Originally published at The Philippine Daily Inquirer 16 July 2012
Believe. This is something that I always tell myself whenever I embark on any endeavor. In my work as a communications professional, it is important for me to believe in the promises of a product, service or cause, before I agree to take it on. Believing in something makes the process of sharing it much, much easier. Belief in something gives it wings, and bestows it with dimensions that can be actualized in time.
Belief in something is very important, especially if one is selling a country brand. A country, after all, is an amalgam of the tangible and the intangible. It is a living thing with a soul that is a reflection of the many elements that make it up—including those little quirks that make it distinct and distinguish it from the rest.
Having embraced the role of a Philippine brand ambassador, I have found that the Philippine country brand holds so much strength and promise, yet it is sometimes weakened by the lack of faith of those who should believe the most in it—the Filipino people. Perhaps, it is because many of us have kept our hopes low after seeing many of our dreams remain just that—dreams. Yet this, in no way, should keep us from completely losing our faith in our very own country brand.
Why do I continue to believe? It’s hard to miss the gains the Philippines has recently achieved. While the rest of the world is battling debt concerns and economic slowdowns, the Philippines is seeing sustained economic growth, including another possible ratings upgrade which the country’s economic mangers are optimistic of. Amidst gloom in the global environment, the Philippines is full of hope. In the first quarter of this year, Gross Domestic Product was up 6.4% and most important indicators are pointing north. From being a borrower of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for decades, the Philippines is now a lender, extending US$1 billion loan to support global efforts to stabilize world economy. I see this as a proof that the country’s economic fundamentals are working.
The Philippines is also setting new benchmarks with its innovative undertakings. Public-private partnerships have allowed for greater scope in infrastructure projects. In fact, PPP Center recently confirmed that 8 PPP projects are scheduled for roll-out this year, the first of which was the Department of Education’s School Building Infrastructure Project. Even our social programs are catching the world’s attention for their innovative features. The conditional cash transfer program, designed to help the poorest of the poor, has become a model for other developing countries who wish to safeguard the poor while undertaking long-term economic reforms.
But more importantly, I am seeing a new sense of accountability among Filipinos, and a willingness to do more for their country. It may have stemmed from many factors and recent events, but regardless of what started it, it’s another good sign in pushing the Philippine country brand alive.
Surely, there is more we can do for our country as we communicate that we have turned the corner.
Government and private sector can help our country brand shine brighter if there is a strategy in communicating and packaging the positive developments in the Philippines. It is important for us to optimize and consolidate our gains in order to create bigger impact and catch global and regional attention. That means building on what we already have and making sure that we continue to move higher up the value chain, in the process offering the world the products and the services that carry our distinctive Filipino touch.
That also means knowing the answer to some investors’ (and not just tourists’) hard questions – why the Philippines? — and being loyal to our very own country brand. Loyalty may seem to be such a big word, but it actually means the little things to do to our country brand. Always belittling the Philippines, for instance, does not do much for our country brand.
The answer, of course, has been there all along—the Filipinos who have the mind, heart, and soul to make our country brand live up to its promise. We only have to start believing. Once we believe, then we can act with greater purpose and accomplish much greater things.
Junie Del Mundo is the Chairman and CEO of EON The Stakeholder Relations Firm. Under his leadership, EON is regarded as the pioneering stakeholder relations firm that puts TRUST at the heart of its collaborations and dialogues with different stakeholders of its clients. He is a prolific speaker in business discussions hosted by various business chambers and clubs, such as the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Australian New Zealand Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Makati Business Club, and the Management Association of the Philippines where he shares insights on reputation management, CSR Communications and other vital topics. In 2010, he was a finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of Year Awards. In 2011, he chaired the MAP Committees on CSR and National Branding; he was also the chairperson of the 18th National PR Congress of the Public Relations Society of the Philippines. In 2012, he continues as the chairperson for the MAP National Branding Committee.
Prior to establishing EON, Junie was a career diplomat for 13 years and served at the Philippine Embassies in Paris, France; Dakar, Senegal; and at the Philippine Mission to UNESCO in Paris. He represented the Philippines in multinational fora such as the ASEAN, APEC, and Asia-Europe Business Forum.
EON The Stakeholder Relations Firm
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EON has been in operations since 1998 providing business communication consultancy to top global and local brands from various sectors that include energy, transportation, mining, consumer, motoring, utilities, finance, food, technology, multilateral organizations, government and education among others. It specializes in deploying communication programs that help organizations build mutually-beneficial and trust-based relationships with its stakeholders in the Philippines. This is EON’s guiding principle in executing communication services such as government relations and public affairs, policy advocacy, grassroots communications, marketing communication, and events and activation. EON is the Philippine affiliate of EDELMAN, the world's largest PR firm.