Venezuela is the fourth largest supplier of crude and refined petroleum products to the US. Oil revenues account for around 90 per cent of its export earnings, 50 per cent of the federal budget and almost 30 per cent of GDP.
This dependency on the oil industry led to a serious crisis in the mid noughties when a nationwide strike lowered GDP by nine per cent in 2002 and a further eight per cent in 2003.
In an attempt to bolster the economy, President Hugo Chavez nationalised many of the key growth markets outside of the oil industry. This included the communications industry.
Hill & Knowlton affiliate agency Pizzolante general manager Paulina Rodriguez Werner says: ‘From a Government perspective, PR practices and communication has become a central part of its strategy.’
Now, in 2010, GDP has seen an upward growth and is currently in excess of $300bn.
This had had a major impact on consumer spend in the country, as well as the government’s investment in infrastructure.
In turn, the communications sector has blossomed: mirroring the country’s economic growth.
With only around one per cent of the population having an internet connection and a quarter of the country’s inhabitants having any form of access to the internet, the digital infrastructure in Venezuela is still developing.
Despite this, where accessible, the uptake of digital media has been successful according to Rodriguez Werner.
She says: ‘Digital media today have a strong influence, mainly due to the immediacy of news, the possibility for the reproduction of personal opinions and documentation of various situations or issues that occur.’
Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are all widely used in the comms sector alongside more localised online media platforms, including; Noticias24, Descifrado.com, Confirmado.com, Noticiero Digital and Globovision.net, elnacional.com, eud.com, unionradio.net, lapatilla.com, AVN.gob.ve, Aporrea.org, and Rebelion.org.
According to the CIA Factbook, the broadcast industry is ‘supervised’ by the Government, with one state-run and four privately owned networks. There is also one Government backed, pan-American channel and a state-run radio network of around 15 channels.
Key television channels are; Venezolana de Television, TVES, Telesur, Vive TV, Metropolitano and ANTV, along with Globovision and Televen.
Union Radio, Circuito X, Radio Nacional de Venezuela (RNV), YVKE Mundial and Rumbos are the main radio stations.
Widely-read print publications include; El Universal, El Nacional, Ultimas Noticias, El Mundo and Diario VEA.
The increase in consumer spend has been reflected in the portfolio of major brands operating in the Venezuelan market.
Telecommunications brands are doing particularly well, with a combination of local and global brands working out of the country. Digitel, Movistar, Cantv and Movilnet all compete for telecommunications space locally, with international leaders HP, LG and Samsung taking a major share in the market.
Local food brands Polar, Fama de America, Lacteos Los Andes, Cargill, Monaca and Cestaticket all play a major part in a thriving food market.
Overseeing the PR market are two key professional bodies; The Guild of Public Relations Professionals of Venezuela (Colegio de Relacionistas de Venezuela) and the Venezuelan Association of University Professionals of Public Relations (Asociacion Venezolana de Tecnicos Superios Universitarios de Relaciones Publicas – AVTESURP).
Authors of the report ‘PR Landscapes – Venezuela’, Susan Medina and Natashya Rios found that, in general terms, the professional body is a difficult one to maintain in Venezuela.
They write: ‘Creating and maintaining a professional association in Venezuela is a challenge due to the short tradition among Venezuelans with professional groups.
‘Practitioners seem to prefer independence or limited association with their organisations or employers.’
The Colegio de Relacionistas de Venezuela, having been established in 1956, demonstrates a strong heritage for the industry, despite the struggle to make professional bodies work in the Venezuelan market.
Global agencies Hill & Knowlton, Burson-Marsteller, Ketchum-Pleon, Fleishman-Hillard and Edelman, all operate either independently or out of the country through affiliates.
PROA Comunicaciones Integraddas, Comstat Rowland, Chuky Reyna & Asociados and Asesorac are all key agencies operating locally.