Unboxed Conversations: Latin America PR Legend, Carmen Baez
It isn’t everyday that you get a chance to connect with and learn from a living legend. But that’s exactly what we at Unboxed Thoughts recently had a chance to do when we caught up with Carmen Baez, President – Latin America at Diversified Agency Services (DAS), the largest division of the Omnicom Group, one of the world’s leading marketing communications and advertising companies. A few of the topics we discussed with Ms. Baez included her views on the growth segments of our industry, her advice for young, communications professionals, and the convergence of brand and reputation.
But first a bit about Ms. Baez's careeer. With more than three decades of marketing communication experience, Ms. Baez has been responsible for the development and growth of DAS agencies in Mexico as well as Central and South America, including global and leading marketing, advertising and public relations firms.
But her career started when she joined Omnicom at its inception in 1986. Since that time she has held various executive positions at global agencies where she counseled clients in a wide range of industries including high tech, financial services, telecomm, travel and entertainment.
In 1993, after a two-year sabbatical to travel the world, she co-founded Baez Zahorsky, Inc. (BZI), a Boston-based marketing communications consultancy that specialized in strategy planning and program development. BZI clients included Bank of Boston, Omnicom Group and The Walt Disney Company, among others. In 1997, she rejoined Omnicom to lead the DAS expansion in Latin America.
Among many other recognitions received, Carmen was named in 2010 an industry legend by the Association of National Advertiser’s ADCOLOR Industry Coalition, which promotes increased diversity in the advertising, marketing and media industries and celebrates the accomplishments of diverse role models and industry leaders. Here is our interview with Ms. Carmen Baez… (click the jump or here to read the full interview)
Unboxed Thoughts: We hear a lot about emerging markets being a growth engine for agencies these days. What markets do you think are particularly interesting for a growing marketing or communications agency?
Carmen Baez: I believe in following the numbers, at least as a first “filter.” Look for scale and then apply other key considerations like socio-economic stability, existing infrastructure, available talent pool, government political stability, etc. My expertise is in the Americas so I would go with Brazil, Brazil, Brazil and then also Mexico and Colombia. UBT: What has surprised you about this industry and about your career?
CB: Almost everything about my career and the way it has unfolded has surprised me. I had no idea – coming from a small island in the Caribbean – that I would be tasked with overlooking an entire region. My biggest takeaway is that the more you let life happen to you, the more things actually happen.
UBT: We hear a lot about the convergence of brand and reputation these days. What is your perspective on this?
CB: Product brand reputation goes hand-in-hand with corporate brand reputation nowadays, and both of these factors contribute to our clients’ market value. Product brand reputation is more vulnerable than ever now with the proliferation of social media – as consumers constantly shape our client’s reputations we are seeing that brand managers and public relations professionals are no longer in control. We are in the consumers’ fingertips – literally! The more we take this into consideration when designing our communications plans and invest in reputation for the long-term, the more we’ll be helping our clients.
UBT: What has been one of the most exotic and/or complicated assignments you’ve worked on?
CB: I haven’t worked on anything that I would consider truly exotic, but some of our public relations and event marketing agencies lead and work very hard on the Rio de Janeiro Carnival in Brazil, which is definitely a fun and very large scale project to be involved with. In terms of complicated assignments, I’ve had my share, like everyone who works in and with the region of Latin America. One of my most memorably complicated challenges ever was dealing with a husband-wife team who co-owned an agency with us in a partnership that did not work out. Disengaging from an equity partnership is something we very, very rarely have to do. But, when that situation arises and it includes a married couple in the discussions, it surely can be extremely complicated. And it was.
UBT: In hindsight, what prepared you the most for your current job?
CB: I believe what prepared me the most for my current job was a combination of things: learning critical thinking, solid communications skills and being good at playing well with others. Those are all skills I had to learn. Getting exposure to other cultures has also been key. That applies to my job every day.
UBT: As a senior executive at Omnicom, what advice would you give folks looking to have a world class career in communications?
CB: Learn excellent communications skills. Be curious and apply critical thinking. Learn collaboration and at least the fundamentals of talent management. Be humble and be nice. Remember, the people you see on your way up, will see you on your way down.