A renowned figure in the Middle East PR circuit, Mariana Wehbe shares her journey with Rotana Lifestyle, while offering us a glimpse into her upcoming project in the UAE capital
Balancing the best of both worlds is the name of the game for Mariana Wehbe. A busy public relations professional, she divides her time between the vibrant cities of Dubai and Beirut, where she heads up her renowned PR firm, MWPR, which boasts some of the most ambitious contracts the Middle East has seen. Her ability to produce world-class projects has earned her a glowing reputation, and she is often referred to as the region's "Queen of PR". But for Mariana, her success story has rather humble beginnings.
"It started almost 10 years ago," she said. "After having worked in the corporate world of DHL for 16 years, I knew I needed a shift in my life and looking back now, I had a little bit of courage, a lot of insanity, perseverance and the intuition to make this pivotal change in my career and my life. I quit my job and trusted the universe to lead me to where I am today. I am humbled by the compliment. It came with a lot of blood, sweat and tears; a lot of learning also. I had to be open to constructive criticism; to understand that sometimes you do have to listen, sleep on it and make a decision the next day, which is really what growth is all about."
With her success, it is hard to imagine that a career in public relations was not always her dream. "It is not something that I studied, but it is something that I naturally gravitated towards," she explained. "I am attracted to people’s stories and I love to connect with others. I never used to think that I was creative, I don’t think that anymore. Every time I met or was exposed to creative talent, my instant reaction was always, 'Oh my God, the world has to know about you!'"
With a desire to share people's stories, Mariana founded her eponymous firm in 2013. The full-service public relations company boasts a roster of leading brands in diverse fields, from fashion and interior design to automotives and architecture. The firm has become synonymous with professional excellence, thanks to Mariana's vision and dedication. Some of the high-profile events her team has planned and executed include the 100-year anniversary party of Empire Cinemas in Cannes, France, the Art of Dining event created in collaboration with AD Middle East, Vogue Arabia's first anniversary dinner party, which saw some of the world’s most high profile personalities and celebrities descend on the Lebanese capital for the two-day affair, and an automotive event for McLaren, which as per McLaren CEO Mike Flewitt, "has not yet been topped".
As effortless as Mariana and her team make the work seem, it's not always smooth sailing. Highlighting the challenges, she said: "The hardest part is that clients think that when they hire a PR company, it comes with a magic wand. Many don’t seem to be aware of the time, groundwork and effort it takes to create a solid foundation on which to build the PR efforts. PR is an essential part of any business and should be fully integrated; it’s not something that you should hire and then stop. It’s like breathing for a brand, it is a consistent effort that needs to be nurtured."
Yet, she agrees, the process is equally rewarding. "The best thing about my professional life is that I have created a workspace that is open and collaborative. I knew when leaving the corporate world that I didn’t want my work environment to be a ‘chicken farm’. I wanted people to feel involved and part of everything that I am doing, and to give credit where credit is due. I believe the freedom that I have to be able to choose amazing people to work with has allowed me to expand my creativity, to enable facilitating and networking and to focus on the development of my business."
Keeping her busy at the moment is a major design project in Abu Dhabi. "While I really can’t say much, it’s with a one-of-a-kind developer, in partnership with a design publication. What we are working on has never been done before in Abu Dhabi." We can't wait!
Her work aside, Mariana gave us a glimpse into her balancing act, which sees her juggling her personal and professional priorities with ease. But she said, it wasn't always like this. "A couple of years ago, I became extremely ill, and I guess it was the universe reminding me to slow down. Sometimes we come to believe that things cannot run without us and that the world stands still if we aren’t there 24 hours a day. Suffering from kidney failure, I had to learn the hard way that taking care of myself had to come first, and that if you have the right team that you trust and believes in you, business does go on. The biggest lesson is that life is too short and you do have to take a breather to be creative, and to continuously tweak that work/life balance."
On how she spends her time off, Mariana said: "It depends on whether I am in Beirut or Dubai. In Dubai, I usually stay home, workout and cook for friends, which I love to do. In Beirut, I am usually with my partner, we are either sitting in the garden or also cooking. Clearly, cooking plays a large part in my life. I love being part of a loving community built around good food and music, or you’ll see me dancing on some dance floor somewhere."