SufintriRahayu, Traveloka: PR Needs “Love” to be Competence
JAKARTA, PRINDONESIA.CO - We met three days later in Jakarta. Approximately on Monday (8/10/2018), one hour before launch, two hours before she engaged into the activity she usually called: never ending meeting, and two days before the woman who was born on 31 January, 1978, departed for the IMF invitation in Bali.
Started from an impressive meeting at an event in Jakarta, PR INDONESIA found out the fact that her 20-year career as public relations (PR) could not be underestimated. To RatnaKartika, the woman who described the story of working in a unicorn company like Traveloka is like running the ultimate dreams.
What has the world of PR shaped you for the past 20 years?
I always see myself as a communicator not PR. Therefore, my job is to help the company to develop effective and efficient communication strategies, then I communicated them to the company’s stakeholders. I have done this task in various companies and industries. The variety of experiences finally made me able to have a general perspective (helicopter view), then applied cross strategy from various industries.
I am an alumni of the Department of Communication Sciences, Padjadjaran University, Bandung. After college, I began my career in a non-profit organization, The ASEAN Secretariat, as a marketing communication — the place where I started building networks. Then, I moved to a PR agency. Here, I learned the way to build relations with the media, make releases, conduct media monitoring, calculate ROI, manage human resources, talent, to handle communication crises for clients from various backgrounds such as fast moving consumer goods, manufacture, to politics.
Six years studying in the PR agency world, I moved to British American Tobacco (BAT). At that time they decided to buy all of Bentoel's assets, a local cigarette companies, and needed a head of corporate communications. This was where my toughness in managing internal communication was tested.
Indeed, there was a change in management and acculturation of work culture between the old company and the new one, making 80 percent of my focus given more to manage and develop communication strategies in the internal, while the 20 percent was given to the external.
What internal communication strategy did you do at that time?
We make programs called Your Voice and Agent of Change. Well, Your Voice is an internal communication survey for employees. Every month we conduct surveys to find out the mood of employees, we call it the mood tracker. This step must be done because there are adjustments that must be made when a company buys a new company.
The first month, they are usually confused - somewhere lost. The second month, hate starts to appear. The third month is chaos– some employees decided to resign. This process is natural to occur
When we conduct the programs, we will be able to know the level of success of the internal communication strategy in the first six months. If the mood percentage is up or happy, then the communication strategy that we are doing is right. Conversely, if it’s drop, immediately do another strategy. For example, asked the leader to hold one-on-one sessions between directors the level below the leader, or if necessary, raise the salaries. Next, we made an agent of change — company ambassadors. Usually, who we choose is the employees who is vocal or initially lost somewhere. They are the ones we have to approach more, give understanding, and special programs. If they cannot adjust, they usually choose to retreat.
In the second year, our focus is more to manage the factory. Every day, there is always a communication crisis, starting from demonstration to daily workers who are possessed, he-he. But I learn from there.
During 1.5 years working for Avrist, there were many changes. What is the reason that you decided to move to Traveloka?
It’s destiny. I met the founder and CMO of Traveloka a year ago. Initially, it was only a 30-minutes conversation that turned into two hours. It turned out that we have harmony starting from our perspective of the world, our value of life, work culture, public, technology, to PR.At that time they conveyed their needs for the existence of PR and Communication. All these times the work of PR was done functionally by PR manager, while their company was incessantly expanding to Southeast Asia such as Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines.I accepted the offer. Because, from the bottom of my heart, I felt much happier when carrying out the communication function according to my soul’s calling all this time.
Are there differences between PR who works in the digital technology industry and PR in other industries?
Actually the basic concept of PR anywhere is the same. That the purpose and objectives of PR is to build reputation, brand, and help the company with every stakeholder to have the same perception.
However, because the daily activity of the company which engages in the industry such as ours is close with technology, it’s like technology has flowed in our bloodstream, then unconsciously the way PR communicates always uses the latest communication channels. The difference is usually realized when we interact with other people. That in communicating, we use digital more, making use of many platforms that can help us to collaborate so that distance and time are no longer obstacles for us to be able to finish our work, compared to them who does not work in the technology industry.
Another difference, the companies that engages in the technology industry are known to have high competition, their pace is growing fast. This condition inevitably makes PR must continue to learn and keep up with the global technology trends that change very dynamically.
As a PR, I don’t see it as a challenge, but we are lucky because we are the new adaptor. Our jobs as the new adaptor are to translate and convince the audience that we bring something new that seems impossible, now it is no longer a dream. Even, it can be a trend which is later used by all the public and changes behavior.
For example, the first time our founder found the ideology about online travel agents, the public could not immediately accept it. With their old mindset, they found it hard to imagine how this something new worked. When it has been realized, the use of technology platform – which was probably can only be seen in fictional genre movies – has become an integral part of the people’s daily activities. Let alone designing a trip, buying gas, to medicine now can be done through application.
Behavior changes occur. In the past, people were interesting from the material point of view. Now, people judge us to be interesting if we live a happy life and have lots of exciting experiences.
What does the company expect from public relations?
They want the existence of PR and communication to be more strategic and mature. First, PR can give advice about what should be done and the prioritized for the company. Second, PR can help the business to make our products to be better known. To make it happen, we don’t need a big team, but instead efficient and competent team. Well, what I see is that the employees at Traveloka are classified as class A genes. Each of them is competent in their field so I have no difficulties in giving direction. Next, just be smart in managing priority and desire.
What reputation does Traveloka want to build?
We want to be known as a service provider technology that is closely related to travel and lifestyle that always listens and prioritizes the customers’ needs (user centric).
What is the structural development of PR at Traveloka now?
As a fast-growing company, our organization is unique. I, as the PR Director for example, direct the PR team. This PR team manages relations with the media and external stakeholder. But, I also help to supervise the internal communication and government relations. It’s like I’m the one who sew the message, as well as the conductor who leads the communication orchestra.
What is the most important thing to do during a crisis?
To empathize. We have to think about more impacts which experienced by the stakeholders than ourselves. Be a good spokesperson and collaborate.
In your opinion, what competencies that PR must have today?
Firstly, PR must love to write. I don’t agree that PR is perceived as someone who likes to talk. Instead the task of PR is to prepare other people so that they are confident to speak in front of the public. Secondly, they must be at a strategic position according to their level. Third, they must love to listen. By listening, we have a broad knowledge and can be a good spokesperson. There are many PR practitioners whose characters are introverted, but contextual while they are speaking in front of the public. Lastly, they must love to build relations/engagement with other people.
Since when do you have a passion in PR?
I have this passion since high school. The momentum was when I joined the Student Council, I was appointed as the public relations. In order for me to run my task well, I looked for a lot of information about public relations from books. And my writing skill was honed from my hobby of writing short stories. But, it was not a fictional story. For me, PR is not just a profession, but it also has become a part of life. The function of PR I implemented not only in my work, but also in my daily life. Like the way I educate my child. How can I have diplomacy and convince him. The point, I’m in the stage where there is no problem that can’t be solved by communication.
What do you do when you are free?
I travel. My family and I always make time to go out together. Even we always make the time to go out of town every month. After all, now travelling to a dream place is not impossible. There is PayLater, pay by installments while arranging itinerary and hunting for attraction voucher.I have taken my child to travel since he was a baby. Believe it or not, his adaptation skill is excellent. He can eat anything anywhere, ride on a plane from business to economic class. If he is travelling with limited space, he just put on earphones.
What dreams do you want to achieve?
My husband and I agree that all the lines of our lives today are to support the realization of our child’s dream. For example, we have a dream that our child can study in a school that prioritizes EQ and IQ. Therefore, his parents must also learn. That’s why I looked for a job that adheres to flexi hour, so is my husband.
What are your life principles?
To focus on my own life, the others will follow. I’m not a nosy person. That’s why I don’t have social media accounts other than LinkedIn. But I’m nosy for work matters and all its developments. (rtn)