JAKARTA, PRINDONESIA.CO – His personality is like the wisdom of the rice plant “the more it contains, the more it bows down”. Ihwan is still Ihwan. He’s aware because he does not have a Communication Science background, but instead a Master's degree in Bio management from SITH-ITB. However, he is also not arrogant even though we know that his knowledge and experience in the field of public relations (PR) has highly improved compared to his first time in the world of public relations.
In fact, in a fairly short time, he has contributed to delivering PG PR to a strategic level. He also encouraged the establishment of the Corporate Communication Guidelines. Also, led his team to achieve many achievements. Finally, PG won Platinum at the PR INDONESIA Awards (PRIA) 2020. In that competition, he was also named Best Presenter.
To Ratna Kartika from PR INDONESIA, through a virtual interview on Friday (8/5/2020), Ihwan shared his experiences and hopes for public relations practitioners in PG and Indonesia. Here's the excerpt.
You seem to have gotten busier during this pandemic.
Indeed. I rarely work from home during the pandemic. I go to the office/field more often. Especially since PG was appointed by the Ministry of State-Owned Enterprises (BUMN) to become the Coordinator of the Covid-19 Response Task Force for the East Java region. We have to coordinate intensively with various stakeholders ranging from regional leaders, communities, police officers, and so on. We built Command Center Posts of the East Java BUMN Covid-19 Response Task Force in 38 cities/regencies.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, what is the role of public relations in helping and supporting business continuity and maintaining the company's reputation?
Even during the pandemic and limited space for movement due to the policy of maintaining physical distancing, it does not mean that PR has stopped communicating. We must stay connected and maintain engagement, including with our colleagues who are on social media.
We remain active in producing unique, creative, and relevant content. Content that contains empathy, support, and is in accordance with the company values. In this time of crisis, we don't use too many public platforms, such as social media, which tends to overproduce content. On the other hand, PG Public Relations builds more online events such as webinars and virtual video conferences which we believe are able to produce calmer, cooler, and more beneficial interactions. On the other hand, the corporation can still connect with its customers.
What tactical steps would you take in the face of a crisis like this pandemic?
When we’re facing a crisis, I always ask my friends to stay calm and don't panic. Check the facts first, find out if it’s a hoax or not. Then, immediately formed a crisis team. Centralize all incoming and outgoing information only through the crisis team. Map the parties affected by the issue. Specify a key message. Identify communication channels and the right narrative to reach each stakeholder, but make sure the key message is the same.
Appoint an official company spokesperson. We assign spokespersons in stages from the Corporate Secretary, the board of directors, to the CEO. Determine how often the CEO should appear when dealing with the public.
Other things that should not be forgotten, provide education and information to internal employees about what is happening. Including the dos and don’ts. This is important because information leakage originating from unauthorized internal circles will worsen or even cause a new crisis.
To the public, show the company's efforts in solving problems accompanied by empathy. Empathy is the antidote when we are faced with a problem that tends to make those who are affected more emotional and sensitive. Monitor the news in various media. Evaluate progress consistently. Report to management regularly.
In your opinion, what are the issues and dynamics of public relations in the fertilizer industry like PG today?
The fertilizer business is a strategic business that is full of rules set by the government. Every change in regulations always has implications for company policy. Our challenge lies in how quickly the company responds to regulations and how well the company communicates change.
What is your career background like?
I started my career at the PG Research Department in 2005. My job was to create new products that would support the company's business. As a hotbed, almost all of PG's innovative products were born in this unit.
Furthermore, I got the task of coordinating all sales activities for West Java, Banten, and Jakarta, then Central Java and Yogyakarta. What was interesting was that my job here was not only to pursue turnover but also to learn to be a company representative and to carry out stakeholder management functions. The next assignment was no less challenging. On May 1, 2017, I received the mandate as the Manager of Corporate Public Relations to date.
Do you have a background in Communication Studies?
Not at all. I am a graduate of agriculture from the Faculty of Agriculture, University of Brawijaya. In 2011, I earned a Master's degree in Bio management from SITH-ITB.
Did you feel shocked at the start of your assignment?
Actually, there is no public relations manager at PG who has a Communication Science background. Even so, that doesn't mean they are less important. Instead, they are the chosen people and have the capacity. Usually, those who are stationed here are those who have crossed various divisions. Management considerations can be used to make sure those in public relations have really delved into the way this company works.
My educational background in agriculture is also useful for PR work. In fact, it became a strong capital, both when I was a marketer and a PR professional. Since PG's main product is a solution for the agro-industry, formal agricultural education is very helpful in mastering content, phenomena, and product knowledge.
How do you catch up, especially as the world of PR is known to be dynamic?
It can be said that PR works 24/7 ranging from handling crises, technical meetings, creating publication content, formulating stand by statements and press releases, media monitoring, stakeholder management, media management, to fighting hoaxes and spam. Not to mention those related to protocol, event management, and many more. Public relations practitioners have to deal with various parties, from clients, CEOs, directors, bosses, journalists, officials, NGOs, communities, stakeholders, to celebrities.
To always tune in, I listen and read a lot. Luckily, in this country, we have a media that specifically examines the performance and dynamics of PR, namely PR INDONESIA . This magazine also contributes to accelerating me in the world of public relations. Apart from, of course, reading the public relations sciences.
I also always think positively, discuss a lot, explore PR wisdom from PR gurus, take the essence of other people's experiences related to public relations. Including, daring to throw myself into various public relations competitions. To always catch-up, there is no other way but to be brave. Luckily, when I joined here, PG PR was already filled with competent people. As new to public relations, I studied a lot and asked them questions. No need to be ashamed.
What are the messages and expectations of Rahmad Pribadi, the President Director of PG, to public relations?
The President Director once said that the company's growing business resulted in no longer being able to place PR as a unit that was the last to be informed, but the first to react. It should not be considered at any time but must have played a role as a strategic management function in relation to building, maintaining sustainability, and protecting the company's reputation. PR should not only be the loudspeaker of the directors, but they must give more value to the message conveyed. In fact, it became a corporate score.
What is the evidence of the seriousness of the leadership so that public relations is considered strategic?
Public relations is considered important and strategic because it directly collaborates with the highest decision-maker. For example, when a director is going to be interviewed by the media, the director must call for PR, then asks questions regarding the message that the corporation has to convey. To carry out this role, PG Public Relations must be trained and know how to make the right key messages. PR is an advisor to the CEO.
Our President Director is very enthusiastic, even encouraging us to form the PG Group Communication Forum. The goal is that all aspects of communication, not only internally, but also with PG's subsidiaries and subsidiaries entity, are connected, synergized, and coordinated. During the first meeting of this forum, he took the time to attend to open the event and provide directions so that we can manage the communication aspects well.
Because of his attention to the communication aspect, in 2019, he was awarded the Best Leader Supporting PR & Communication at the Indonesian Public Relations Award (AHI). This appreciation is the fruit of the leadership's commitment, support, and concern for the progress of corporate communication management.
Apart from the aspects above, what are the other reasons behind the PG CEO and board of directors’ full support of the existence of public relations?
The Board views and emphasizes that communication is one of the most important aspects of doing business. For that, they fully support the management of the communication aspects optimally. Moreover, PG is currently carrying out a business transformation as an agro-industrial solution to sustainable agriculture.
What was the most interesting and challenging experience while being a PR?
The Covid-19 pandemic is indeed a challenge for me and the team. However, this crisis is a field for us to learn better. But if I can choose, I am always impressed with the management of communication in the PG Company Neighborhood (MSP). It is interesting because the characteristics and patterns of the people are unique and varied. It is also challenging because the diversity of society requires us to always innovate to find variations in communication techniques.
As a bridge between MSP and management, public relations must be good at playing roles. When public relations are in the community what is brought up is in the interests of the company. Public Relations will ensure that no community activities threaten the company's business activities.
But, when public relations are in the internal and management, we will bring the interests of the community. Public relations will ensure that no public interest is ignored by the company. This is the beauty of PR. This role allows having a rich personality. My personality who likes to listen and learn has not changed since I became a PR. However, my empathy and sympathy increased.
What legacy do you want to give to PG PR?
I want them to inherit the enthusiasm and confidence and pride of being PG PR. This company is important for Indonesia. This is because half of our food needs are managed by this company.
I also always advise my friends not to depend on others. They must believe in their dreams. So, whoever is part of PG PR, it doesn't matter, because they have the same character, principles, and philosophy.
Since when did you find your PR passion?
I am among those who believe that passion is not found, but created. This means that if we know that the task given to us is a noble job that will bring benefits, then this heart and mind will encourage the birth of passion to produce that passion.
What do you do for your "me time"? Why?
My "Me time" is with my family. Family is a charger and a source of inspiration. I also like reading. When you are immersed in reading, all the pressure you are feeling will lift and disappear. The next is work. Isn't that strange? But I’m serious. I miss it when I’m not working at the office.
What is your principle of life?
Don't give up, there is God's power over something. Live life with integrity and optimism. Believe that every problem has a solution and are sure that the effort doesn’t lie.
What dreams do you still want to achieve?
There are many. However, I was taught to always feel enough. But, if it must be summarized in one sentence, I want Indonesia to become a sovereign, just, prosperous country. And I am in it, actively involved in moving the wheel of change.
What is the first thing you want to do when this pandemic is over?
It is undeniable that a lot of work has been delayed due to this pandemic. When it's over, the first thing I want to do is visit the farmers. Before the pandemic, I regularly visited to listen and seek aspirations from them. Starting from finding out what they expect to the technology and products they need. (rtn)