Public Relations – Geraldine Villasmil

Geraldine Villasmil is a great public relationist with a great experience that has worked for both national and multinational companies in Venezuela and Mexico. She trained as a journalist to help the media. In addition, she dominates perfectly the rest of the techniques to be a great public relationist, which reveals to us in this interview.

Geraldine explains the secrets to success in this profession and explains the peculiarities of the LATAM market, emphasizing the differences between working for Mexico and in her native Venezuela. In addition, she also offers tips to expand a company internationally in these markets.

You work in several languages, does language have a great influence when it comes to formulating and executing a strategy?

Language is everything. A poorly written strategy can cost you your job. I, fortunately, have facility to work in several languages ​​and very good memory to remember idioms and “slang” of each region.

The fact of having a journalistic background helps me a lot. I think as a journalist, I write as a journalist.

For this reason, the media value the information we give them, I understand what interest them and what does not, and for that reason I can say with great calmness that I feel very comfortable writing.

There are people who unfortunately do not know how to write or trust too much the materials that the agencies send them and that damages the reputation of a company very much. To know how to write, you have to read a lot, a lot. That is something that all public relationist should do in a systematic way. Reading is your source of power.


How did you get interested in public relations?

I studied journalism in my native Venezuela and then I received a scholarship from Reuters to do a master’s degree in International Writing. I lived two years in London and studied and worked in the international bureau of that news agency.

I always thought that I would end up analyzing international news in a newspaper, but never in public relations! When I returned to Venezuela, I understood how little a journalist earns in our lands, and I started working at the Porter Novelli agency in Caracas (Estima Communications). There my adventure in public relations began.


How important is public relations for a company? Do you think that companies are generally aware of their value?

Unfortunately, many companies see the assertive communication of their messages and the relationship with journalists and key editors as something “nice to have” but they do not give it the importance they really have.

Communication is everything for a company. Those that have realized its value are those that have stood out, appeared in rankings, won awards. It is important to communicate what you are doing. That is something that still many companies in our countries must understand.


Are you using any marketing technique at your job?

I work with the marketing team and I’ve learn a lot about their strategies, as well as accompanying them with my communications or thoughts. But my work is much more strategic from the point of view of the messages. I can not stay in a “selling line”, I have to work an entire argument behind it.


How does public relationist in LATAM?

My second job in public relations was as public relations manager at Sony Entertainment Television for Latin America. It was a precious opportunity, especially because I was only 26 years old!

We were two people in the department and we had a public relations agency in each country that helped us to disperse our messages and communications, and to get in touch with the journalists of the country.

Generally the departments of communications and public relations are very small, in Volaris is just me! But I count on the great advice and know-how of the agency Guerra Castellanos y Asociados, with whom we work in Mexico, Central America and the United States

Throughout your professional experience as public relationist you have worked in Venezuela and Mexico, are there many differences in the way you work in your sector between these two countries?

There are not many. In Mexico, in general, I feel that the work ethic of all Mexicans forces you to give much more of yourself every day. It has been a great challenge to enter into the aeronautical industry and in general to get in touch with the immense range of media here.

In Venezuela, you made an event and there were 12 journalists, because there are not so many media. Here when you have something really important to communicate, you can expect calls for up to 40 or 50 journalists.

That is very exciting on the one hand but very stressful on the other, because you want everyone to arrive! But there are many factors that make it complicated like traffic and distances.

Mexico has been for me a continuous learning, and working in Volaris an exceptional challenge. My learning curve was very fast and although I still do not feel like an expert in the sector, I feel that I have a lot to contribute in terms of what good communication can generate in the reputation of a company like Volaris.


You have worked for companies that were founded in Mexico and Latin America and for divisions in LATAM of multinational companies. Do the strategies arise in a different way depending on whether the company is from the country or foreign?

The approach is more extensive and thorough when it comes to transnational companies because you have to take into account the nuances of each country, the public agenda of each of them and invent assertive and executable ways of entering.

Planning is a complicated issue for public relationists because we go with it day to day, but it always gives us peace of mind to start the year with a good mapping of the possible opportunities presented by the editorial calendars, the relevant dates, and the corporate milestones of the company.


Is it important to master more than one language if you want to dedicate yourself to public relations? Why?

Yes, especially in our historical moment. Someone who does not speak English has a disadvantage very evident in the world of communications. It is important to be at least bilingual. If you can speak another language, even better! The better you manage languages, the better you perform and your work has more media power.


Tell us what is your secret to start a conversation with a client

To start a conversation it is always important to present yourself in the best possible way from the point of view of the image, and to maintain an organic and pleasant smile.

Let’s say that my secret in Mexico is the accent. My clients love it because they do not know exactly where it comes from, and that game of guessing the country I come from is the best icebreaker. Always the conversation continues towards “I have a friend or a Venezuelan friend who … Etc “, then we talk about the arepas. Then we are friends.


“Communication is everything for a company, those that have realized their value are those that have stood out, appeared in rankings, won awards.”
Geraldine Villasmil

What should foreign companies look for if they seek to hire good public relations?

I think that first they have to pay attention to the attitude. Someone who is dedicated to public relations should be proactive, cheerful, open, adaptable and above all friendly.

On the other side is the subject of their education. What did he study? Only communications? Sometimes a person who has studied letters is a better publicist than a journalist. He should be at least bilingual and know lots of people. You never know what these contacts are going to be needed.


In which of your jobs do you think you have learned more?

I think having my own public relations company, which was my last job in Venezuela. Deal with several types of clients, with various needs. That and without a doubt Volaris. It has opened my horizons towards an industry that I did not know and that I already feel part of. I’m passionate, and that always translates into good results.


Does a public relationist need to use social media?

Yeah right! The most important tool is Twitter, to publish the mentions of the brand for which he works and to get in touch with the media. If you dedicate yourself to doing public relations for design or fashion, definitely Instagram.


What should we never do when we are the visible face of a company?

Be careless in any way. With our image, in the way we present ourselves. If you are at an event, never drink alcohol. If you are in a forum, behave as if you were part of the audience, pay attention to each speaker. If it’s a dinner or a meet and greet, move around the room with a smile and try to meet as many people as possible. If you have to be with a drink in your hand “because everyone else is”, do not drink, just hold it.

We must always remember that we are the visible face of the company, and this always has to be impeccable.


What advice would you give to a person who wants to succeed in the field of public relations?

First, be passionate about letters. Read a very important and old book called “How to win friends and influence others” by Dan Carnegie. Also learn a second language, and want to live to know and interpret others. I say “interpret” because we live in a world of perceptions, and we must know how to generate an aura of integrity, empathy and “good vibes” but always with a knowledge of the message you want to communicate and the values ​​of the company for which you work.