Fabiana Meléndez Ruiz, director of marketing and communications for HEXAH, talks with Isis Simpson-Mersha and Sarah Joyce from Ragan and D S Simon Media about her top tips for developing marketing initiatives from scratch. She explains how she sets her clients up for success during thought leadership training. Ruiz also shares valuable advice on how to feel more confident in your career.
SARAH: Thank you for being here to share some of your incredible insights with us.
FABIANA: Hi, I am so happy to be here. Thank you for having me.
ISIS: You know, we’ve had conversations before. We are just so impressed with you and I’m sure our audience will be too. So, I want to talk about marketing and some of the initiatives you’ve built around that. So, you’ve built marketing initiatives from scratch. Can you share what tips you have for communicators who are looking to do the same for the organization?
FABIANA: Yes, I have. I have three pretty key ones. The first one is, make sure you know what you’re getting into. And I say this as someone who has friends who are communicators, and I’ve been a communicator myself and I’ve been hired at agencies or workplaces where you think it’s going to go a certain way, and then you get there, and you realize they don’t have systems in place. And sometimes that’s through no fault of the agency itself, but make sure that if you have to build the systems, you know what, that’s something you have to do. And it’s not just surprise, you’re spearheading, you know, a new division or new whatever. If you’re ready or if, you know, this is happening, the big one is don’t reinvent the wheel. I think as marketers, we tend to be, and communicators, we tend to be very ambitious, and we want to, you know, kick butt and, like, kill it, but you know, there are people who have done the work for you either in other places that you’ve worked or mentors that you have. So, take the systems that you have, make them your own, and make them better. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel and give yourself a headache. It’s okay to not be overly ambitious and think that one might be a little shocking for communicators because again, we love giving ROI. We love having great, you know, key performance indicators and results, but, you know, if you’re starting to set a system up, you need to make sure that it works, and you want to take the time to set the foundation. So, have goals and objectives that are aggressive, but not to the point where you’ve burnt yourself out in six months and you’re like, I need a leave, right? So, take it slow, take it steady. Learn from the wisdom of others and make sure you know what you’re doing.
SARAH: That’s really great advice. So, Fabiana thought leadership right now is so important more than ever. What are some ways that you can help guide a CEO to tell their own story in the media?
FABIANA: Yeah. So, this is where the crux of my work has been, working with thought leaders or rather working with CEOs and leaders and turning them into thought leaders. And the key is education for them and for everybody else. And what I mean by that is when you are a communicator, you work with brilliant people every day. That is just the nature of the job. And you’re very fortunate because you get to be privy to conversations and situations that maybe other departments or other industries wouldn’t know about. The problem with working with brilliant people is that they get lost in their own brilliance. So, CEOs have and founders and whomever have, you know, their own goals, their own objectives as they relate to the business and certain things that they want to see. So, the biggest thing for me was coming in and educating them and explaining, you know, PR and marketing can do X, Y, Z, but they can’t do these other things. And that’s okay. They can be pillars to set you up for these other goals, but don’t expect results here when we want to be here. I think the second one was listening and learning. So, I always tell people that when you’re in comms, you’re an anthropologist because it requires a lot of sitting and observing. I always tell people I feel like I’m in a National Geographic and I sit there and watch, you know, my CEO take calls or meetings or just I’m like, just talk about things. I’m not here, you just talk. That’s where you pull the nuggets, right? From the things that they’re really passionate about, maybe 90% of it doesn’t work from a narrative standpoint, but there’s a 10% that does. And that’s where the gold mine is in terms of building their thought leadership, telling their story, and finding things that nobody else has talked about before.
ISIS: I just wanted to start off with a quote here, “Working with brilliant people is that they get lost in their own brilliance.” That’s great.
FABIANA: And that’s the hard part with that leadership, right? Like what makes thought leadership work is you’re taking these difficult concepts, these, like, heady, technical, jargony things, and you’re taking out the jargon You’re taking out the technical parts and you’re making them digestible to everyone else. And that’s a conversation I had when I was media training someone recently. I’m like, listen, I know that this is a very complex issue. You got two minutes on air, and it needs to be at like a six to fourth-grade level. And that’s not to say that the people that are receiving it aren’t intelligent. It’s just that they’ve probably never encountered this before. And if you want to be a thought leader, I think the measure of true intelligence is being able to take a thing that’s really heady and make it understandable for everyone.
ISIS: Yeah, absolutely. That all makes sense. And you truly just exude so much confidence. So, do you have any advice for other communicators on how to build confidence in themselves and their capabilities?
FABIANA: Yes, lean on what you know. The lack of confidence comes from this fear of not feeling smart enough and not feeling capable enough, especially if you’re a woman, or a woman of color, or a person of color, and so on and so forth. So, think the important thing is if you went to school for it, you have the theory. So, now lean on that theory and watch, and learn, and observe, and learn how to put it into practice. If you’ve been working for a year or two, guess what? You have experience. That’s a year or two of experience. So, lean on the things that you’ve learned. Hopefully, you’ve learned through osmosis and you’ve been a sponge and now you can kind of start figuring out how to put those things into practice. And if you’ve been working for a couple of years, guess what? You’re an expert. You have the experience, you’ve seen the things. So, if you don’t have the confidence, you build it through leaning on what you have, and then eventually you can do it in your sleep, and you have the confidence.
ISIS: Awesome. So many good takeaways here. It has just been such a pleasure to have you join us today.
SARAH: Thank you so much. Fabiana, it was great speaking with you.
FABIANA: Yes, thank you again for having me. It’s been amazing getting to interview with y’all.