‘My story at Telefónica’, by Fernando Cárdenas

I joined Telefónica del Perú fifteen years ago. I was a young man of 24, recently married and had just changed jobs: I swapped the rigours of journalism for the whirlwind of the corporate communications world.

Discover the Telefónica story of Fernando Cárdenas, head of corporate communications at Hispam. Read more now.

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Reading time: 5 min

At the time, my vision of Telefónica was restricted to mobile phones, landlines, pay TV and fixed (copper) internet. But I arrived at a time when the company decided, in a fit of entrepreneurial sleight of hand, to change course by declaring a new purpose: to be the best global communications company in the digital world. The phrase was provocative in its ambition, but more importantly in its underlying meaning: to turn the wheel of the business. And with that adjustment in the compass, what was coming was uncertainty and novelty. The world was moving towards change and Telefónica was a few steps ahead.

Corporate communications

I, who had come from a world of closing editions, of short-term work – the newspaper is published every 24 hours – found myself in an unknown world in which I could perhaps apply what I had learnt in my journalism classes at university and in the days spent consulting sources and digging for information to find what could make the headlines. Corporate Communications, that’s what I would do. My last job had been at a literary journalism magazine, which combined research with storytelling. The closest thing I had to technology was a laptop that I used to edit texts. A feeling of contrariness and anguish accompanied me as I entered the wide corridor and high ceiling of Telefónica’s headquarters on Arequipa Avenue in Lima. On 22 December 2009, I stepped out of the lift on the seventh floor and was handed a computer. I thought I had lost my way and that it would be like that for the rest of my life.

Very few people around me understand what corporate communication is all about. I have friends who are like brothers – we’ve known each other for more than thirty years – who imagine me writing emails, that’s all. Or that my work is advertising without being advertising. Others prefer to say, hesitantly, that I work in communication, without understanding what that means. Each reunion meeting is a space for lecturing. To tell them that communication in a company is in everything, in what we say and also in what we do not say: what we say to our collaborators, to investors, to clients, to competitors, to public opinion, to regulators and authorities, among many others.

It is as simple as thinking that in order to make a decision and for it to be implemented, someone needs to communicate it. Sometimes it is confused that to communicate is to inform, i.e. to inform someone else about a piece of news. Nothing could be further from the truth. To communicate is to seek to influence: I communicate because I want to achieve a response, be it a decision, an action or a thought. Therefore, communicating requires constantly being in the other person’s shoes; by understanding their expectations and needs, I can better modulate the message to achieve my objectives.

After a few weeks of tortuous remorse and indecision – what am I doing here, have I made the best decision? – I assumed that I could not be the same man before 22 December 2009. I had to strengthen my capabilities, what I was good at, but above all I had to develop new skills, find new ways, think differently. It was a process of embracing change, of clinging to it at the slightest hint of doubt. What had brought me there had helped me to be recruited; now I had to transform myself. So, as well as taking postgraduate courses to get a foothold in the new role, I set out on the path of getting closer to the company. Because the communicator is not someone who just writes nice things, he or she is someone who understands the company, knows what the business is about, knows the sensitive issues and the risks, in other words, is one with it. They must be able to explain the business strategy (with the obvious differences that business leaders and specialists have) and see how they can contribute to it from their position. Understand figures, the internal glossary, the internal networks of influence, and everything that makes a company a walking body. It is not for nothing that it is called corporate communication. So my story with Telefónica began with a change, and Telefónica’s with me too. We became a company man and a company that defined its role in the digital world.

My change of role

Years went by and I changed jobs. At heart, a telephone operator will always be a telephone operator, so in 2018 I returned to the company, carrying a backpack of experiences and facing a more demanding role. And the demands became even greater recently, when I took on the responsibility of external communications for Telefónica Hispanoamérica. If before I had to put myself in someone else’s shoes to communicate, now I had to put myself in the shoes of eight other countries to understand how communication could contribute to the company’s purpose and objectives.

Before, my days started with a single country focus. Today, I first read what is happening in the corporate world, reviewing the newspapers and tickers coming out of Spain, as well as reviewing the information that is uploaded to the CNMV. Then I go on to review what has been published in the countries of the region about Telefónica, the market and competition, as well as the most relevant news on the current situation. Then it’s time to focus on the day’s objectives, always in line with the plan for the year, which I review every Monday to remind myself of where we are heading.

Looking at the external communications of a company with 112 million customers is to understand that you need people. Therefore, a wonderful team accompanies me on this journey of planning and executing the necessary actions to build that vision of how we want the company to be perceived in eight countries. There are time, cultural and even linguistic differences, but the main value that we have formed in almost three years of work is companionship. A virtual companionship that has also transformed us all: we are just a video call away, which is almost like having them by my side. Technology at the service of people. We represent the company’s mission: to connect people’s lives to make the world more human.


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