ONCE A PANA PRESIDENT, ALWAYS A BRAND BUILDER.
What does it take to be Blen Fernando?
Miss Blen Fernando took a moment to contemplate the question. Then, with an infectious smile, she replied, “I actually don’t consider myself an extraordinary individual. The saying is true that there are really no extraordinary people. Only ordinary people who set their minds to do extraordinary things with what they’ve been given.”
An interview with Fernando, five-term PANA president, can be likened to a compact course on brand building and professional resilience. With how she has been able to help shape PANA into what it is today, she is --in every respect-- extraordinary. But part of what makes her special is her ability to stay grounded.
“It was a challenging, sometimes rocky, the first year for me as a PANA officer.”, she recalled. It was in 2004 when she was invited to join the complex organization with an exciting yet daunting task: To turn PANA’s image around. To re-brand PANA from a social society to an organization that meaningfully and professionally serves its members of over three hundred. The biggest hurdle back then was poor attendance in PANA’s ranks, even less participation in its activities and programs. But Fernando was not one to back down from duty. She asserted, ”We realized that we were faced with a lot of challenges. But there was a big, big opportunity to make a difference.”
Since then, the 2004 Board --with Fernando at the helm-- made the commitment to make the change happen. With determination and teamwork, the officers went door to door in a relentless campaign to get member companies to come out and be more involved. The platform was to assure members that their participation will benefit all.
“It was hard work.”, Fernando said. “We made a lot of sacrifices. Brainstorming late nights. Working on weekends. But we all enjoyed the volunteer work.” When directions were finalized and programs were moving again, the fulfillment made the struggle worthwhile.
But it didn’t stop there. “During my first 2 terms as President: It was when the KBP (Kapisanan ng mag Brodkasters ng Pilipinas) resigned as a member organization of the then Advertising Board of the Philippines (AdBoard).”, Fernando narrated. “This decision had significant implications to the advertising industry as it almost –and really almost – tore apart the advertising industry’s unity.” The KBP leaving the fold started a domino effect of one complicated issue after another. As the recognized Advertisers sector, PANA was expected to lead the industry back to unity.
From there, Fernando employed what she knew has worked before: Teamwork. Together with her Board, she rallied every CEO of the country’s top advertisers to get behind her in restoring harmony. For about a year, she met with each and every organization, company, and agency every single week. Before long, they have all accomplished the feat of realigning PANA, KBP and 4As. The accord led to another domino effect. The ASC (Advertising Standards Council) finally opened its doors to be the new, revitalized screening body of the industry and the industry rediscovered radio, activation, and outdoor communication media. This also hallmarked the start of digital advertising.
Fernando once again smiles as she reminisced. “Working with these CEOs helped me grow as a leader and as a person. Until today, I can’t imagine how we accomplished so much.” Wistfully, she added, “I couldn’t have been an effective PANA President without the support of an incredibly committed, talented PANA Board at that time.”
With all these under her belt, she generously shares what it takes to be an effective brand builder. What sterling characteristics must one have to lead and succeed. Knowledge is once more imparted as she enumerates,
“Integrity. I will not think of compromising what is true, honest and responsible.”
“Sense of commitment and passion for excellence. For me, “pwede na” is not really comfortable. If one has to do something, might as well do it properly and well.”
“Patience and determination. I just work harder than others, I guess.”
“Humility. I am not afraid to ask help from others when. I choose the right people to help me in critical and significant times because they are good, capable and share the same values as I do.”
“Remembering one’s roots. I tell myself that it is important not to forget those who have helped me when I was still starting in the industry. Look back where you came from and don’t look down on those who helped you when you needed support.”
Even now, as Alaska Milk’s Vice President, Fernando continues to uphold the concept of Responsible Brand Building. “We have always been responsible brand builders.”, she stated, “We make sure our advertising is truthful, honest and authentic. We are also purpose-driven. We want to make a difference in the lives of the Filipino consumers across ages.” Under her guidance, Alaska Milk holds nationwide events that champion nutrition and overall health.
In the end, Fernando has only nice words for the organization she helped rebuild many years ago. “In six decades, PANA has evolved and should continue to evolve.”, she said. “The vision has remained the same. We see how PANA has continued to be leading key industry issues. It is my hope that PANA continues to keep up with the changes in the environment and reflect these changes in what it can do for its members.”
For the new leaders of PANA, she leaves this valuable advice, “Lead with the right balance of mind and heart, reminding one’s self to be humble when you need the help of other stakeholders in working towards common goals.”
Teamwork. Humility. Responsibility.
That is what one learns from a former PANA President of five sterling terms.