I couldn’t contain my excitement when I learned that my Atlanta, Ga.-based agency, Jackson Spalding, would be sending me to the Philippines for a 2-week exchange at M2.0 Communications. Marking my first trip to the country, this meant that I would not only (finally) meet my relatives who live here, but also experience how the PR and marketing industry operates in Southeast Asia. For two months, I looked forward to the day I’d jump in to learn as much as I could about my new colleagues, their clients and the campaigns they’ve executed. And before I knew it, I’d arrived in Quezon City!
I have countless takeaways from this experience, but these are the highlights.
1. Atlanta’s traffic has nothing on Manila’s traffic.
Immediately upon crossing into Metro Manila from the province, I was speechless as I watched the traffic and drivers here, not to mention the pedestrians crossing the street in the middle of it all. Now having spent hours and hours in metro Manila traffic, I have vowed not to complain about Atlanta’s traffic when I return – maybe not forever, but at least for a short while.
2. Filipinos will feed you – a lot. And rice is life.
While at M2Comms, the team made sure that I tried all the popular Filipino snacks and a large variety of Filipino dishes that I had never eaten before. It was definitely an adventure for me, seeing as I’m actually a very non-adventurous eater. From sisig to bopis and crispy pata to champorado with tuyo, I discovered Filipino cuisine and enjoyed everything I tried – except the sampaloc. And of course, rice was served with each meal.
3. Emotional storytelling is always the foundation of a campaign.
On my first day at M2Comms, I learned that Gallup’s most recent Global Emotions report ranked the Philippines as the fourth most emotional country in the world. Because of that, emotional storytelling is always the foundation of any campaign M2Comms creates – and it works beautifully.
4. The digital transformation in the Philippines is about to escalate rapidly.
Companies all over the Philippines, including M2Comms’ clients GE and Microsoft, are predicting that the country’s digital transformation is about to take off. As Filipinos become more tech savvy, companies will be expected to follow; not only to keep customers happy, but also to achieve efficiency and leverage big data to make wiser business decisions in the future.
5. Traditional and dark social media are the communications middle ground between the current state of technology and the digitally transformed future.
I learned that many Filipinos rely on data and Wi-Fi to use their smartphones instead of purchasing less cost-efficient texting and calling plans. This means social media channels like Facebook and Instagram reign supreme for Filipinos to communicate with friends and family as well as brands. On the other hand, apps like Viber, Facebook Messenger, and Telegram open the door to dark social, which is now responsible for 84 percent of outbound sharing. Measuring dark social and harnessing it will be just as important for brands as their current investment in social networks.
6. The media landscape in the Philippines is quite different from American media.
The American media are incredibly competitive, racing one another to get the facts right and publish their stories first. It surprised me that, in the Philippines, beat reporters from different broadsheets made up a friendly and supportive cohort. They even confirmed facts for each other as they wrote up their stories after one of M2Comms’ press conferences. That’s not common in the United States.
7. Filipinos are some of the kindest, most hospitable people in the world.
The Philippines is ranked as one of the most friendly, welcoming countries in the world.I knew this based on the care my family shows to one another but I learned just how true that is in the business world as well during my exchange.
And with that said, all I have left to write is, thank you from the bottom of my heart to the M2Comms team for welcoming me with open arms and making me feel at home. It was a pleasure to build new friendships across the Pacific Ocean, and I’ll absolutely plan to visit when I return. Hanggang sa muli!