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IPRA Philippines’ CommuniTalks series: Learning never stops

SINCE quarantine was imposed in March last year, I’m sure most, if not all, of us have attended a webinar or two. Regardless of profession or interest, there was surely at least one online learning session for you, mostly offered for free. We have never had so many opportunities to upgrade our knowledge and skills—at no cost to us or our organization—than we have had these past months.

Personally, I am grateful to all the organizations who ran those free learning sessions. While the company I work for did not totally remove our training budget, like many others did, we had to significantly reduce overall spending. That meant less chances to enroll in external training programs—at a time when learning was desperately needed.

Thank God for all those free webinars, as well as the various learning resources—frameworks, templates, and market insights—that many organizations released free of charge. And we also had columns like this one, which provided insights from various points of view and experiences, on different topics under the public relations, communication, and even marketing umbrella.

The birth of CommuniTalks

THIS Thursday, Ipra Philippines will be holding the maiden edition of its CommuniTalks online learning series. Headlining our first foray into this space is none other than Ipra President Philippe Borremans, a veteran emergency risk communication consultant and certified trainer, who will talk about Communication Trends in 2021 and Beyond—which also happens to be the title of the webinar.

In a meeting among the speakers last week, he gave a sneak peek of what he will be discussing. What I found most interesting were his points on the impact and influence of the communication industry, not only as a result of the pandemic, but because of the many changes that the world had gone through over the years.

I’m particularly keen on hearing more about how impact and influence can be adequately measured – definitely not with the use of AVEs (Advertising Value Equivalents), Borremans said. While many organizations worldwide have started to veer away from this metric, many, including local companies, continue to use this as a measure of impact.

Borremans will also touch on the rise of data-driven and science-backed communication; the evolving role of communication practitioners, particularly in the area of trendspotting; ethics and inclusion; and mental health issues hounding communication practitioners.

Meaningful discussions

CommuniTalks installment also features four Ipra Philippines members as speakers: Richard Pomar Burgos, director of the Science and Technology Information Institute of the Department of Science and Technology; Joy Lumawig-Buensalido, president and CEO of Buensalido PR and Communications; Ritzi Villarico-Ronquillo, APR and IABC Fellow, a veteran consultant and coach on business communication and strategic public relations; and myself, as assistant vice president and head of Advocacy and Marketing at Maynilad Water Services Inc.

Burgos’ talk, titled “Lessons Learned from a Government Agency’s Point of View,” will detail how his team at the DOST was able to advance the advocacy “science communication for all,” amid a pandemic and despite having less than 0.5 percent of the DOST budget. He summed up his key points using the now-popular acronym PPE: Pivot, Perform, Excel.

“We found out that with our ‘little mandate’ to keep a science and technology library, to communicate ‘Science for the People,’ and to capacitate our stakeholders, that we actually have a big voice. From the numbers, we realize it was not a bad year after all. We may have lost a lot in 2020 but we did not lose the lessons. In fact, we learned a lot,” an excerpt of his talk read.

Buensalido will discuss how her agency adapted to the pandemic, citing how her maternal instinct went into overdrive, allowing her company not only to survive but thrive. She emphasized the importance of relationships: of treating employees and clients like family, and doing everything possible to protect them.

“During a crisis situation like the pandemic, one can no longer think of achieving a perfect or normal balance between the needs of clients and the agency. We must lend our help when needed, as long as we can give it. Trust, credibility, and long, solid relationships built over time are what both the client and the agency can fall back on. It’s almost like a marriage where both parties must support and be there for each other in both good times and bad, to keep the relationship going,” she related.

“Much-needed presence and support for clients in need is something we must be prepared to give, sometimes without even counting the costs. In the end, I believe that good deeds will always go back to you,” she added.

Villarico-Ronquillo will share her insights on different communication platforms and how communicators can use these to their advantage. In her talk titled “Communication Transformed: Your Niche in the Multi-Channel World,” she will discuss various channels and how these relate to your target audiences, your available resources, and your “core” as an organization.

“Who are you? Who are they [audiences]? Through the slew of many channels, whether legacy or new, it all boils down to who you are, your purpose and core, who your audiences are, and what you want to attain; where they are and what channel will fit; and what resources you have. There has to be rhyme and reason for the media choice, mix, and frequency,” she said.

Finally, I will talk about how advocacy campaigns can be made sustainable, in my presentation titled Sustainable CSR: Going Beyond Philanthropy. Among my key points are value chain integration, strategic partnerships, and the development mindset—all key ingredients of programs that can outlive and outlast their proponents.

I am a firm believer that true corporate social responsibility is intertwined with an organization’s core: its vision, mission, and values. The term CSR has been so loosely used, especially when the pandemic struck, that we sometimes forget this fundamental point. I will further expound on this on Thursday.

Please visit our Facebook page,, for the registration link. This event is free of charge and is open to everyone.

PR Matters is a roundtable column by members of the local chapter of the United Kingdom-based International Public Relations Association (Ipra), the world’s premier organization for PR professionals around the world. Abigail L. Ho-Torres is AVP and head of Advocacy and Marketing of Maynilad Water Services Inc. She spent more than a decade as a business journalist before making the leap to the corporate world.

We are devoting a special column each month to answer our readers’ questions about public relations.  Please send your questions or comments to [email protected]

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