What It's Like to Work as a PR Girl for the World's Most Popular Tech Brands

After her exciting work with Spotify and Netflix, PR girl Belle Baldoza shares what she's learned about her life and career so far.
by Belle Baldoza   |  Aug 19, 2017
Image: Belle Baldoza Art: Clare Magno
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As told to Ayessa De La Peña.

Growing up, I've always known I was going to pursue a career in communications because writing and public speaking are my first loves—aside from music and film. I originally wanted to be a filmmaker but I found out that pursuing a degree in film required quite a huge investment, which is something I couldn't afford at that time. I decided to pursue further my passion for broadcast media instead, so I took up a communications course in college. I graduated Cum Laude with a B.A. in Broadcast Communication from the University of the Philippines in Diliman. 

As a student, I was lucky enough to also find opportunities within and outside of the university to further hone my broadcast skills. I worked as a student DJ at our college radio station, DZUP, and at mainstream FM radio stations, like Campus Radio LSFM 97.1 and NU 107.

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Taking up Broadcast Communication instilled in me a certain confidence not just in public speaking, but in streamlining messages for the audience at hand, be it spoken or written. It also helped me gain fundamental skills in journalism as well as multimedia production. Understanding what makes a story newsworthy as well as knowing how to produce them through video production and editing have helped me in various ways throughout my career to envision and bring to life various stories for the brands I've worked for.

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Looking back, I don't think taking up a course that is very much aligned with the career you want is an absolute necessity. What's important is recognizing the skills you want to develop as an individual and would help you move forward in your career choices.

In my case, I wasn't sure whether I was going to end up as a radio DJ or a TV host in the long run (and I eventually didn't), but I wanted to be great at telling stories in general, so I did everything I can to really sharpen my skills on that front. College definitely prepares you for the real world, but what you learn from this phase of your life is not the end-all-and-be-all of your would-be career—it's just the beginning.

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College definitely prepares you for the real world, but what you learn from this phase of your life is not the end-all-and-be-all of your would-be career—it's just the beginning.

My first job out of college

After my internship at a production company during my senior year, I realized that life as a broadcast media practitioner or producer is not for me. While I was doing my thesis, I came across a book on Integrated Marketing Communications—reading that pretty much changed my life and I ended up wanting to be in the business of storytelling for brands.

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So after graduation, I tried to look for a job as an advertising copywriter or account executive. I managed to get my first job offer from one of the country's major advertising agencies, but sadly the pay was too low to compensate for my daily expenses—so I had to get real with myself and be open to exploring other options.

My entry into the world of public relations was quite serendipitous. It just so happened that one of my seniors in my college org, UP SAMASKOM, shared a job opening at her company, the Araneta Group. I ended up being part of their marketing team where I worked for almost three years as a Public Relations Officer for their group of brands—malls, Araneta Coliseum, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Dairy Queen, and Binibining Pilipinas.

Like I said, I knew I wanted to be in the business of telling stories, I just didn't know in what shape or form would that be. It helped that I took that job so I can kickstart my career. However, I also took some career detours. I left the Philippines for Thailand where I worked various jobs—as an online marketer, an English teacher, a voice over talent, and sub-editor. While I learned a lot from these stints, these varied experiences also helped me realize just how much I enjoyed doing PR. So when I moved to Singapore a few years later, I did everything I can just so I could go back to the career I truly loved. 

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I left the Philippines for Thailand where I worked various jobs—as an online marketer, an English teacher, a voice over talent, and sub-editor. While I learned a lot from these stints, these varied experiences also helped me realize just how much I enjoyed doing PR.

I was pretty happy with my fresh grad self for choosing not to take the first (and the most convenient) job offer. I know there's a lot of talk right now about entitled millennials, but I believe it pays to know your worth at the onset so you will not feel shortchanged later on. Taking the not-so obvious path has yielded significant rewards for me, both personally and professionally. I'm really grateful for being able to really learn the fundamentals of PR at my first job because it required me to tell stories around their diverse array of brands, which targeted various types of consumers—it served as a really valuable springboard for my career. 

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I know there's a lot of talk right now about entitled millennials, but I believe it pays to know your worth at the onset so you will not feel shortchanged later on.

A look at my PR job

I'm currently taking a two-month break in between jobs; I will start working again in October this year. Most recently, I spent the past almost five years doing PR for two of my favorite brands—Spotify, where I was Head of Communications for South East Asia, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, and Netflix, where I was Consumer PR lead for South East Asia.

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Back when I was part of the grind, no two days in PR were the same! Being a PR person equates to being a pro at multitasking as well. On any given day, I'd be juggling emails from my various internal collaborators to make sure we are aligned on campaigns, journalists who have sent in requests for interviews, as well as my agency teams from the various markets I'm looking after.

I also enjoy taking some time to brainstorm for new story ideas and meet journalists for coffee or cocktails to check in on what kind of stories they'd like to share with their readers. As I was looking after various markets across the region, I made it a point to travel to each country regularly to meet my teams and journalists—having this kind of connection helps so much in developing stories that are beneficial to the brand as well as to every media outlet's specific audience.

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My favorite part about working for the PR industry is the fact that no two days are the same—it keeps you on your toes all the time and really pushes you to think on your feet.

Apart from this dynamism, I love how PR is not only the business of telling stories—it's also the business of connecting with people on a personal level. Your success in this field is mainly fueled by your ability to develop and maintain relationships—be it with journalists, your internal and external collaborators, as well as other PR professionals.

When someone asks me my least favorite part about the job, honestly, nothing really comes to mind. But I'd say the fact that no two days are the same in this industry can be quite jarring for some people. You may be having such a peaceful morning one day and then boom! You'd come across a PR crisis you'd have to manage later on in the day.

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"It's PR, not ER," so goes a long-standing joke among ourselves, because being in PR requires you to be 'on' all the time, ready to respond to the situation or request at hand. I'd say being in PR is not for the faint of heart. 

Challenging times

Encountering and managing crises is par for the course in the PR world, so I welcome these challenges all the time because I know I always stand to learn something from every situation. The most challenging and rewarding campaigns I've had in recent memory would be introducing global brands like Spotify and Netflix across various markets in the region. Building brand love through stories that resonate with local cultures is no easy task but is an amazing journey in itself. But I'd have to say, to this date, I still get the butterflies whenever I'm about to launch a new campaign, despite me doing this for over a decade now. The learning and excitement never end.

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Was there ever a time when I felt uninspired to do my job? I wouldn't say I was uninspired but more of physically exhausted. I usually try and decompress by taking a holiday or writing some poetry while I'm in transit. I feel most invigorated when I'm taking long bus and train rides. But this time around, I took it upon myself to take the longest break I've ever had in my professional life. I want to take some time off to be still, revisit my passions, and evaluate how I'd like to move forward with my career in PR. 

My career advice

I always say in jest that in order to thrive as a PR professional, one must have a penchant for pain. Of course, I don't mean this literally, but what I'm alluding to is that this industry needs people who are not only nimble thinkers because your brain is 'on' for most of the time, but also people who are not averse to rolling up their sleeves.

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PR is for people who don't shy away from the hustle, people who never see a task as too small for them. People who have not only a passion for telling stories but for getting to know other people as well. 

It never hurts to start with big dreams, but also be comfortable knowing that it may take a while (and several detours) to get to where you want to be. "Ad astra per aspera," so goes my favorite saying—"A rough road leads to the stars." Life is a marathon, never a sprint, so you should take it upon yourself to enjoy the journey, even if sometimes you may come across a failure.

Know your worth but never, ever feel entitled because the world doesn't owe you a thing.

Just don't be afraid to be clear with what you want, whether it's with your career or your life. Be comfortable with making not-so-comfortable decisions and stand by them—you may not get immediate rewards but eventually, you will understand they are all for the best. Most importantly, see every challenge and opportunity as a chance to learn something new. I may be taking some time off in between jobs but I'm looking forward to the valuable life lessons I am bound to get from this experience.

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Belle Baldoza
Contributing Writer
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