Fine-Tuning the Media Relations Strategy
The following is an excerpt from The Evangelists: Insights from Leaders of the Nation’s Most Beloved Brands. Written by Pancho Dizon, this chapter is titled “Fine-Tuning the Media Relations Strategy.” In it, Lana Macapagal, the Asia-Pacific Public Relations Manager of Viber, is interviewed about how the organization executes its strategy in public relations.
A company’s media relations officer is arguably their most potent brand ambassador. Though they may not be the ones talking up the brand on TV commercials or gracing the gigantic billboards on EDSA, they’re the ones who speak to the press and handle all their questions. Aside from these duties, media relations officers have to keep a close eye on what’s going on in their industry and guide the company response accordingly.
Such is daily reality for Lana Macapagal, the Asia-Pacific Public Relations Manager for calling and messaging application Viber. With the app’s user base spanning over a billion people around the world, Macapagal certainly has her hands full.
“When your product is so relevant and widely-used,” she said, “you can’t afford to be lax with your approach to the media. A good, proactive relationship with the media is a competitive advantage and that’s certainly important anywhere you go.”
Competition is stiff in the messaging app market in particular, where there are a host of platforms vying for space on people’s phone screens. Thus, Macapagal shared that she has an assortment of ways to stay on top of current events and trends in her industry.
The first is the most obvious: simply read the news daily. According to Macapagal, what helps her is to hone in on a few key news and tech sites that give her the best insights. Even following certain personalities with clout and credibility in the industry can be a good source of information. Second, it also pays to go the extra mile and sign up for news alerts to instantly get notified on news articles or reports that are of interest.
“Of course, it helps that many of the major local media outlets are on Viber Communities, so I get updates straight from my phone,” she said.
However, Macapagal shared that keeping updated doesn’t have to mean just staying within your industry. “I’m pretty much online most of the day, so I try to catch any developments― the latest hit song, an awesome brand campaign, whatever’s trending―these are all good sources of information, ideas, and inspiration that could drive your next campaign.”
This kind of social listening also goes a long way when it comes to handling tricky questions. For example, given the high volume of information that passes through Viber on any given day, issues such as data privacy can be a concern. Macapagal explained that keeping abreast of what’s going on in the industry helps her craft comprehensive responses to anything the press might ask, therefore putting Viber in a position where they can nip potential problems in the bud.
Having a comprehensive view on what’s going on in the industry also makes it easier to understand things from an editor’s or a writer’s perspective. Keeping a pulse on what’s trending, for instance, can help substantiate any content they want to produce and position your brand as a steady, reliable source of information.
Of course, she also shared that another way to finetune one’s media relations skills is to simply empathize with the media themselves. “You have to invest a certain amount of time and effort in what the media does. Each outlet, each individual has a different way of doing things and that needs to be factored in when you collaborate with them―so you need to find that out,” she said, adding that it’s important to schedule frequent catch-ups with media connections as a simple but productive way of letting them know your company is easily accessible.
Macapagal also then noted that despite the role of today’s communications and marketing departments as content providers, the traditional media will always hold a central role in providing information. According to her, “Major media outlets have credibility and reputation, and the trust of audiences built and nurtured over many years. We may get information in a variety of ways, but we’ll always look to the media to confirm these.”
For further proof of its importance, one only needs to look at the fact that Viber gauges the success of a public relations campaign through key metrics from the media. Aside from Viber user numbers and engagement, the quantity and quality of pick-ups from media outlets are also looked at.
Traditional media is also highly unlikely to go anywhere anytime soon, despite the hit to mediums like radio and newspaper. “Amid the shift in the landscape, the media continues to transition and transform, staying relevant and leveraging digital platforms available, keeping in mind how each audience segment consumes news and content,” Macapagal explained. “You do away with one medium and another one simply pops up in its place.”
Viber’s strategy of keeping the media close by is part of their long-term plan to establish the company as a leader in a cutthroat field. Possessing a mastery of dealing with the media enables Viber to send a strong and clear message to the Asia-Pacific market about who they are, what they’re about, and what they hope to achieve.
“Public relations can be a challenging job,” Macapagal said. “But at the end of the day, the feeling of knowing you contribute so much to the company is a feeling unlike any other.”
To get more insights from other marketing leaders like Lana Macapagal, please check out the full book, available for purchase here.
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