San Jose State University – Bachelor of Science, Public Relations with a minor in Mass Communications
Nicole Rodrigues doesn’t mind telling it like it is. When it comes to getting where you want to be in the career world, it’s simple: “Your success is in your own hands.” Seem oversimplified? Nicole, who knew she wanted to own her own PR agency long before she received her degree, insists it’s the key to realizing every decision, opportunity and experience matters when you have an ambitious end goal.
With big brand experience from Hulu to Yahoo! to Sony Pictures Entertainment, it’s pretty clear Nicole hasn’t taken the commitment to her own 15-year success lightly. Gaining invaluable skills every step of the way, she even insists her time as an NFL cheerleader (any Oakland Raiders fans out there?) helps her be more successful as a CEO. Read on for Nicole’s sage advice on doing your homework, the importance of Saturday afternoons and how losing on the field can be one of the best things to happen.
I truly believe that the universe rewards hard work. The more hard work you put in, the better the results will be.
We’d love to hear more about your career path. How did you go from college graduate to CEO?
I knew in college that I wanted to own my own agency, so you could say I had that mindset from the beginning. What I did throughout my career was make smart decisions that would help me get to my end goal, knowing that every experience was a learning opportunity and that everything I put out in terms of work was knowledge that I was able to take back in. I knew every opportunity that I volunteered for was a chance to learn and grow. And finally, I knew that the more I worked and mastered each level I was in, the better I would be as a CEO. I wanted to feel confident I would have the right knowledge and skills to teach and coach my own team. From college to this moment right now, I take pride in my work at every level. And now I can now mentor every level at my agency.
Did you take away any lessons from being a NFL cheerleader that influences the way you work today?
Absolutely. Encouragement goes a long way. There were days that I would be out on the field with my teammates and completely bummed if our team was losing. Keeping a positive perspective and attitude helped me to stay smiling on the field. Understanding that even when you’re losing it’s not the end of the world is key. There’s always tomorrow and always an opportunity to do better.
My time as a cheerleader taught me to not look at losing as losing, but rather look at it as an opportunity to learn. To develop. I don’t think I ever stopped being a cheerleader. I may have stopped professionally, but I’m still a cheerleader every day for my team. I believe in every single person that I hire and I will always encourage anyone who I work with to do his or her best and to never stop learning.
What does a day in your life entail? How do you organize your day?
I wake up every morning at 5 a.m. to make sure that I take some time for myself. I use this time to breathe and to mentally prepare myself for the day. I jump into emails that may have come in from the night before and begin to put together fire-ups for my team. Whether I write them up myself or work with an AE to send them out, fire-ups are a huge priority for me. They essentially lay out everything that needs to be accomplished for the day by every member of my team. Of course, sometimes there are unexpected or unplanned calls in the morning that can take me by surprise, but I just have to go with the flow and stay balanced mentally.
Conveniently, I live a walkable distance away from the office, which saves me commute time. Almost every day I walk my dog, Nala, to the office, which gives me a chance to intake some fresh air. Once I hit the office, it’s time to grind.
Whether I’m getting in the zone, writing and answering emails or on calls, it’s important for me to do everything I can to motivate and help the team while I’m in the office. Because I’m coaching my team during the day, there’s still a lot for me to do at night, so I stay up late if I need to. I don’t complain. I truly believe that the universe rewards hard work, and the more hard work you put in, the better the results will be. That’s why NRPR Group has been able to grow as much as we have in such a small amount of time.
Tell us more about PRfect Pitch. What was it like to start your own radio show?
Having my own radio show had always been a goal of mine. From the second I entered the world of PR, I knew I wanted to help give media a voice. Over the last 15 years, I’ve built so many great friendships with members of the media, but I realized there wasn’t always a place for them to voice their thoughts.
When it comes to PR professionals, there are some that take our trade more seriously than others. I like to help showcase those who do take it seriously, and my show is a way to do that. Also, it’s important to remember that as an agency, we need to market ourselves. Most PR agencies do a very poor job of that. How can we convince clients that we can do it for them when we’re not doing it for ourselves? PRfect Pitch is really just another great way for us to show potential clients and media what we can do.
Are there any landmark moments in your career so far that you’re most proud of?
I’m proud to say that I’m one of the first digital publicists ever. And it’s because of my time at MobiTV I can say that. Before MobiTV, mobile television did not exist in the United States. I was chosen out more than a dozen candidates to help the company achieve its mission of convincing the world that mobile television and mobile video was possible.
To see all the ideas we had talked about back in the early 2000s come to life has been incredible. To realize that life is actually how the founders imagined it to be is very cool. And after MobiTV debuted, I watched so many other similar platforms, like YouTube and Hulu, come to market. It makes me proud to know that I’ve worked with great visionaries. Now, having my own company, I’ve connected with a lot of colleagues from MobiTV and some are even my clients today. Working at MobiTV truly gave me a family. I can safely say I owe that career landmark a lot of credit for where I am now.
Another landmark moment for me was taking the leap from tech to football. I left a paid salary in enterprise software to truly see what I could do in the football world. This was before MobiTV. I took an unpaid internship with the Raiders that later molded me into the consumer tech publicist I am today. Without gaining the skills of balancing tech and consumer during my time with the Raiders, NRPR Group wouldn’t be so well balanced. I’ve been able to take risks and challenges in multiple fields — and because of my past experiences, I am able to have multiple types of clients today.
What challenges keep you awake at night?
Reaching business goals and keeping existing clients happy is the most important thing for me. We’re so happy with the clients we have, and we know we have a solid foundation for the future. I always think about the future; from hiring new team members to finding new office space. The sky’s the limit.
As CEO and radio show host, is work/life balance ever a problem with you? If so, what is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?
A long time ago, I was stretched so thin I made the conscious choice that unless something was literally on fire, Saturdays are my day to be a mom, a friend, a sister. On Saturdays, there’s no work — it’s just time for me. I’ll maybe take a peek at an email for fun, but Saturday is my day to run errands, to be alone if I need to be, to take time with my daughter and to spend time with the people that I care about.
I’ve started setting boundaries with times I will take client calls, and I’ve learned to put my schedule in someone else’s hands. Because I love my clients and teammates, I found myself always saying “yes” to everything and my schedule was just getting too packed that I barely had time to breathe. Now I have an executive assistant who owns my calendar, so that I can fit in things like eating!
How do you balance being a CEO with being a mom?
Many people have preconceived notions that because I work in a big role, I can’t make time for my daughter or be an efficient mother. But, I feel I can do both by incorporating my child into what I do. My daughter sees how hard I work and she has come to appreciate that.
My daughter has come to work with me throughout the years and has fostered an understanding for what I do. I teach her skills she won’t learn in school, and because of that, I have a 14-year old daughter who has her own jewelry company and earns her own money. I would tell other moms out there that you don’t have to make sacrifices when it comes to being both a CEO and a parent. You can do both and teach your kids a lot of great skills through it.
What is one of the biggest lessons you’ve learned in your career?
I can’t do it all by myself. I know what my skill set is and I know I have experience, but there comes a time when you have to give up certain things and allow great up-and-coming professionals to come in and step up to the plate. We’re building a family and a business of able-bodied people who are very good and who continually get better. It’s impossible to build a community without the awesome people I have working with me.
Do you have any advice for someone who is looking to break into PR and social media marketing?
My advice is to be ready to work hard. Nothing worth it comes easy. Be prepared to put in time, to research and to do homework outside of class. There’s only so much you’re going to learn between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. The work you do outside of that will help you stand out and grow more quickly in your career. Your success is in your own hands.
When I was younger, my goal was to be the Michael Jordan of publicists. I knew that the only way I was going to get there was to keep mastering my own trade and to keep learning so that I could go out and increase my knowledge.
What are some of the rules you live by?
Never waste time on something that doesn’t deserve your time. I don’t believe in dwelling on an issue for more than five minutes. Sitting and dwelling is wasted time. Energy to me is everything, and knowing where to put that energy is so important. From employees to clients, I only welcome positive energy. If there’s someone with a constant dark energy, someone who can’t be motivated, that doesn’t work for me.
I’m all about finding the silver lining in every situation. I strongly believe in coaching and mentorship and that the more time and effort I put into helping my team, the more the company will get out of it.