Egypt’s TV show crisis boosts cast member’s profile

 While half of the Egyptians seem to be upset about the suspension of the satirical Egyptian television show “Al Bernameg” hosted by Bassem Youssef, one cast member is acting on the momentum trying to turn the program crisis into a personal win.

Stand up comedian Khalid Mansour, who has been part of the show since season one, is gaining wide publicity these days thanks to his social media efforts and the few statements he made to the press.

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 John Stewart posing with Al-Bernameg’s cast member Khalid Mansour (right). Photo Courtesy of Khalid Mansour’s Instagram 

Mansour’s popularity has been rising thanks to his tweets, which keep the press updated on the program suspension, while providing comfort to the fans who are eager to show support or even critics  who wish to express  discontent .

After the last episode was pulled off the air, the show host, Bassem Youssef, flew to the UAE where he made few cautious statements that did not say much about why the show stopped.  In return, Mansour has been denying and confirming media speculations on the suspension.

The episode, which aired on Oct. 25 mocked Egypt’s President Adly Mansour, and Defense Minister Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, deposed President Mohammed Morsi, in addition to artists and media personalities.

Mansour’s twitter profile  indicates that he is a lawyer, stand up comedian, and voice over artist. Yet, not much else is found on his personal life or career before the show on the internet, except for few YouTube videos of stand up comedy acts he made and an interview he gave with the rest of Al-Bernameg cast to the Egyptian CBS’s Lamies El-Hadidi.

Mansour usually plays different segment characters that supports Youssef’s mocking of Egypt’s political key players including Muslim Brothers and most recently the Egyptian army.

However, Mansour’s most popular segment was his portrayal of Gamheir [the masses], a recurrent female character who recaps the political scene in Egypt through a comical rhetoric of a married woman complaining about her ex-husband to Osama, who in the segment plays the role of  the show host who deals with relationship issues.

 

In reference to the toppled president Mohammad Morsi’s political incompetence, Gamheir, in the last episode, ridiculed her ex-husband’s sexual impotence while praising with vigorous passion her cousin, the officer who helped her divorce her ex. [Watch video of the segment  below]

In one part of the segment, Osama asked Gamheir if she was happy with the new man whom her cousin chose for her, in reference to interim president Adly Mansour. “He is a good man but I prefer someone who can keep my emotions “on fire” like my cousin, the officer” Gamheir replied, in reference to Gen. Al-Sisi.

Gamheir also touched upon the army’s control over Egypt’s successive governments. She tells Osama over the phone, “While many families are known for marrying their daughters to doctors or engineers, women in my family over the past 60 years are known for marrying officers”.

Local media reports claimed that the sexual connotations in Gamhir’s segments, and her mocking of the army were behind CBS’s decision to suspended the show.

Gamheir’s fans have been posting comments on the show’s Facebook page and tweeting Mansour about Gamheir’s “stud” cousin. A twitter hashtag that has Gamheir’s name in Arabic (جماهير#) is still trending by her fans including famous Egyptian actors.

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Egyptian actor Lotfy Labyb tweets about Gamheir

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Talk show hostess Mona el-Chazely is another fan of Gamheir.  

Mansour who is also active on Instagram seems to be putting into practice a golden public relation rule that says: “there is no such thing as bad publicity”.

The reasoning behind such rule is that when people raises a big stink about something they dislike, they are giving it attention, increasing its public recognition and arousing people’s natural curiosity about it. In some cases, depending on how good the PR staff is, the negative publicity could become a positive one especially if few people have heard of you or your brand before the crisis.

In Mansour’s case, those who sharply criticized the show or Gamhier, whether Islamists or army supporters, for crossing some red boundaries, are in a way helping people like Mansour in getting noticed, particularly when the show star, Youssef continues to remain silent on why the show was pulled off the air. The more people talk about the show and its crisis, the more publicity it gains.

Mansour is now the only connection the fans have with the popular show. Many fans especially those outside Egypt, claimed that they only became aware of Mansour’s name after the show was suspended. Before that they knew him as “the actor who played Gamheir”. Headlines in the early days of the show crisis used to refer to him as “The actor who plays Gamhier”, while nowadays, they are using his full name.

While Mansour’s social media efforts are commendable, his “personal branding” project requires that he acts on the momentum and arrange for one-on-one interviews with the media. He also needs to spread some background information about his career and personal life over the Internet. It certainly would not hurt him to create a Wikipedia page under his name or have an official Facebook page.

There is no question that the recent crisis of the show and the absence of  its star has boosted Mansour’s visibility.   Yet this sudden  fame of Mansour could fade away quickly if its not coupled with serious  personal branding effort.  To do so, Mansour, or anyone else in his position, needs to answer to  three key questions : Who needs to know about you?  What need are you best-positioned to fill? And lastly, what differentiates you from others in your field or space?

Kurdish Erbil Uses Arab Diva to Attract Tourists

* This blog entry was published up by Niqash, a German-funded news website covering events in Iraq, on Nov 28 2013

 

Erbil, the Kurdish city in north Iraq, was recently chosen as the Arab Capital of Tourism for 2014. The selection which was made by the Arab Council of Tourism comes midst security concerns sparked by last month suicide attack, the first since 2007.

Choosing a non-Arab city for such title raised eyebrows particularly among  other competing rivals such as Beirut, Sharjah and Saudi Taif. However, recent visitors to the city can testify that over the past year, Erbil which is trying to follow the footsteps of  Dubai as a business hub for investors, has  also become a frequent destination for Arab entertainment stars such as Lebanese  Raghib Alama, Hafia Wahbi and  Nansi Ajram.

While the majority of the population speaks little Arabic, the city officials seem determined to win Arab recognition. In their public relation efforts to do so, officials managed to convince Arab pop music Diva Samira Said to sing “Erbil”, a poetic song that praises the city’s history and nature scenery. Saudi news website, Elaph posted a video showing  the star while filming the song. Watch the video below.

The Moroccan star who became famous after she moved to Cairo in the 1980s is expected to be nominated for this year World Music Award.

While the selection of Said may seem impressive for many potential Arab tourists, some Arab-Iraqis or Kurds might think otherwise. The  star was one of several well-known Arab entertainment stars that the former regime of Saddam Hussein used to promote the latter’s image as an Arab leader during the war with Iran. Below is a video of a song she recorded in Baghdad back then.

Said collaborated with Iraqi artists affiliated with the Iraqi Ministry of Information and Culture to make the song  which praised Iraq under Hussein who was  behind series of anti-Kurd military operations dubbed as “Anfal campaign” including Halabcha where a notorious  chemical  weapon attack took place.

From a public relation perspective, one must give credit though to the Kurdish officials for their diligent effort to beat costly campaigns such as those launched by UAE’s Sharjah and Saudi Arabia’s Taif. Over the past months authorities in the Kurdish autonomous region hosted a range of activities including international peace marathon and a beauty contest.

However, there is a clear contradiction between the message the campaign is sending and authorities’ actions. While the campaign aims at promoting Erbil as an attractive destination for Arab tourists, Kurdish authorities are preventing Arab Iraqis living in neighboring provinces from visiting the city.

Following last month suicide attack, border security subjected Arabs coming into the region from other parts of Iraq to special security measures. Some media reports suggested that some were denied entry and forced to turn back.

While it is understandable that the campaign is designed to target external audience, Arabs outside Iraq, it is also important also to remember that messaging in any PR campaign needs to be believable for people to act on it. A city that does not welcome Arabs living inside the same country, Iraq,  and where the use of Arabic language is shrinking, is risking a good portion of its tourism revenues.

Furthermore, Using a celebrity endorser such as Samira Said to project Erbil as a city tolerant of Arabs will still be hard to sell even among Saddam’s fans and Arab nationalists who are on loggerheads with the Shia Iraqi government in Baghdad.  Celebrities in integrated marketing campaign require to have some attributes such as: trustworthiness, expertise, attractiveness and similarity to the target audience.

Said has many of these attributes indeed, but the PR team of Erbil’s tourism campaign forgot to conduct a thorough background check to examine her past affiliations. She might very well be seen as someone who switches alliances  so easily for the sake of financial gains.