The way Telkomsel pivoted from face-to-face media relations to a virtual model that helped it stay close to media is a testament to Telkomsel’s ingenuity and a deep understanding of the media landscape, built on an already strong partnership foundation. The company’s renewed media relations approach earned it a place as a top finalist for Best Media Relations Strategy at MARKETING-INTERACTIVE's recent PR Awards 2021.
When the telecommunications company committed to supporting the Indonesian government’s COVID-19 measures in 2020, all employees were asked to work from home. This meant that face-to-face media relations became impossible. While Telkomsel developed initiatives to keep in touch without meeting media partners physically, the company had to figure out what would work best to maintain close relations with media.
The question was what to organise virtually, and how, then what else Telkomsel could do. The company decided to focus on virtual press conferences, focusing on product/programme launches, corporate agreements, and seasonal events. It also focused on monthly virtual media meet-ups, each with a different theme such as Independence Day and Hero’s Day; virtual collaborations with third parties; media gifts; as well as corporate social responsibility initiatives with journalist associations
Video conferencing was used for the first time with media events, bringing together journalists from all over Indonesia in a single "virtual room". One major press conference involved a collaboration between Telkomsel and the Ministry of Education and Culture for Program Bantuan Kuota Terjangkau, under which Telkomsel supported the government’s push to digitise the education sector.
Two seasonal press conferences also went virtual: Ramadan – Idul Fitri (shortened to the acronym RAFI) and Christmas - New Year (NARU, named after ‘Natal – Tahun Baru’, the Bahasa Indonesia equivalent). This is when Telkomsel updates the media on its network, sales, products, and services.
In addition, partnerships with third parties were also communicated to media at virtual events, including a collaboration between Telkomsel and Bisnis Indonesia to support people during the pandemic; sharing stories on digital transformation as part of the Repubilka anniversary event series; and a virtual discussion with Cyberthreat.id on building a digital network across Indonesia.
Telkomsel further cemented media relationships with gifts such as free internet subscriptions for journalists as well as health-oriented packages for them and their families. The company also worked with selected journalist associations to distribute free masks to the public.
Telkomsel noted that journalists who had never met its media team were finally able to put faces to names through the virtual events, deepening previously superficial relationships. It was clear that media were very receptive to the new relationship strategy, as coverage appeared not only on the press announcements but also around other events and initiatives that Telkomsel organised.
One hundred and twenty pieces of coverage resulted from the virtual press conference on the collaboration between Telkomsel and the Ministry of Education and Culture, while the NARU event resulted in 189 pieces of coverage. Telkomsel’s efforts during the pandemic further helped it to win appreciation and awards from various media, including:
1. The Most Innovative Telecom Service Provider, given by The International Finance
2. Champion Indonesia Customer Experience 2020, from SWA Indonesia
3. Reinventing Local Heroes in Indonesia 2020, awarded by Tribun Network
4. Youth Choice Brand of The Year 2020, an award from Marketeers