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The lessons of the Portuguese during the pandemic

By Sandro Rego

An article written by Brazilian Ruth Manus, published on the Portuguese website Observador, listed the ten main characteristics of the Portuguese people. Many of them that we perceive daily were even more evident in this critical period in which we live. Moreover, it explains a lot the fact that Portugal is managing COVID-19 cases well and flattening the contagion curve because it involves the mobilization of society, entrepreneurs, entities and associations, voluntary work, and others. These are lessons that will go into collective memory as a mighty watershed to rebuild not only a new reality but national self-esteem.

The Portuguese are friends – The lifetime-friend type. It’s about the mobilization to support neighbors, childhood colleagues, and family members. Everyone helps each other when it comes to do the groceries or place a phone call to find out how everything is going.

The Portuguese are helpful – The number of people who make themselves available to help those in need is immense. Thousands are applying for volunteer work, offering services, and company.

The Portuguese are informed – People have never seen as much TV in Portugal as they do now. They are all eager for information about what happens in the country and the world in times of social isolation. The number of accesses to social networks also skyrocketed in the country.

The Portuguese love their culture – They value their history and cultural events like no other people. In the absence of outdoor programs and activities, they connect to the lives of local artists on social media, share recipes for typical dishes, invite foreigners to read more about the country when travel is restricted, etc.

Many of these characteristics are also reflected in the business environment. Thus, the emergence of brands engaged in supporting the fight against COVID-19 is no accident or coincidence.

No organization does this overnight. The construction of corporate social responsibility needs to be consistent and coherent. They are placing the business as a force for social transformation is for those who have Corporate Social Responsibility in their DNA. Companies — many of them members of APCE (Portuguese Association for Corporate Communication) — such as Galp EDP, Sonae, Primavera, Jerónimo Martins Group, Super Bock, Vodafone, MEO, NOS, Continente, Lidl, Pingo Doce, and Montepio are some engaged Portuguese organizations related to causes. They are redirecting their actions to help the community.

The CEOs of these organizations know the value of the reputational capital they will have when this crisis is over. That is why they did not shy away from reinventing themselves in difficult times like the one we are experiencing. These brands know that if the society in which they operate is not doing well, their business will not do well either. They want to give back to the community what they have gained from it, adapt to the new moment by redirecting their activities, and valuing their audience (employees, customers, and partners).

These are the watchwords at this time when it is necessary to show solidarity, empathy, and love. And using the opening phrase of Manus’s article, “It is only possible to love a country when we also love its people.”

Sandro Rego is CEO of Priori, a communications agency in Portugal dedicated to social impact causes and projects. He was general manager of FleishmanHillard agency and communications executive at Banco Safra, Boticário Group, Bunge, and Companhia Siderúrgica Nacional (CSN). He was “Communicator of the Year” at the Aberje 2014 Award. He currently lives in Portugal and is the editor of BRpr’s “Also in Portuguese” section.