai’s most distinguished public relations agencies. In your opinion, in addition to these qualities, what are the characteristics of a successful manager?
Leaders wear many hats, and when surrounded by people who seek feedback, we must be careful not to think we should have all the answers. My work has been a result of an authentically collaborative approach that encourages the smart people around me to contribute their ideas. This for me is the definition of success and has seen not only Atteline grow but at the same time we have created a platform for others to thrive and carve out their path. To summarise I always try to remind myself that at a high level, leadership is taking an idea and driving it forward; at a local level, leadership is about bringing the people around you, with you – inspiring, supporting and motivating them to be better (and this includes myself) and from this we find success.
⦁ Excellence always bears fruit; you have won many awards and honours. What are the most prominent of these awards?
This year (2023) we won Medium Size Consultancy of the Year, PRCA Mena and I won PR Leader of the Year, PRCA MENA.
⦁ For every beginning, a small flame must light up the fire of success. So, for Atteline, what is the flame that caused the start of this project?
My ambition, of course, but more importantly the determination to build a happy and rewarding business environment and create equal opportunity and a platform for success for not only myself but others. I am passionate, and always will be, about focusing on making Atteline the best place to work, for everyone and a benchmark within our industry. I deeply believe in bringing together a diversity of thoughts, perspectives and expressions, and encourage anyone who seeks to transform the way the world communicates to keep this at the heart of what they do.
⦁ Working in Dubai, in particular, is competitive as it is one of the most important business centres in the world, not just the Middle East. How does Atteline prove its distinction today in light of the fierce competition between companies?
By staying true to its values and uncompromisingly so. For example, we choose our clients as carefully as they choose us and we never forget that strategy eats culture for breakfast. Today, we are an award-winning PR agency headquartered in Dubai, UAE. Leveraging global experience, regional insight, and local expertise, we package, pinpoint, protect and propel the brands we believe in across the consumer and corporate landscape. Working alongside some of the most current brands, disruptive entrepreneurs and inspiring newly launched entities, together we grow in our vision to be better than yesterday and deliver campaigns that shape culture. In short, we are collaborators, connectors and creators. We weave our clients into the fabric of communities to promote the growth of valuable relationships, spark the symphony of conversations, inspire the exchange of unique content, and influence change in consumer behaviour. We invoke imaginative thinking and intelligent tactics to spark conversations that reverberate throughout our global network. It is our job to find and mobilise brand champions and influence those who matter. And this has been the definition of our success.
⦁ Who is your target audience? How do you create services that align with what they’re looking for?
We look after the GCC market and see ourselves as part of a rich ecosystem of individuals and brands that are both consumer and corporate. Be it launching a new brand or devising head-turning collaborations, we spearhead intelligent, integrated campaigns that engage media relations, strategic partnerships, social media, digital marketing, influencer engagement, crisis communication, events, and activations.
⦁ What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders?
Today, every part of me is geared towards the championing of women both in business and in the home. I take my hat off to the stay-at-home mother (quite possibly the most difficult job in the world and the leader of the household more often than not), to the women who are risking it all to give their dreams a chance, to those who have had to forfeit their careers in the face of supporting their family (with or without children), and to the ones who have thrown all their resources at achieving as close to a work-life balance as is circumstantially possible. All I propose to the next generation, as my future peers, is that we challenge ourselves to truly see each other, lead with curiosity by leaving our assumptions at the door, and open up the chance to celebrate the unique, arduous and fascinating journeys of each and every one of us, men and women alike. Because that, in my opinion, is the essence of life.
⦁ Brands are usually exposed to crises in their dealings with the public, especially marketing mistakes and competitors. How does Atteline manage these crises?
At Atteline, we aim to help our clients protect their brand experience and equity, and provide them with the insight needed to come out stronger, ready to face their community post a crisis. The trajectory of a business successfully navigating a crisis is almost universally mapped against three phases- the immediate aftermath of the event, the duration of the crisis period, and the time when the crisis is over, and ‘normality’ resumes. We call these React, Respond and Renew and they are imperative to managing the immediate fallout, understanding and implementing the solution for the crisis period, and preparing for the ‘new’ normal after the event. Think about this three-phased approach as sprints to support rapid strategic decision making. We start with research, we must understand how people are or have experienced this crisis or are reacting to it by speaking to them directly, listening to them with empathy, and looking for the patterns and anomalies in their perceptions, attitudes, and behaviours. From there, we can map out the stages which can include tactics such as 24-hour crisis management, reputation management, and most importantly, possible future opportunities for growth. What we always remember is crises create as much opportunity as they do uncertainty.
⦁ What are the most significant challenges and difficulties that Atteline confronted during its work in Dubai?
COVID-19 has to be the answer! It arrested the attention of the world, and a great deal of information has been published about the pandemic in recent years, and as we try to make sense of the data, one fact is clear: no one was unaffected. However, it was a wonderful moment as we harnessed our business strength and took advantage of the new world order.
⦁ What are your future plans to sustain your and the company’s success?
We opened up the Manila, Philippines office two years ago and will open our doors (on the ground) in Saudi Arabia in the next couple of months. It is always about growing and creating more opportunities for clients and colleagues alike.
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