Joem in Singapore earlier this year.
The omnipresent smile
WRY BREAD - Philip Cu-Unjieng (The Philippine Star) - June 9, 2019 - 12:00am

In practically every industry and work arena, there’ll be those unsung heroes — the ones who work tirelessly and fulfill roles that are absolutely indispensable for any endeavor’s success, yet do so without calling attention to themselves.

As the head of media relations at Fuentes Manila, Joem Hernandez, who passed away at a relatively young age recently, played such a role. The most visible aspect of the work that one would remember him for is how at launches, events and media-related activities, Joem would be that first face you’d see as you approached the registration table. Ever ready with a beaming smile and an earnest word of greeting, Joem would be a welcoming committee packaged in one person. And that smile of his was one issued to everyone who approached the table — editor, journalist, photographer, blogger, account executive, or “lost soul!” It didn’t matter who you were, Joem was there to welcome you; or direct you to the right place if you were the lost soul.

The April 2019 birthday celebrants at Fuentes Manila, with Joem on the far right.

But the work of Joem had commenced weeks before the event, as he would handle the inviting, the calling, the collecting of RSVPs, and ensuring a healthy head count of invitees. Post-event, the work continued as his section would also be responsible for making sure media kits and new images were efficiently distributed, and that the contracted output would be forthcoming, recorded, and made part of the monthly reports to client. And let’s keep in mind that one is handling more than a single event each week; so as the succession of media events pile up on each other, you’re practically performing a juggling act, making certain none of the “balls” come crashing to the ground.

In a real sense, media relations is the nerve center of any PR-media business. Output and amplification being one of the major reasons why the PR business exists at all. You can have the greatest of marketing and promotional ideas, think “out of the box” with impunity, and so on but if only a few hear about these initiatives, if it’s picked up by a paucity of mainstream publications and digital portals, or written about by only a handful of bloggers, all that effort goes for naught.

And if the above reads as a formidable task in itself, that’s only half the story in real time. Some of us in media can feel entitled, be super demanding and spoiled. “Why isn’t the food being served yet?”, “Can my meal be plated so I don’t have to stand in the buffet line?”, “Can I take home more than one loot bag?”— the litany of snarky comments could drive job to exasperation. But Joem was a fountainhead of patience and equanimity. Without batting an eyelash, he would make everyone feel at home, and ensure that all were “happy campers.” That was the special magic Joem created at every event; knowing that in the end, effective PR is all about relationships.

Like a gardener or horticulturist, he would plant seeds of friendship with all he encountered in the media. And for three decades, he would nurture, grow  and strengthen these friendships, while constantly acquiring and developing new ones. It was this uncanny ability to forge lasting relationships that made Joem such an MVP in the arena of PR and media.

If there’s one soul who’ll be overjoyed to welcome Joem to heaven, it would be St. Peter. Here finally, is someone who can make St. Peter relievo as souls reach the Gates of Heaven. Joem can assist Peter, welcome the new arrivals and direct them inside — or even keep that smile on his face, while informing the lost souls that they’ve come to the wrong “gate.” Joem will always be remembered for that genuine, disarming smile.

Watch over us Joem, and I sincerely hope we’ll see that irrepressible smile again  when it’s our turn to register at those pearly gates. You will be missed!

FUENTES MANILA JOEM HERNANDEZ
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