SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico—Before Hurricane Maria made land in the fall of 2017, Procter & Gamble had been in the process of upping its involvement in digital media. What followed the devastation was an immediate reliance by P&G on traditional media and, a year later, a “quantum leap” in how Puerto Ricans consume media, with online shopping soaring, says the marketer’s General Manager for the U.S. territory.

After Maria struck, “there was no electricity, there was no phone, there was no cable,” says Freddie Hernandez. “So we undusted the radio book and started using radio and outdoor as the main vehicles to really communicate with our consumers.”

At Beet Retreat 2018 in San Juan from Nov. 28-30, there will be a special session titled Lessons Learned: Hurricane Maria’s Impact on the Media Industry of Puerto Rico. Among other topics, Hernandez and other executives will discuss how in the absence of broadband advertisers turned to over-the-air broadcasting along with traditional media like outdoor, radio and print.

In this interview with Beet.TV conducted on the island, Hernandez explains how many Puerto Ricans have been cutting their cable cords and migrating to digital services like online shopping after their experiences in dealing with the devastation wrought by Maria.

“We were on the verge of re-launching our media investment, trying to look into digital and how things are changing with Millennials and how media is being consumed on the island,” Hernandez recalls. “It doesn’t necessarily follow how it is consumed in the States and other developed areas as we’re lagging a little bit behind. But we know that we need to get into the digital arena.”

Having to rely on traditional media “was a great exercise to really acknowledge that radio is still there. And we sometimes take it for granted and focus so much in digital, in mobile and other platforms that we forget about radio. It was very helpful for us,” Hernandez explains. “After that we have seen a quantum leap in terms of the media consumption by the consumers here in Puerto Rico.”

Lacking cable television and electricity, many residents migrated to phones and wireless communications where possible.

“So we’re seeing a lot of movement in that direction and you can see in the trends of people not renewing their cable system and looking at other options to consume media. So we are really on the verge of understanding what are the different venues that people are using to really change,” Hernandez says.

Before Maria there was one online grocery provider. “We have three now and they are expanding aggressively because consumers are ready to embrace what digital can bring to their lives and how they can do better by using this technology advances that we have available.”

P&G has customers who are doing 10% of their business “with online selling that was nonexistent a year ago. It’s a movement that is moving very fast and it’s here to stay. So we need to make sure that we get ahead of the curve and start looking at what are the options we can tackle…try to be the number one investing in technology, investing in venues that are going to help us continue leading the market in the categories that we compete in.”

Joining Hernandez to discuss media in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Maria will be Melissa Burgos, Marketing Director USVI/Puerto Rico, AT&T Mobility; Jose Cancela, President, Telemundo/NBCUniversal Puerto Rico; and Andres Claudio, General Manager, Hearts & Science, Puerto Rico. The session will be moderated by Phil Cowdell, President of Client Services at GroupM, who has been deeply involved with Puerto Rico relief and recovery.

The session will conclude with a briefing by Olga Ramos, President of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Puerto Rico, who will present data on the impact of the storm on the island’s youth and her organizations’ efforts to improve their future.