Health Communication in the USA and Portugal: Like Working at the ER
Recently, I had the opportunity to spend two weeks in the USA as part of the great GLOBALHealthPR Exchange Program. After learning all about Spectrum’s work and the American health PR market, I can say that although there is an ocean between the US and Portugal and we speak different languages, the work we do is pretty similar.
There are many aspects that both Spectrum and Guess What have in common. The context may differ but the challenges are the same. It’s almost like working at the ER. The pace is fast, the requests are urgent, the demand is constant. We live in an increasingly globalized world that spins at the frenetic pace of social networks where you can share information instantly, so it’s natural that this happens. The clients of both companies are also similar: mostly multinational pharmaceutical companies, biotechs, and consumer-goods brands.
The main differences are essentially social and cultural, or related to market dimensions. The US market is more aggressive, and the work has to be conducted with a level of detail that is not demanded by the Portuguese market. The workday also has very few breaks; in Portugal we are passionate about our lunch break! In Portugal, Facebook is king and lord of all social networks, but in the US the most popular social network is Twitter. In the US, the relationships between PR professionals and journalists are often distant and directed by strict ethical guidelines.
Our American colleagues were very surprised to learn that in Portugal it is relatively normal for journalists and PR professionals to address each other through their Facebook pages, social networks that the Americans keep more personal. And we Portuguese were impressed by the interaction with and monitoring of patient blogs, where patients write about their illnesses and treatments, which is still uncommon in the Portuguese market.
On the other hand, the characteristics of the Portuguese market allow us to work in a far more “out of the box” way. Indeed, the economic crisis has forced us to be even more original and effective with smaller budgets because “necessity is the mother of invention”.
Given these differences and these similarities, we can say that the GHPR partnership not only makes sense but it is the model of the future for PR and communications. As time goes by, we will have to work more and more with and for other markets, and we will always need the experience of those who work and live in these markets. Communication lives out of social and cultural contexts that we can only know well when we live within them.
Furthermore, it was a great privilege to be part of the GHPR exchange program. It’s an excellent way of meeting a new professional reality, new people, and a new country. And I’m really grateful to all the Spectrum team in Washington that went far beyond my best expectations to make me feel welcome.
Susana Viana is Senior Communication Consultant at GLOBALHealthPR Portugal Partner, Guess What. Her account is based on an original article that appeared in Portugal’s Meios e Publicidade.