Telum Talks To… Verlyana (Veve) Hitipeuw, CEO and Principal Consultant, Kiroyan Partners
Telum spoke to Kiroyan Partner's Verlyana Hitipeuw, also known as Veve, on their recent appointment as a Kreab affiliate, the challenges of working with Indonesian companies and what trends will stay next year. Founded by Noke Kiroyan in 2006, Kiroyan Partners is a research-based strategic communications and public affairs consulting firm based in Indonesia.
Congratulations on the latest partnership with Kreab. What made you decide this was the right time to join hands?
Our cooperation with Kreab started a few years ago on multiple activities, which resulted in satisfying outcomes for both sides. This strengthened our confidence to move forward with a stronger relationship. Now, as a Kreab affiliate, we are very proud to represent Kreab in Indonesia as it will further strengthen the services we offer to our clients and enable us to serve globally with Kreab’s experienced teams in 25 countries worldwide.
How does COVID-19 affect the team at Kiroyan Partners? Could you share the challenges the team faced and the solutions?
The pandemic has quite significantly changed the way we work and live. At Kiroyan Partners, we try to embrace these changes by adapting quickly but without neglecting our core values.
We are grateful that all of our team members are still in good health and able to provide services to clients well despite the limitation to work remotely. Our internal infrastructure was already geared up to support mobile working. It was not difficult for us to start working from home, even before the government issued the instruction to do so.
However, given the nature of consultancy, which requires intensive team discussion, WFH arrangement can sometimes be very challenging. For instance, when we are developing a communication strategy or writing a report for a client, the respective project team needs to brainstorm with other team members more than once. There are also times when the team has impromptu questions to be addressed quickly. If we were in the office, this would be quickly taken care of because we could reach out directly to each other, but since we are now under the WFH arrangement, everything needs more time and efforts because we need to schedule it in advance, even if it is only a short, 15 minutes call.
Internal communication is also another challenge, but we always try to solve this through proactive communication with each other on a daily basis.
Another challenge is that the pandemic has also forced us to be more creative. As an example, one of our services is providing executive training in communications and public affairs related topics. Now we have learnt that conducting online training is not only about changing the learning platform since it requires a different approach to enable participants to learn optimally, to stay motivated and to be engaging during the session.
Last but not least, the challenge is related to the business development process, in which the pandemic limits our networking activities. We always try to stay connected with both our existing and past clients, while at the same time continuing to reach new business opportunities through thought leadership marketing. We are very grateful that our team members are talented people who are willing to go the extra mile, so we are able to overcome the challenges that may occur in the business development process during this pandemic.
What is the most essential thing that corporations should be aware of when dealing with crisis communications in Indonesia? Is it different from other countries in Southeast Asia?
In general, I think the most essential thing about crisis communication is to be prepared for crises. Crisis communication covers not only the crisis handling phase but also includes the pre-crisis and the recovery stages. In Indonesia, given our ‘lihat saja nanti’ culture (literal translation: ‘we’ll see’), the pre-crisis part is somewhat not considered important.
Many companies still hesitate to invest money and resources to do crisis mitigation, let alone to have an effective Crisis Communications Plan. This is why so many organisations here are not ready for a crisis. Whereas given the nature of society, culture and politics, handling crises in Indonesia is usually very complex. Giving unprepared responses during crises will most likely hurt the company's reputation. Thus, having an effective Crisis Management Plan, which includes a comprehensive Crisis Communications Plan, is crucial for corporations.
Can you share with us the role of public affairs in an integrated communications strategy?
Kiroyan Partners defines public affairs as a function that deals with non-market issues by applying a range of activities, including external and internal communications, to nurture relationships with stakeholders, taking into account the political, social and cultural contexts. We strongly believe that public affairs work should help companies find common ground with stakeholders through strategic communications, build and maintain the reputation and influence public policy.
2020 is coming to an end soon. What has changed in terms of communications work this year and what trends will stay next year?
I think this pandemic has forced many companies to go through a lot of changes, even to the extent of transforming their business. For this reason, the role of internal communications becomes more and more important, because, without support from the internal stakeholders, organisations will have difficulties in moving from one point to another. And since the impact of this pandemic will last for quite a while, I believe this trend will remain valid for next year.
In addition, in times of crises like today, it is also necessary for businesses to keep an eye on what happens in the global, regional and national levels, so they are prepared for, or even able to prevent, unpleasant surprises. We should never forget that public affairs work is supposed to help companies deal with and navigate the dynamics of a society created by the interaction of social, political, economic, or cultural factors and this affects business operations and strategy, during and post-pandemic.