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Industry Corporate Communication
Media Promo & PR, Case study
Market United Arab Emirates
Released July 2012

Credits & Description

Category: Corporate Communication
Product/Service: BURJ KHALIFA
Chief Executive Officer: Sunil John (ASDA'A Burson-Marsteller)
Director - Strategy: Stephen Worsley (ASDA'A Burson-Marsteller)
Group Account Director: Kelly Home (ASDA'A Burson-Marsteller)
Senior Account Manager: Nivine William (ASDA'A Burson-Marsteller)
Senior Editorial Consultant: Rajeev Nair (ASDA'A Burson-Marsteller)
Junior Account Executive: Divya Khanna (ASDA'A Burson-Marsteller)
Senior Consultant - Digital: Abha Malpani (ASDA'A Burson-Marsteller)
Associate Director: Margaret Flanagan (ASDA'A Burson-Marsteller)
Senior Manager Media Relations: Ahmad Abdallah (ASDA'A Burson-Marsteller)
Arabic Editor: Fadi Shraiqi (ASDA'A Burson-Marsteller)
Account Executive: Anushka Kadam (ASDA'A Burson-Marsteller)
Junior Account Executive: Sheila Baldago (ASDA'A Burson-Marsteller)
Senior Public Relations Coordinator: Francisca Rodrigues (ASDA'A Burson-Marsteller)
Public Relations Co-ordinator: Rowena Camacho (ASDA'A Burson-Marsteller)
Media placement: N/a - N/a - N/a

Summary of the Campaign
In 2004, Emaar Properties, headquartered in Dubai, announced construction of the world’s tallest building to anchor its 500-acre new downtown development. Initially, the campaign focused on spreading the word, building the tempo by highlighting architectural and design aspects, and creating global attention by inviting key media for site tours. The tie-up with Giorgio Armani to open the world’s first Armani Hotel in the tower added international appeal. The campaign was structured to ensure the final height remained secret until the opening. As construction progressed, the messaging focused on speed of work, international collaboration and workforce diversity. However the project inadvertently became the target of human rights campaigners, who connected, more generally, workers’ conditions in labour camps to the Burj. PR shifted gears to highlight positive messaging on worker conditions. Also challenging was addressing Burj’s safety aspects – extremely critical in upholding its positive brand association. In the final stages, with the exterior completed and interiors progressing, guarding the final height was a challenge – which was addressed by shifting attention to the myriad components of Burj. The campaign culminated with the grand opening, when the height was announced to the world.

The Goal
Burj Khalifa is an extraordinary human achievement, and a source of fascination for people the world over. Interest spans from highly specialised engineering and architectural audiences to the layman awed by the imagery of the world’s tallest building. PR had to resonate with this diversity of audiences; to feed the global appetite for information, providing images and – above all – access, which was usually not an option. Success for the client meant managed messages, constant, sustained presence, and maintained mystery about the final height. A strategy was developed to streamline messages through press releases, interviews, features, articles and exhibitions.

• 27 press releases distributed in both Arabic and English from March 2009 to end Jan 2010 – highlighting the ‘Living Wonder’ aspects of Burj Khalifa • Secured and managed 90 interviews and 250 features in run-up to opening • Exclusive site access for 30 select media pre-opening including exclusive tours for international media • 200 plus media from around the globe at ‘At the Top’ inauguration day morning briefing • 300 plus media from around the world for opening when height was officially revealed • More than 1,500 pieces of known coverage generated in Middle East alone • 160 TV stations around the world carried inauguration live • TV coverage of inauguration across more than 50 stations present – including ABC (USA), Al Arabiya, Al Jazeera, APTN, Asia Net, Bloomberg, BBC (World, UK), Chinese News Agency/CCTV, CNBC (Europe, Arabia, Pakistan), CNN, Getty, LBC, MBC, Reuters, Rotana, NDTV, Zee TV

Adaptations to the PR plan in its final year were minimal as there were strict limits on access, little ‘new news’ and no updated external images that could be released. However, as with any building, let alone a building that gives a new meaning to ‘tall’, there were some inevitable delays. This meant changes to the timetable, and the need for issues management. With speculative reports on the final height, the agency had to continue to maintain mystery without revealing the finer details. At the inauguration (the fourth anniversary of the Accession Day of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum as the Ruler of Dubai) as well as announcing the final height, His Highness gave a new name to the building: Burj Khalifa. This necessitated an immediate response and management of media speculation (with 300+ media on the ground) plus adaptations of all press materials.

The Situation
In 2004, Emaar Properties began construction of what would become the tallest building in the world, Burj Khalifa. Working within a standard retainer budget for Emaar, the prime-mover of Dubai’s property sector, the agency managed a global campaign from the UAE for five years. In 2009, in the final phases before opening - with the physical structure at a ‘vertical standstill’ and limited opportunities for access - the curiosity of the public and media had to be managed through stories on what the tower stood for, and encompassed; before a global headline-grabbing launch on 4 January 2010.

The Strategy
Make the tower’s story interesting over its five-year development; run a marathon, not a sprint. Maintain media interest in the months prior to opening. Position the tower for its global iconic status, mixed-use nature, diverse components and engineering ingenuity, not just as the world’s tallest building. Link it to the city as a new symbol of achievement, dynamism and ambition. Create a ‘mystery’ around the tower’s USP (its height) keeping this and number of storeys under wraps until opening. A complementary strategy focused on global collaboration; over 100 contractors and consultants associated and over 12,000 professionals and skilled workers employed on site at the peak of construction. Highlight the ‘world firsts’ – from piling operations to cladding, emphasising how the Burj was pushing the frontiers of architectural, construction and engineering excellence. The tower is now a reference point for all future skyscrapers, and this aspect was underscored in the strategy.