Early in 2020, María Eugenia Ferré Rangel was fairly certain the year couldn’t be any more challenging than what they had recently been through. The chairwoman of the board of directors and chief communications officer for GFR Media had seen Puerto Rico battered by hurricanes in 2017 and shaken by an earthquake in January 2020.
“We were thinking nothing could get worse or more uncertain,” she said. “But that was far from the truth.”
The territory went into lockdown on March 16. The disasters they had already weathered turned out to be a benefit, Ferré Rangel said: “Those two experiences prepared us to manage the businesses with the speed and flexibility the conditions required. For 2021, this approach has continued to be relevant.”
In addition, the challenges of 2020 ignited creativity, led to new ways of working, and even changed how they approach the future. Ferré Rangel said through it all, she realised that “no plan is written in stone, but needs to be dynamic to fulfill the needs of our audiences.”
INMA recently caught up with her to learn more.
INMA: If you had your career to do over again, what would you want to know in the beginning?
Rangel: There are four things that I would’ve wanted to know:
- The power of the audiences.
- The value of your content — and look for ways to monetise the Access.
- Understand the speed of change of technology.
- The importance of having a broader vision and the context that surrounds the business (technology, consumer behaviour, legal).
INMA: What makes you excited to get out of bed in the morning?
Rangel: I’m always inspired by the opportunity we have, every day, to impact our community/our country to become a better place.
INMA: What is your best piece of advice on work/life balance?
Rangel: Learn to say no and focus on developing yourself, within all your roles, but most importantly as a human being.
INMA: What is the craziest job or project you’ve ever done in media — and what did you learn from it?
Rangel: Living and surviving Hurricane María while running the business has been one of the craziest times in my career. Not only because we needed to produce the coverage of a devastated island while living through this devastation but being responsible for other tasks that I was not used to or have never done.
Some examples of those were managing shelter for employees, families, pets, and business associates; coordinating the gas/food logistics; search and, in some cases, rescue missions of our reporters/photojournalists; literally supporting the newspaper distribution — getting up at 4 a.m. to distribute the newspaper with my family — while living in a country without power, water, and Internet; and working with a group of great business leaders to fundraise the money, materials, water, and food to help those in need. It was unimaginable.
INMA: What success within your company are you most proud of right now?
Rangel: We continue to thrive amidst all the challenges, along with our employees that have been great supporters through those difficult times. Thanks to them, we continue to give a voice to those that don’t have it and need to be heard.
INMA: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your career?
Rangel: I’ve learned so many lessons — and keep learning — that it is difficult to identify just one. Here I share three of them:
- You never know enough, therefore always surround yourself with people that know more than you and that complement you.
- Being humble is your biggest asset.
- Work with the organisational culture because even if you have the best business plan, you need people to be aligned and engaged. As the saying goes, culture will eat the strategy.
INMA: What do you do to relax?
Rangel: Be with my family; they are really my safe space. As the sun rises, long walks on the beach will always center my mind and my spirit.
INMA: If you hadn’t gone into the news media, what was your back-up plan?
Rangel: I would’ve liked to be a lawyer and teacher, but I fell in love with the media business since day one. Our role as an agent of change to support our communities and our country really makes me proud of the decision I made.
INMA: Have you read any books you’d recommend lately?
Rangel: The pandemic has made me reflect on many things, but one that I had neglected in recent years is my spirituality. I am reading Libro de oraciones del Papa Francisco (Prayer. Breathing life, daily by Papa Francisco) as I, in this stage in my life, also focus on being a better human being.