Priscila Martinez of 1795 Communications: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became a C-Suite Executive

Imposter Syndrome is real. Keep that at the forefront whenever you feel down or inadequate. It would be impossible to count the of times incredibly bright, young females have confided about their imposter syndrome. Its real, and the best way to guardrail against it is to be aware.

As part of our series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Began Leading My Company” I had the pleasure of interviewing Priscila Martinez.

Priscila Martinez is a marketing, creative communications, and public relations professional based in Los Angeles. She is CEO and founder of three award-winning, global creative communications agencies, The Brand Agency, Vicaria Multicultural Agency, and 1795 Communications. She is an expert in the entertainment, fashion, beauty and lifestyle sectors and has serviced a variety of luxury and consumer clients in those spaces. Her firms and the campaigns they represent have won numerous prestigious awards like Best Branding and Communications Firm, CES Innovation Award, and Best PR Firm in the West Coast. Martinez’s expertise has been featured in outlets like Forbes, Entrepreneur, and AdWeek. She is currently a Public Relations, Social Media and Branding correspondent for NBC’s Peacock platform.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive into our discussion, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

I was a business major and right out of college, I accepted my first job in that field. I would spend 10 hours in a windowless office, my eyes bleeding from staring at spreadsheets. I was living with roommates at the time and one of them was definitely not sharing that first-job-out-of-college experience with me. She would bop around from premiere to premiere, received armloads of free clothes, and would arrive home in a chauffeured car that a client provided. I thought, “Man, I must be doing something incredibly wrong here.” I decided to give her career choice a go, she was a publicist. Little did I know that those perks only made up for the hard work publicists put in behind the scenes. We get to see the glamorous side but the hard office hours are really what get you to do those glimmering moments.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I’ve had so many awesome career moments, its hard to single out just one. From meeting childhood idols of mine at their home and having them ask for my advice (little old me!), to seeing your team grow into the best communicators in the business. One of the most poignant stories though isn’t a very positive one, but it stung so hard that it provided the gas I’ve needed during hard times. I had set up a meeting with a potential client via email. Meaning, we had never met in person or chatted on the phone before. The meeting went incredibly well, we stood up from our table at the Beverly Wilshire and I was saying my goodbyes. The potential client says, “I’m happy this went well. With a name like Priscila Martinez, I didn’t know what to expect.” The potential client was referring to my Latin name and last name. I stood in horror. I couldn’t even tell you what I said back, everything froze in that moment. It reminded me that there were a lot of barriers to continue breaking before girls like me got a fair chance.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

The Stockdale Paradox is a very useful life lesson I keep on going back to. I learned it from Jim Collins’ book Good to Great. It details how Admiral Stockdale survived as a prisoner of war. The only thing that kept him alive was his belief that one day he would be out. His other POW companions succumbed one by one. It was clear to Stockdale that they didn’t make it because they would impose deadlines on themselves. “We will be out by Thanksgiving” or “We will be out by Christmas.” Only to have those dates come and go. It became clear that the only way to survive is to keep on going and trusting that you will get out of a hard situation. You can never lose faith. I kept on going back to the Stockdale Paradox during the beginning of COVID, it is the only thing that kept me sane: knowing that somehow, some day, we would be out of this.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on your leadership style? Can you share a story or an example of that?

I’m an avid reader and devour a few books per month. Good to Great by Jim Collins is definitely one of my favorites. Admittedly, I’ve read it a few times. Principles by Ray Dalio is also a fantastic book. The tips are so actionable you can’t help but write in the margins. This is a book a keep by my bed and open up to random chapters, the book always provides something new that you can relate to during these chance encounters with it.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I helm three global, award-winning public relations and creative communications firms: The Brand Agency, Vicaria Multicultural Agency, and 1795 Communications. I can say, without any doubt in my mind, that the reason all of these agencies stand out is because they house the best communicators in the business. Our female-only team is sharp, agile, and ready to roll up its sleeves. It makes me so proud to be out in the field at a premiere or red carpet and to hear how others outside of the organization perceive our hustle.

The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?

My pieces of advice to somebody trying to break into the field of PR is to always volunteer yourself for hard work. It doesn’t matter what position you hold, an internship or a VP title, people around you will always recognize tenacity and hard work. No matter how hard, always take on assignments that get you closer to the personality you want to work closely with, be it a CEO, CMO, or a cool artist you feel you can learn a lot from.

Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?

Advice is also colored by the lens the individual giving it has acquired through their personal experiences. Don’t let their life experiences taint yours.

I was told to never leave the comfort of a big firm and start my own business. That the margins were terrible, and that PR was dead. Glad I didn’t listen to that 6 years ago! Everyone has advice, you need to be extra discerning about which one you follow.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

The three-character traits that best define me are tenacity, hard-work, and agility. Tenacity has helped me put one foot in front of the other through situations that would’ve otherwise devastated my business, like a global pandemic. Hard work helped put me and my agencies on the map and help keep our services memorable. Agility has helped me pivot during hard times or recalibrate once we’ve started down a road that may not be the best path forward.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a C-Suite executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what a C-Level executive does that is different from the responsibilities of other leaders?

A C-Suite executive acts as a hub for the essential activities in a business. A C-Suite exec shares the successes with a team, but needs to absorb the risk and blame should anything not go as planned. A C-Suite exec needs to focus on two things only: growing the business and installing the right people, in the right seats.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive? Can you explain what you mean?

A common myth about a CEO is that they need to be involved in every detail. Not so. Your company will only flourish if you trust your team and allow them the room to grow as executives themselves. Micromanaging or being caught in the daily minutia will take away from a CEOs ability to look at the larger picture and to plan with intent.

What are the most common leadership mistakes you have seen C-Suite leaders make when they start leading a new team? What can be done to avoid those errors?

The most common mistake C-Suite leaders make when joining a new team is assuming they have all the answers. Being at the helm of the organization means you’ve earned your spot and that you have experience. Nevertheless, some employees who have been in the culture longer than you will offer a different perspective. These diverse perspectives are what should inform winning solutions. Just because a title hands above your door doesn’t mean you have all the correct answers. People underestimate what listening can do.

In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?

The most underestimated part of running a business is what I call the “business of doing business.” Meaning, the time suck that is created when you navigate a business through bureaucracy. This can range from dealing with the employment department at a different state when you make a new remote hire to setting up your accounting and paying your taxes.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Began Leading From the C-Suite”? Please share a story or an example for each.

Everybody is making it up as they go. When I started in my career, I could’ve sworn people in positions of power had this crazy experience and knowledge that I could never compete with. Slowly but surely, you start to realize that a lot of what we are doing is being made up as we go. There is no textbook for crisis situations or high-risk decisions. Sure, the more experience you have the better your decision-making process, but we learn as we go.

There is nothing that differentiates you from somebody sitting in the C-Suite. Don’t feel intimidated or discouraged, your opinions and knowledge have value.

Imposter Syndrome is real. Keep that at the forefront whenever you feel down or inadequate. It would be impossible to count the of times incredibly bright, young females have confided about their imposter syndrome. Its real, and the best way to guardrail against it is to be aware.

Identify your weak spots and protect against them as best as possible. Part of being a successful entrepreneur is being keenly aware of what you are great at, and what you lack in. Knowing your strengths will come in handy but knowing what you don’t know is invaluable. Whenever you identify a weakness, hire the best person you can find that will complement that.

Bringing ego into the C-Suite will only make you a less effective leader. Remember, it’s never personal. It’s just business. At the end of the day, you get to close your laptop, get in your car, and drive home to your family. Don’t let ego cloud your decisions or make you an unhappy leader.

In your opinion, what are a few ways that executives can help to create a fantastic work culture? Can you share a story or an example?

Executives have a myriad of ways to create a fantastic work culture. The best tool in the box is making sure your team feels empowered to contradict you. We can get wrapped up in our day to day and forget that the more brain power you bring into an equation, the better the solution. Many times I’ve been chipping at a client problem in a certain direction and somebody in the team will provide a differing opinion that opens up a new way of perceiving and solving things.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

We need to make extraordinary things seem attainable for young girls.

The movement I would love to start is empowering young girls to be able to see themselves in seats they may not be exposed to. I didn’t know running a PR firm was an option growing up. If I hadn’t been exposed to that early on in my career I would’ve never thought it attainable.

How can our readers further follow you online?

The Brand Agency website and handle, Vicaria Multicultural Agency website and handle, 1795 Communications website and handle, and my personal handle @prismartinez.

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

Priscila Martinez of 1795 Communications: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became a C-Suite was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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