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.