Changing the World with Words

by Robyn Ong Hsu Yin, Victoria Junior College

“With the right words, you can change the world”––or so we were told by Walter Panganiban, a seasoned executive with over 18 years of corporate communications experience working as a public relations (PR) writer for some of the biggest multinational companies in the Philippines. His informative talk covered nearly every aspect of PR writing, from why you should do it to how to deal with real-world PR crises.

“A lot of who I am right now has to do with the fact that I’ve been doing PR for almost 20 years,” he said. Despite this, Walter was not always as passionate about his job as he now is. In fact, he originally started out wanting to be a writer, or perhaps a teacher, but the opportunity to go into PR was a lucky one, and he has never looked back since.

PR writing, said Walter, is about storytelling. Every organisation depends on its reputation for survival and success in the world of business, and scandal and crisis can be fatal––building trust between brands and consumers is therefore absolutely essential, and stories and narratives are some of the best ways for big brands to communicate with their public.

When asked what the elements of good PR writing were, Walter first emphasised the importance of knowing one’s audience, telling us that research is key. “You have to tell a good story,” we were told. “Keep it exciting, relevant, personal, and value-adding.” Walter advised us to paint the company we were representing as the hero or the protagonist of our stories, but at the same time never to compromise our credibility as writers. “Tell the same story to everyone,” he said. Whether you’re speaking to a five-year-old child or a prominent politician, your story (or rather the story of your company or brand) should remain constant throughout. We were also told to keep the story going, to be creative, and to make each story count by sticking to the key messages of our company, and connecting each story to an overarching theme.

Creative writing and PR aren’t as different as they seem: when asked whether there are any transferable skills between the two industries, Walter was quick to say yes. Both PR writing and creative writing require clear communication of ideas, as well as decent writing skills. However, PR also teaches you to organise your thoughts, and how to “be mindful of the emotions out there”, especially in dealing with crisis situations (here Walter gave the example of Coca-Cola artfully and resp

Furthermore, according to Walter, PR is an exciting, high-paying industry that allows you to meet new people, but not only that, PR writing offers the opportunity to make a difference, and to truly change the world. “It’s a crazy world,” Walter told us, “but a career in PR? I would recommend it. If you like telling stories, start considering writing for PR.”

ectfully handling the unfortunate on-the-job death of one of their maintenance employees), so as not to come off as legalistic or cold. These are some of the lessons learnt once in the industry itself––“You have to go through life to learn this.”

However, PR writing isn’t all about defusing crisis situations and reversing negative public opinions of the companies you represent. It is a complex and constantly evolving craft, encompassing speechwriting, writing pitches, creating and executing special events and press releases, messaging, and even blogging.