Behind the Headlines with Mónica Cortés

Mónica Cortés recently joined Comunicad LLC, the full-service, cross-cultural national public relations and marketing agency, as their Senior Vice President of Strategy Development! She joins the organization with over 18 years of experience, from serving as a senior strategic advisor for AARP to the director of operations for the Caribbean Cultural center.

This week, Cortés sat down with me to discuss the importance of internal communication, creating and following an effective business plan, and knowing how to add value to your team.

You come to Comunicad LLC with over 18 years of experience working with multicultural markets and with expertise in operations, multicultural engagement, account management, and strategy development. What are some of the differences in building a communication strategy on a national level compared to a local level?

The technical side of the process and approach is very similar: setting clear goals, objectives, channels, and tactics, etc. However, one key difference that comes to mind is how the data is used to inform a campaign from national to local. The specifics of how to engage the community are going to change depending on how broad or narrow the definition is of the market. Within the same state, what is culturally relevant in a rural area will be different than for in a city. The community shapes how we make decisions to interact and engage. I personally enjoy seeing how those differences play out throughout a campaign and will have the opportunity to do that at Comunicad.

What are some of the key components of successful business development?

Stick to your plan! Take the time to build a plan and have the discipline to implement it. Many ideas that come from retreats, brainstorm sessions and fancy PowerPoints are shelved because an implementation path was not developed as part of the plan. The other important component that often gets overlooked is the importance of communicating the plan to your staff. Involving the team and allowing them to have a voice on both the plan and implementation creates a sense of ownership — which is key to the growth of an organization.

What business development mistakes do you see communication and PR agencies typically make, and what advice do you have for avoiding those pitfalls?

Not applying the same energy and creativity to their brand/company as they do to their client’s needs. It’s a fine balance, but an important one, to address in the business plan.  I’ve also seen the inclination to want to respond to the client’s needs — even if it’s not the agency’s area of expertise. Many times, it ends up hurting agencies in the long run, because they are “just ok,” not great, in that area. An “ok” experience is what the client ends up remembering. Even when you have a great partnership with your client, other people in your client’s office are forming opinions about that “ok” outcome.

How does social media affect your business development mission and goals? What benefits does it provide? What stumbling blocks might it bring up?

Social media needs to be an integral part of a business development plan. It provides an immediate conversation with prospects about your expertise and knowledge of the market. The biggest obstacle comes from not taking the time to set some organizational policies or guidance for what you are communicating and how you are responding. In this climate, we have seen how quickly a tweet can cause an unexpected chain reaction against a brand! Just as we counsel our clients about having a communications plan on how to manage their social media environment, agencies need to apply the same standard.

It is increasingly important to strategically utilize paid, owned, and earned media to continue fostering business relationships and leads. How do you leverage each differently and what advice do you have for approaching these different types of media strategically?

First, stop and ask yourself — what do we need to accomplish our objectives? What is the big picture? What are the relationships that we need to build or renew? Decide which channels make sense for your business goals. Be sure to track and measure what is working for you.

What advice do you have for those looking to begin a career in strategy and development?

For starters, do your homework. Ask for feedback from your mentors and colleagues about your skill sets and leadership strengths. Take the time to get the necessary educational training and/or mentorship to strengthen your skills. Learn how to communicate what you learn about goals, strategy, metrics, milestones, etc., in ways that your team can relate to and apply. The ability to communicate your knowledge in clear, concise steps will add value to your team. Finally, know who from your team is a natural and let them do their thing!

Rapid Fire Round:

  1. If I could go back in time, I would travel to the 70’s. I love the outfits.
  2. My favorite zoo animal is… Orangutans, something about the way they move.
  3. My favorite family recipe is… Puerto Rican Pasteles.
  4. Who was your favorite teacher at school and why? Isabel Borras, my kindergarten teacher. She later became my second-grade teacher, college guidance counselor, and is still a friend. She has been there for all the phases throughout my life.
  5. If I could join any music group, it would be… anything with congas (drums).
  6. My life philosophy is… have fun! If you are not having fun, it’s time to go.