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Repositioning A Country: Shaping Guatemala’s Reputation as the Place for Business

"If it wasn’t for my UK experience at WMG I wouldn’t have known about how to build a strong and long-lasting relationship with strategic partners.”

Although a few people may have some negative perceptions of Guatemala that is not how Manuela Rodriguez Melgar sees the country where she was born. In addition to enjoying warm weather all year, the Central American country has a young workforce eager to promote international trade partnerships.

“The real Guatemala is a good place to do business – it’s not unsafe, the people are kind and we have one of the most neutral English accents which is great for companies establishing call centres here,” says the MSc graduate in International Trade, Strategy and Operations.

With her background in marketing, the 27-year-old is undoubtedly the right person for reinventing Guatemala’s image. The skills Manuela learned during her time at WMG are proving invaluable in her current role at the Ministry of Economy promoting her country to foreign investors. Her talents are needed more than ever, given the devastating economic impact of COVID-19.

The success of marketing a brand relies on protecting its good name. Through the WMG reputation management module, Manuela was taught about changing people’s perceptions and applies this learning on a daily basis. She explains. “My course tutors weren’t just talking about the theory. They’d actually been employed in large companies or were entrepreneurs and had learned from their mistakes and their successes.”

Her aim was take back home all the knowledge she had gained at WMG. This included creating a map of every stakeholder involved in promoting her country. This enabled her to build up an indispensable picture of how committed they were to ‘brand Guatemala.’

The advice she found most important was to go straight to the decision-maker if you want something. Being in the UK gave her access to important contacts including on the UK Department for International Trade, PRO ECUADOR, PROCHILE and Financial Times. This led to Guatemala City being ranked top of the investment destination’s ranking system for cost-effectiveness in the Americas. It was the first time the country had been nominated and entering was free. “If it wasn’t for my UK experience at WMG I wouldn’t have known about how to build a strong and long-lasting relationship with strategic partners.”

In the midst of a crisis it’s still important to look to the future. With an achiever like Manuela helping to shape Guatemala’s prospects, there’s always hope of sunnier days to come.

Since completing this interview, Manuela has been promoted into a new role as Deputy Head of Mission for the Guatemalan Embassy in El Salvador. In this role, Manuela continues to promote trade and business in Guatemala.