Gojek's corporate affairs chief on PR's role in gaining investor trust

If anything, the public relations sector this year has proved that it is the unsung hero of the business world. Not only did PR professionals this year fight a multitude of fires and crises, they also proved their effectiveness in budget crunch era.  But while, many large corporations have understood the value of having a robust PR teams, it is not necessarily at the top of minds for tech and small and medium enterprises.

However in a conversation with MARKETING-INTERACTIVE, Nila Marita, chief of corporate affairs, Gojek Group who will be speaking at the upcoming PR Asia conference, said that PR needs to be at the top of the mind for such industries as it plays a vital role in gaining trust and credibility from investors. This certainly proved to be true for hyper growth business such as Gojek’s.

Marita will be speaking on a panel titledRiding the unicorn: Public relations in the tech, SME and start-up scene”. Sign up for the conference here.

Gojek, which became a unicorn in 2016, prides itself in solving problems for people and businesses in Southeast Asia.  In 2019, New York based CB Insights listed Gojek among 19 global decacorns.

 “As many of our investors are global or based in markets outside of our region, a lot of our communications efforts have played a significant role in raising awareness of Southeast Asia’s growth potential and the positive impact that Gojek is creating here,” Marita said.

“We’re fortunate that corporate affairs has been a valued function within the Gojek business since day one, and that we have had the opportunity to play an active role in shaping the company’s strategy and multi-stakeholder communications,” she added.

Gojek was founded on the principle of leveraging technology to improve lives – and has since aided several industries to solve problems in Indonesia and the region, from transport services to food delivery and cashless payments. In line with its overall business efforts, the key duty of Gojek’s PR teams is to showcase the innovation and impact of the business in a meaningful way, Marita explains.

“While we have grown in size and scale and become a regional player, our strategy of authentic and meaningful communications remains. Our PR efforts do not only focus on optics that will build the brand's external image, but continue to showcase the positive impact of the business on people’s lives, at scale,” she explained.

Dealing with 2020’s challenges

One of the toughest situations that 2020 brought about was the multitude of job losses. Not being spared from this tumulus time, Gojek had to shutter some of its “non-core verticals” such as GoLife, which offered home massages and cleaning services, and physical food business GoFood Festivals. Painfully, the company saw approximately 430 of its employees being laid off.  Gojek wasn’t alone in its sacrifices being made to ensure long-term sustainability of its business. Its fierce competitor Grab also faced a similar situation having to cut 360 members of its team. 

Marita explained that this year, as a large chunk of her time has been spent aligning with internal stakeholders to prioritise the most effective and impactful initiatives and cascading that into a meaningful communications strategy and plan. Crediting her team’s unyielding rigour, Marita said the teams  at Gojek “has been extremely dynamic” and Gojek’s corporate affairs team has played a central role in driving consistent and reliable communications to all those impacted within its ecosystem and beyond.

“The pandemic has had an impact on people and businesses everywhere, including ours. Gojek is a part of the very fabric of communities we operate in, keeping cities moving, putting food on the table for families and supporting the livelihoods of millions of partners. So when the pandemic stuck, we made it our greatest priority to keep people safe and productive, while at the same time mobilising resources to support those most impacted by the pandemic - especially our driver and merchant partners. This was no small task,” she added.

But while it had to amputate parts of its business, Gojek remained true to its vision of being an integral part of society leading to its established of the Gojek Partner Support Fund. The fund, amounting US$7 million, under the Anak Bangsa Bisa Foundation was created to support the livelihood of partners affected by the COVID-19 slowdown.

“Supporting this work has been our greatest challenge - as well as our biggest accomplishment - as a corporate affairs team,” Marita said.  “We pivoted quickly to support the business to roll out each of these important new initiatives during an incredibly challenging time. I’m proud of the role our team has played in ensuring meaningful communications across our ecosystem and to all our stakeholders, including aligning with initiatives implemented by national and international health authorities,” she said.

What do you think the future holds for PR?

One of Gojek’s core values is to “become a scientist” - this refers to finding innovative solutions that are backed by data and insights. This is a value that Marita says she has “learnt from tremendously” during her time at Gojek, and one that she thinks all PR professionals should adopt.

“In a data-driven world, I think it is essential for all business strategies and plans to be backed by strong insights and analysis, and this includes PR ideas,” she said.

Adding that we are all living in a world where people are bombarded with information, PR now plays an essential role in the type of content that people consume. As such, it is essential for PR strategies to be gravitated around meaningful, authentic communications. Moreover, while PR has traditionally been a function that is responsible for a brand’s external image, PR professionals will continue to play an increasingly critical role in shaping the impact that organizations can have on the lives of people.

Join us on week-long journey at PR Asia 2020 as we delve into topics such as diversity, cancel culture, future of PR, PR with a purpose and many others from 8 to 11 December. Sign up here!

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