First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Nicole Rodrigues: Thankfully, we’re good. No one from my family has had COVID. We’ve all tested negative for the antibodies and the actual virus. Friends have been impacted, and that’s been tough, but thankfully I haven’t experienced any losses due to COVID. I’m feeling very fortunate.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded NRPR Group
Nicole Rodrigues: I began my career at an enterprise software company when I was still in college. I had always had the dream of working with the Oakland Raiders, so I left the tech world to pursue an internship with the team, which turned into a full-time position as a Player Development Coordinator, training the incoming rookie players on how to speak with the media and writing for the game-day magazine and website. There, I built my skills in consumer, sports, and entertainment PR strategy. I also cheered for the team as a Raiderette. I later worked as an in-house PR manager at MOBITV, a Senior PR Manager at Voce Communications, and a director of consumer marketing at Demand Media. I served as VP of digital entertainment at Bender/Helper. In 2014, I left Bender/Helper to start the NRPR Group.
Starting my own agency was always a dream once I found my passion for PR. I wanted it to feel like it was a team effort to make this happen because it is. Which is why I decided to add “group” to the agency name. It isn’t just me that is making it happen, but everyone together.
How does NRPR Group innovate?
Nicole Rodrigues: At the core of our company is innovation. We aren’t your typical PR or marketing firm. We’re constant innovators because that’s what the agency of the future should be, and we want to be an example of what a marketing and PR firm looks like for the digital future. One thing that we do in terms of innovation is investing in reporting tools to help us strategize better because we believe that PR is more than just a press hit. We believe in publicity for purpose and business growth. We make sure to use these reporting tools to see what’s working and what’s not to help our clients more.
Another way we innovate is we are constantly listening to what existing, and new clients keep asking for. People nowadays want to feel like they have a one-stop-shop with confident communicators to help with content creation, owning their voice and stories. Not everyone understands that PR at its core is more than just social media. We want to keep innovating and offering new things to our clients.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping
Nicole Rodrigues: Like many other firms, it took our clients and ourselves by surprise in terms of the impact it made across the world and certain industries. We were in a good place servicing clients with businesses that have been sought after during this pandemic. We did have some clients that lowered their budget, but we had other clients who increased theirs. We’ve had new projects that came up and gave us insight into new areas of our business that we want to expand on, including helping new businesses pop up. Especially because a lot of people are out of work and have nowhere to turn right now. We know how to form through storytelling. Logistically, we know what the criteria is for the outside world in terms of what they need to have a viable business. We can do a lot more with helping people form their business online, so there’s been a lot of change and innovation, but there haven’t been any layoffs due to the pandemic, and we’re thankful to keep up and to run.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Nicole Rodrigues: I wouldn’t say we’ve had to make difficult choices. However, we’ve been uncomfortable putting new things in motion. We didn’t need to think about who to keep and who to stay. That’s the benefit of running a fiscally successful company. As a company, we have proven that this is a good model in terms of business. The only thing to determine is how often to talk with everyone on zoom and when we all go back to the office. It hasn’t really been difficult, because I’m just paying attention to how the team feels. I won’t make any decisions the team isn’t comfortable with.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and NRPR Group in the future?
Nicole Rodrigues: When I feel a lot of anxiety, I try to relax and disconnect, even if it’s 10-15 minutes a day. Whether it’s closing my eyes just to calibrate or workout, I’ll take some time to do it. I do palettes in the morning to get my mind focused. If I don’t have time in the morning, I do it in the evening. I’ll also go for runs, once a week I’ll play golf to concentrate on something outside. As a PR person, stress is part of the job, so i don’t feel so shaken by the pandemic. I’m used to the stress and have been dealing with it for a while.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Nicole Rodrigues: There are large entertainment agencies in LA in particular who have organized technology and Digital Entertainment divisions. Although they are larger and have been around longer, technology has been my sweet spot for 20 years. Firms who have been around longer are run by very traditional means, where you have the agency leaders who only grew up in PR and are trying to figure out social media and digitalization. As I was going through my PR journey, though PR and storytelling are at the core, I learned messaging and social media very early on. Because of the firms in Silicon Valley, I was working at.
This is how we set ourselves apart. I’m getting my MBA at UCLA to focus on this even better. To see how PR and marketing can fit themselves into the big picture. A PR firm that looks at every aspect of the business and builds strong marketing plans, as a result, will be successful. People looking for plain PR can find that anywhere. We go much deeper.
Your final thoughts
Nicole Rodrigues: I really believe that senior management, especially seniors in PR, should never stop learning and never stop teaching their juniors. People often put down others in PR because they look at the juniors who don’t know better. It’s the seniors’ role to help them through this and guide them and train them to progress faster than juniors at other agencies. I stand by strong mentorship, which means the leaders shouldn’t stop learning. That’s why I’m getting my MBA, to help my clients and co-workers by gaining more knowledge that I can incorporate into our strategies and training.
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