We are urged to innovate
We’ve spoken to a few communicators who have made the move back and forth between Latin America (in your case, Argentina) and Europe (in your case, Spain). What have been some of the biggest differences in communications work that you’ve noticed between Latin America and Europe?
I should say that the big difference I noticed when I returned to Argentina seven years ago was the weight internal communications had here. The sector grew very quickly in the years following the dynamic of major industries. Finding ways to reach a diverse audience and to motivate and engage shop floor employees represented great challenges in a fast moving political and economic context with strong trade unions. On the other hand, I found that external communication was extremely controlled, with companies often preferring to have a low profile in order to minimize public disruptions or creating public discussion with the former government.
Are there many points of connection between corporate communications in Argentina and other Spanish-speaking Latin America countries?
There are points of connection, especially through professional institutions and universities. Then we have strong interaction inside multinational companies that have presences in Spanish-speaking countries or other Latin American countries. In Argentina, we are usually in contact with colleagues from Brazil. As ArcelorMittal employees we are in regular contact with our colleagues in different countries, working together on certain projects and sharing practises and solutions that help make our job better.
With your career experiences in both Europe and Latin America, what would you say are the main differences in approach to corporate communications in both regions?
I think that we are pretty aligned, sharing similar worries and interests. Professionals understand they need to take advantage and developing state-of-the art strategies in social media, using better ways to reach audiences and working to create more engaging messages and speeches. I believe that this change has been global. People do not want companies talking impersonally without listening or asking. Interaction is a must not only for commercial communication but also for institutional messages. I think that how to introduce “the reader” in our messages is the biggest challenge.
I think that how to introduce “the reader” in our messages is the biggest challenge.
You have to be effective with crisis communication, advertising, press releases, relationship building, branding, content preparation but we know we cannot do our work as we use to do it in the past. We are urged to innovate.
What are the main risks and rewards facing a corporate communicator working in Latin America?
The major risk could be perhaps not to listen and to continue working with the same strategies and technologies, not adapting to the new layouts and the demand for interaction. The best reward a communicator can receive is discovering that the audience has found their material useful, interesting or motivating. To help others to understand, to create realities and to be able to deploy creativity are also great rewards for communicators, I think.
What kind of communication challenges face international companies looking to enter the Latin-American market this year?
I think that the biggest challenge an international company has when entering Latin America – or any other market – is to understand local culture, political processes, economic situations and who the major influencers are or how influence is built. If not, the job is pretty difficult and you may fail in tone and credibility or in building a positive reputation.
Does the future look healthy for Latin-American communications?
Personally, I am positive about the future. I believe that some countries will receive more investors needing to communicate and position in new markets. New technologies are helping us to have more open dialogue with audiences rather than opacity, and SMEs are increasingly appreciating the value of communication to improve their business performance.
Is it even possible to speak of a “Latin American corporate communications landscape” or does its diversity prove too much of a challenge?
I think that it is true that Latin America is diverse but this diversity does not discount the possibility of interacting or promoting knowledge sharing. We know that addressing big national audiences is not the same as working with a local community. This local community approach is very important for many companies that work with a sustainability point of view. In addition you have the political context. Not only do we need to understand the business needs – understanding political context is a must in order to asses our possibilities, scope and to build our strategy.
“Understanding political context is a must in order to asses our possibilities, scope and to build our strategy.”
In 2013 you created the Communications Commission to promote professional exchange and best practice sharing. What was the motivating factor behind setting up this Commission?
This Commission was created with IDEA (Institute for Business Development in Argentina) following the Professional Exchange Division spirit. The intention of creating a specific commission in the city of Rosario was to promote networking, experience sharing and to strengthen corporate communications positioning in Rosario and the surrounding region. Rosario is the second city in economic weight with a strong participation of SME companies that are progressively investing in communication to improve their business results. This space – like others that have been opened recently – helps to increase communicators’ visibility, enhance interaction and practice sharing, diversifying the way to learn and cooperation between professionals.