Why I moved to Portugal…

Now I’ve started my communications work in Portugal, my friends, business partners and colleagues start asking me the reasons for my move. This is, of course, a very legitimate thing to ask. Let me share some of my thoughts on this.

If you check out my bio, you’ll discover that I’ve quite a record when it comes to communication. Coming from a Dutch entrepreneurial family with international ties, it is natural for me to look across borders. However, this is the first time I took the step of really moving out of my native country for work. Why oh why?

The challenge

First reason: this is a challenge. Look at my CV or bio, and you’ll see that within my profession I always took on major challenges. Like starting up the PR for the then new car brand Daewoo. Or, some years later, setting up the corporate communications department of the listed B2B multinational Vopak. More recently I was involved in developing a social media and privacy strategy for a leading major healthcare organisation. I love complex project. I love building. Coming to Portugal poses a new challenge. Focusing on international communication, I am thoroughly challenged.

The possibilities

A challenge alone is not enough to make a move. Having been a regular visitor to Portugal, I have seen not only those challenges, but also increasing possibilities and opportunities. I believe in the products and services coming from this country, which combine innovation and tradition with craftsmanship and sustainability. However, I also believe that the communication deserves a boost. I’m convinced that my multinational background will add to what is already here. It is not just about marketing, it is about bridging invisible barriers and connecting in new ways.

The perspectives

‘The grass is always greener…’, I’m sure you know the saying. Portugal is, in many ways, a unique part of Europe and definitely different from my country of origin. So far, I’ve learnt a lot about the societal, social and cultural climate here. I had to step way out of my comfort zone when moving here. In return I gained new perspectives and reflections. I don’t believe the different climate is or should be a deciding factor, though I’m not going to complain about the weather here. Let’s be realistic: it should never mask the other qualities Portugal has to offer. In short: I’m finding new perspectives.

‘Cross the bridge when you get there’. Well, I’ve arrived.’

The diversity

Portugal is a fascinating place to be. Interestingly, it shares a common world-conquering history with my native country. However, the way its colonial past has been absorbed into daily life is quite different. Having been active in various areas of diversity, I have become inspired by the Portuguese approach towards diversity and inclusion. I realise how sensitive this matter is, and I’m sure there are lessons to be learnt for me in this area. Yes, I’ve come here to learn.

The passion

So, you see there are many reasons for me to be here. Last and definitely not least I want to mention the most personal one: love and friendship(s). These have been the ultimate triggers to not only continue my professional life here in Portugal, but also rebuild my personal life. To me, there is no difference in personal and professional.

This is all about passion and the pursuit of dreams. It’s real life. As one of my friends taught me: ‘Cross the bridge when you get there’. Well, I’ve arrived. And I’m now crossing the proverbial bridge…

 

 

 

 

 

The ultimate communicator

What I notice on social media, in particular on the ones aimed at professionals (like LinkedIn), is that we’ve lost our sense of creativity. That’s strange, as we have never communicated as much as we do now. As I told a Portuguese friend today, in my area of work (communication) these days everyone seems to be a “storyteller” or a “coach” or whatever title is available to show how “creative” and “important” they are. Really? Let me take a look at the ultimate communicator.

I’m not going to be popular saying this, but on most social media conformity is the norm, as is bragging, and creativity is to be handled with extreme care. On the face of it, this makes sense: you don’t want to lose business, so just say what others prefer to hear. That is why, dear social copy-pasters, I prefer to create authentic content. First of all, because I love my work. Secondly, I believe it is vital to present yourself (as a person or a business) as you are: unique. And it’s part of my long-term approach as a communicator. Bragging is definitely a short-term thing.

The history of the ultimate communicator: the court jester

Let me make a side-step. A former German colleague told me something about me some time ago. A quality he had noticed in my attitude towards customers and management. He called it “Narrenfreiheit” which is one of those very particular and quite poetic and historically significant German words that require explanation rather than translation.

The word “Narrenfreiheit” relates to the rise of the earliest jesters (because that is what “Narr” in German means), with court jesters being described in literature from the time (royal) courts existed. I’m going to cut the historic part of this story short and tell you what I concluded from all the rather intriguing tales of jesters at various courts.

The role and position of the court jester

Court jesters were (and still are) generally seen as fools, not being taken seriously by courtiers and public. At court, their Majesties would generally be unapproachable on serious matters – one could easily risk losing his head by approaching the sovereign in an unbecoming manner. The court jester proved to be quite a useful middleman. The majesty knew they were missing out on a lot of information because they were feared.  The court jester was used as a link to reality. Most members of court were not trustworthy and mostly politically engaged. Not the jester.

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So, it turns out that the court jester wasn’t just the fool providing good laughs and entertainment. He was the invisible link between the Head of State and his servants as far as information and communication were concerned. Quite notably, the jester was trusted by both the majesty and his people. Surely, no-one would accuse a fool of bad intentions?

As history has shown, the court jester was quite the communicator, you might call him the facilitator in the medieval information flow and as such way more influential than his title suggested.

It’s all about “Narrenfreiheit”. The jester knew how to earn trust. He was a clever person with many more talents than met the eye. In fact, the eyes were often fooled by his appearance and behaviour, suggesting him to be an outsider. In actual fact, he was not. He was the ultimate insider.

I am a professional jester

Let’s make a leap to today. The court jester doesn’t exist anymore in the capacity we know from the history books and Wikipedia. What a shame! I would advocate reinstating the jester role at organisations in a leading communications position.

Compared to the middle ages, the media landscape has changed quite a lot, with communication now at the centre of many “trust issues”. Whatever happened to ‘Be good and tell it’ as the main principle for public relations and communications professionals?

As I stated in the beginning, we desperately need less conformism and more authenticity.

The freedom to do and speak out has increased but it has also become more impersonal and conformist. Today the social media adage seems ‘Do whatever gets you the most likes and brag about it’. Those with the loudest voices are getting the most attention. Did I hear you think “Trump” again?

Fooling around, or not?

I’ve made a fool of myself. How? Quite simply, I allowed myself to operate independently within my realm, the communications profession. How do I do that or, in other words, what does the profile of my ultimate communications position look like?

To start with, a modern court jester has real stories to tell. But he is also a very keen listener, open to all voices that are relevant. He is not judgmental and has good insight into what the priorities of all concerned groups or individuals are. He speaks languages and understands cultures. He is loyal and trustworthy. He connects people and knows how to be at the right spot at the right time. And finally, he doesn’t care if he is regarded a fool. He likes his job which doesn’t (always) include singing and dancing like in the old days… His tricks of the trade will be more technical and (social) media related, I would think.

Seriously qualified

Translated to a formal position within an organisation, this would require serious qualifications, I’m sure. Does a modern jester brag about it? Of course not, he is never in the foreground. That would only damage his independent and unique position, his “Narrenfreiheit”. Danny Kaye in the 50s comedy musical “The Court Jester”, puts it like this: ‘It’s a secret, Sire. Which has never before been revealed to anybody in the world.’

Check the video! Danny Kaye in the 50s musical hit, “The Court Jester”, tells the court how his character became a court jester:

‘I made a fool of myself’. Which isn’t that bad after all.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wohtuqCv5A8.

Please contact me if you (dis)agree.