If you can’t beat them, join them. This is a saying that would not be out of place at Globe Telecom, the top mobile brand in the Philippines and the country’s second-largest communications company.
Over the last few years, the brand has reinvented itself. It overhauled its network in 2011 and has collaborated with a number of partners to improve its digital offering, rather than looking to offer competing services.
Globe Telecom was the first partner of Facebook in the Philippines, offering users free access to the social network in 2013 with its "Free Facebook" campaign, and it has also worked with Viber and WhatsApp.
The company’s most recent partnership, announced in October and formed with Google, enables Globe customers to use Chromecast, Google’s media streaming device, to beam content such as movies and music from their mobile devices to their televisions.
With a customer base of 54 million and with at least 30 percent of these online in one way or another, Ma Yolanda Crisanto, senior vice president of corporate communications at Globe Telecom, believes social media is one of the brand’s most important channels, for both promoting and protecting the business.
"Social media for PR helps us understand the pulse of our customers, how they view things and if our responses are reacted upon negatively or positively," she says. "Many Filipinos use Facebook and Twitter, and a major portion of our population is also young."
Crisanto has a team of 24 staff, working across five different departments within Globe’s communications department: internal communications strategy; external relations, sector relations; citizenship (CSR); and sustainability.
"Our PR team is internal and we only outsource to PR agencies for event management," explains Crisanto. "Under the external relations team we do have our own digital PR team which also works with an external agency for sentiment monitoring and digital/online management."
The bigger PR challenge facing Crisanto is continually gaining trust and nurturing brand loyalty from customers and other stakeholders. The telecoms sector, she believes, is one industry where consumer trust is quite low despite the scale of the business, owing to people’s everyday experiences with the network.
"At the same time, mobile phones are very personal so making sure that the services work, including after sales, is very critical," she explains. "As a business strategy, providing a better customer experience will differentiate us from the competition. At all times, we need to make sure that we deliver on this promise."
This is where PR comes in, ensuring that stakeholders are informed regularly, that they understand where Globe’s business is going, and how it is delivering its services to meet expectations.
To develop media relations, the brand looks to foster a personal relationship with various news outlets. To reach global markets, Crisanto says the business continues to use newswires to distribute its stories because "it’s very difficult to establish personal media relations across different countries".
Managing more general, industry-related issues is another huge challenge for Crisanto, mainly because of Globe’s size and the fact that the telecoms sector covers a diverse range of issues, including security, data and privacy, to name but a few.
"Regulatory measures and online security are huge issues within the telecoms sector because we are a highly regulated business," says Crisanto. "At the same time, we are an information technology company so customer data privacy and platform security are very critical too."
Crisanto’s team manages a quarterly PR event called the Wonderful World with Globe (WWG), which aims to showcase Globe’s latest products and service offerings to the media under a unified theme for the quarter, alongside company announcements.
According to Crisanto, it has become the biggest and most anticipated quarterly media event in the industry.
Next month the brand is working on a huge Star Wars event in Manila, in line with its five-year partnership with Disney that was announced in May. The collaboration aims to give Filipinos access to Disney, Marvel, Star Wars and Maker content via video-on-demand, interactive content and promotions on mobile and broadband.
In line with this, Globe Telecom has also transformed its Generation 3 stores nationwide into Star Wars-themed hubs with creative installations, exclusive Star Wars: Battle Pod arcade games, and premium collectible accessories, toys and gadgets, all up for grabs for Star Wars fans.
To manage these major events, Globe Telecom works with a number of external agencies including Team Asia, Wishcraft and BBDO. Crisanto says she continues to evaluate agency performance and to look for new agencies that can provide the best ideas as well as the resources to execute these events.
Getting the story right
As Globe Telecom invests more in social and digital media, Crisanto says its PR strategies do and will change as "stories across these channels are told differently, they have to be shareable and unique to compete in different platforms".
"We make it a point that our stories deliver consistent messaging and have good business or societal value," she adds. "Skill sets include being able to compose infographics – not just technical-based writing – and being able to discern the right story slant as well as being socially savvy."
Crisanto believes that now more than ever the communications department acts as a strong support team to the business, with its strength lying not only in putting stories out and engaging stakeholders but also influencing opinions.
"More than ever PR is being looked upon to solve many problems including product shortcomings as they go to market," says Crisanto. "PR involves the management of such issues now more often than before, because social media is also relentless in criticising products, brand and services."