By Marilou Terrones
Flavia Vigio, Vice President of PR & Corporate Communications at HBO Latin America, was born and raised in Brazil, where she lived in several of the country’s largest cities, including Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. As she was always very curious about the world, from a young age she took every opportunity to travel to other countries and learn about the way diverse communities communicate. She was so moved by words, she went on to college and studied journalism.
While she was sure she wanted to influence the way people expressed themselves and understood others, Flavia wasn’t sure what that would mean for her. She let her career take its course and found herself in the public relations industry, working on anything and everything from internal communications to community involvement. Prior to working at HBO Latin America,
Flavia lived and worked in Italy as the External Relations supervisor for a fashion company, and later at McDonald’s Latin America as the Vice President of Corporate Communications, based in Sao Paulo and Buenos Aires. During her time at McDonald’s Latin America, Vigio was ranked the highest woman in the regional joint-venture. Not only was Flavia finding her place in the industry, but she was doing so all while leaving her footprint in the work she was doing. Years later, Flavia went on to work at Golin, where she led the Miami office and the Latin America business. In 2017, she joined the HBO Latin America team.
Flavia’s success in the industry is admirable because she has been able to do something a lot of professionals haven’t yet mastered: reach communities that are different than the ones she belongs to. Her career started and is currently centered around the Latin American communities, where she works to effectively communicate with the people in a way that resonates with their culture. Flavia understands that working with different cultures requires respect for the community’s traditions and values, which allows her to get to understand the culture and the way individuals communicate.
We often think the only way for us to have any insight into diverse communities is for us to be part of them, but Flavia has proved that with enough determination, education, and respect, we can reach any community. Whether you’re passionate about reaching diverse communities in the work you do or you’re interested in being more diverse and inclusive in the workplace, we can all learn a little bit from Vigio’s tips.
Nobody expects you to know everything about everyone, but everyone does expect you to be respectful. If you don’t know something, admit it and educate yourself. Hold yourself accountable for what you don’t know and learn from it—there’s always room for growth. The world won’t end if you don’t know everything about a religion or a culture but pretending like you do know can be offensive to those who live that truth.
Learn from other people’s perspectives.
Whenever someone is speaking, pay attention to their perspective. Don’t hear what they’re saying in hopes that they’ll take a five second pause where you’ll get an opportunity to chime in and share your two cents. Instead, listen to what they’re saying. We only know what we’ve experienced, so allow someone else to share their point of view. We don’t have to see eye to eye with someone, but it’s important to engage with other perspectives so we don’t get stuck in our own ways of thinking.
Think of yourself as more than labels.
When people look at us, they see what is in front of them: our gender and the color of our skin. We can’t allow the labels that are assigned to us to determine who we are or how we carry ourselves because we’re more than a gender, race, or ethnicity. Just because we’re this or that does not mean we have to be the voice of that particular community. For example, if I’m the only Latina on my team, then that means two things: 1. my team needs to hire more diverse talent, and 2. I can’t be the designated spokesperson for the Latino community. I can own my identity without allowing it to determine the work I do or the contribution I bring to the table. When a company hires you, they hire you for your soft skills and what you can bring for the table.
When you make a mistake, take a step back and learn from it.
In this day and age we’re able to simultaneously communicate across multiple platforms. While this may serve as a great way to spread the word about the great work companies are doing, the media leaves a lot of room for mistakes. The truth is no matter how many sets of eyes look over your messaging strategy, someone somewhere might not understand where you were going with it. This means that while the majority of the population may praise you for an approach you took, there may be a small part of the community that is offended by the way you addressed something. The important thing is to recognize the mistake and grow from it. Keep the experience in your back pocket so next time you’re in a similar situation, you’ll know more about how to handle it.
Be responsible for bringing your experience to the table.
Our train of thought is often influenced by past experiences, causing us to interpret things a certain way. It’s easy to assume people don’t understand our perspective because they don’t understand our struggles, but sometimes people don’t understand us because they don’t know enough about our culture or background. While we’re all responsible for our own knowledge, we also owe it to ourselves to share our experiences so others can better understand our perspectives. We can’t assume someone knows what we’re talking about because even if our experiences are similar, no two experiences are the same. The first step in understanding other perspectives is to share our own.