ABU DHABI — Edelman is understood to have laid off a number of staffers in the Middle East, as part of a restructuring to help it adapt to economic conditions in the region.

The PR firm is considered one of the biggest in the UAE after acquiring local powerhouse Dabo in 2015. UAE CEO Tod Donhauser declined to reveal how many staff had been let go, but sources familiar with the situation suggested it is around 20 people.

Donhauser confirmed that Edelman's staff strength is 160 across the firm's brand and corporate reputation units in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. He blamed a slowdown in client marketing budgets and a decreased volume of new business across the market, amid a climate of global uncertainty and depressed oil prices. 

Donhauser noted that Edelman's relationship with key client Mubadala has not changed in scope or scale since its last review in 2016. He also said that the firm has a "very strong relationship" with another major account, Dubai Tourism. However, Donhauser declined to comment on the firm's business with TECOM Group, referring questions to the client. 

Meanwhile, Donhauser confirmed that Edelman has won the McDonald's consumer PR remit across the GCC region, and will work with the company on food trust issues related to health and wellness.

"We are very committed Richard Edelman's vision of communications marketing," said Donhauser. Edelman South Asia and Middle East chief Robert Holdheim last year restructured the firm's operations in the Middle East and Africa, moving Donhauser from South Africa to oversee a UAE operation that split into separate brand and reputation units.

As part of those changes, former Edelman Dabo MD Jason Leavy became brand MD, with corporate head Jacob Drake taking on a similar role for the corporate reputation unit. 

“In response to the changing communications landscape, we are proactively transforming our business to drive increased efficiencies and effectiveness for our clients," said Donhauser. "This process includes refining the roles and specialties within our team. We will continue to add specialists, invest in training and build capabilities that reflect the new realities of communicating in the UAE and the GCC."

Donhauser added that the firm is currently recruiting for a number of a roles, including an art director, a digital performance director and "a senior member of the UK government communications team to serve as Middle East Director of government relations."

"We continue to expand our offer beyond public relations counsel, offering robust experiential, paid media, social and digital media and creative services to a wide range of top-tier clients in the private and public sectors and remain better placed than ever to provide the solutions to their business challenges."