PR is also a Product

The following is an excerpt from The Evangelists: Insights from Leaders of the Nation’s Most Beloved Brands. Written by Monica Padillo, this chapter is titled “PR is also a Product.” In it, Roseann Coscolluela-Villegas, the  Director for Corporate Public Relations at Robinsons Land Corporation, is interviewed about how the organization executes its strategy in maintaining good public relations.   

Although RLC is a large corporation that holds a place as one of the country’s leading  industrial and integrated real estate developers, it is a priority to show consumers that  the company has a human side. They wanted to show that beyond profit, there are loftier goals at RLC. 

The ace up their sleeve comes in the form of Roseann Coscolluela-Villegas, currently the  company’s Director for Corporate Public Relations.  

In order to accomplish RLC’s goal of showing their human side, Coscolluela-Villegas utilizes  what she calls “PR products.” PR products are initiatives done by RLC that are removed  from the business side of operations and only focus on RLC’s mission of making life easier  for every Filipino―her guiding north star.  

PR products then range anywhere from student entrepreneurship programs to outreach  programs meant to help the less fortunate. This mission also forms the backbone of the  company’s many outreach programs, which serve to both humanize the brand and improve  Filipino lives everywhere.  

“By labeling our PR initiatives as a ‘product,’ we’re able to think more of how it impacts our  business,” Coscolluela-Villegas said. “We’re able to take a step back and think: how is this  being perceived? Are we getting one step closer to our goals? We take it as seriously as  anything else.” 

This is why Coscolluela-Villegas shared that it’s key to utilize public relations in order  to humanize the brand, something she’s learned in her 32 years of service with RLC. “A  company is so much more than the brick-and-mortar, day-to-day operations that you see,”  she explained. “A brand needs to have character and a mission, something people can  relate to. Otherwise, things feel a little pointless.” 

One example of a PR product is Robinson Malls’ Entrep Corner program, where  entrepreneurial-minded students from Grade 11 up to the college level can get hands-on  retail experience. This means exposure to all aspects of the retail operations, from product  development all the way to studying the logistics behind merchandising, packaging, pricing,  and inventory. At the end of the program, students may even get a chance to temporarily  open kiosks at Robinsons Malls without having to pay the dues that other concessionaires  typically do.  

Of course, there are still challenges that come with the program. Because students are the  program’s main target, the batch that they work with changes every year and they don’t  have the luxury of cultivating a long-term relationship. It’s possible that one batch may  be more creative-minded or have a higher tolerance for long hours―each one has its own  edge. Thus, the program must be adjusted in small ways to accommodate the personalities  of each batch, in order to capture and hold their attention.  

 

“What we do in instances like these is try to listen as much as possible to what their goals  and aspirations really are,” Coscolluela-Villegas said. “Do they want to be in food? Retail?  We take that into consideration as the program moves along.” 

Yet Coscolluela-Villegas shared that she has no regrets plowing through the challenges  she faces with the Entrep Corner program. “Young talent is a terrible thing to waste. It’s  from these young people that most innovative ideas come from, so we want to be able  to support that any way we can,” she said. “After all, more than just being the future of  business, the youth are the future of our country.” 

A similar nationalistic spirit can also be found in another example of a PR product. Under  its Gift of Change program, RLC does things like giving away free eyeglasses for the less  fortunate. Coscolluela-Villegas explained that such a donation is actually a gift that keeps  on giving: when you give the gift of corrected eyesight, this can encourage one to do things  like read more or apply for a job. On a lighter note, it even helps them enjoy life a little more  by making their favorite teleseryes (telenovela) and movies much clearer. 

Finally, another PR product that RLC gives back is through its support of the arts. Its  ARTablado (a portmanteau of the words “art” and the Filipino word “entablado”, meaning  stage) program gives Filipino artists a venue to showcase their talent, with the company  highlighting the best pieces through the official ARTablado Facebook page to be seen by  thousands. As further proof of their dedication to the arts, RLC even launched a national  art competition in January 2020 where winners could get up to PHP60,000 cash and  their very own exhibition. The company even went as far as extending the competition’s  deadline when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. 

“Again, it goes back to our credo of making Filipino lives easier,” Coscolluela-Villegas  emphasized. “It would’ve been easy for us to cancel these public relations initiatives when  the pandemic hit, but we looked for ways to continue them regardless. We know that it’s  during a crisis we’re needed more than ever and we stepped up. That’s Robinsons through  and through.” 

RLC shows that no matter how big a company gets, there’s no reason for it to lose its  heart. PR can even be turned into a product in its own right, something that the company  “sells” to move closer to its mission and vision. Though it’s a novel idea, it clearly proves to  be an effective way of letting consumers know that they are part of a wider community― certainly a message always worth repeating.

 

To get more insights from other marketing leaders like Roseann Coscolluela-Villegas, please check out the full book, available for purchase here


The Evangelists - and other business books about the Philippines and Asia Pacific - will soon be streaming on Audiophile, our platform for exclusive Filipino audiobooks.

 

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