MIAMI – Once a natural disaster occurs, it’s back to basics. For agencies and marketers it can mean using billboards to reach people who don’t have power or Internet connectivity. For brands like Procter & Gamble, it can be dispatching mobile units to wash, dry and fold clothes for the recovering community.

In the wake of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, for the media industry “It’s going backwards, 25 years ago. You have to take your car and visit your clients, you have to do radio, probably billboards and basics to communicate,” says Andres Claudio, GM of Omnicom’s Hearts & Science agency on the island. “Life is before Maria and after Maria.”

Freddie Hernandez, who runs P&G’s operations in Puerto Rico, is already looking beyond relief to reconstruction—rebuilding infrastructure while convincing companies to invest there for the future. “We will recover from this. We will impact the communities and we will get to a better position,” he says.

Beet.TV interviewed Claudio at this week’s Festival of Media/LATAM conference, where the STAND WITH PUERTO RICO: The Industry Steps Up initiative was launched. His interview is followed by a segment with Hernandez that was produced by P&G  in Puerto Rico where one of the company’s mobile Ace detergent units was operating.

“This is a time that companies have to show their commitment to the island and the community with their brands,” says Claudio. “Besides advertising, this is the perfect moment for companies to get connected to the people with their realities and needs.”

On Puerto Rico, brands don’t have to look very far to identify with causes and be “relevant” to the situation, according to Claudio. “Once the brand understands there is a need in the market, you can relate your brand to that particular need. It gets a connection that people will love and people will acknowledge that you are doing something right for them.”

After thanking the organizers of the Festival of Media/LATAM for hosting and supporting the STAND WITH PUERTO RICO initiative, Hernandez explained that the relief mode is still under way and that sometimes, the basic necessities aren’t so obvious.

“We take things for granted. We never thought that just having your laundry done was so important to people. It’s overwhelming to see how people are reacting to this effort,” says Hernandez.

As relief progresses to recovery, reconstruction will follow, posing more challenges that will require widespread participation and support. “The donations that we’re getting and the support that we’re getting is fantastic but it’s not going to last a lot,” Hernandez explains. “We need companies to look at Puerto Rico once again as a place to invest, as a place to bring their best talent to grow our economy, to leverage the talent that we have on this beautiful island, to help us and together bring this island to the future.”

Claudio is realistic and optimistic looking forward. “It’s not easy but you can do it and make it happen. This is a time that companies have to show the commitment to the island and the community with their brands,” he says.

Stand With Puerto, The Industry Steps Up 

This video reports on the pressing issues facing Puerto Rico and the organizations that are having an impact. It is part of a media industry initiative titled Stand With Puerto Rico. It is organized by Beet.TV and Omnicom Media Group along with founding partners AT&T AdWorks and Teads. Please find additional videos from the series here. The series was recorded in Miami at the Festival of Media/LATAM on October 30.