Long Beach Media Maven Offers Insight On Being An In-House PR Professional
By Tiffany Rider - Senior Writer
December 18, 2012 - “A Media Maven is not a Monday-Friday, 8-5 type of job,” according to Megan Rodriguez.
She would know – Rodriguez is the public relations manager for the Long Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB). With the support of the CVB’s hospitality partners and others throughout the community, Rodriguez promotes all of the wonderful things about Long Beach to media locally, regionally, nationally and, sometimes, internationally.
Rodriguez is responsible for strategizing and executing public relations (PR) efforts, maintaining media relations, participating in brand development and building awareness for tourism in Long Beach. “Because the news never stops, I always make myself available as a resource to media and take calls/respond to e-mails on evenings, weekends, holidays and even on vacation,” Rodriguez said. “It’s the nature of the beast. I love it because it keeps things exciting and fast-paced and wouldn’t want it any other way.”
A native of Castro Valley, a small town in Northern California, Rodriguez always knew she wanted to work in hospitality. She began working in the industry at age 15, and by the time she graduated high school had decided she wanted to be a hotel general manager. After working in everything from food and beverage to client services, Rodriguez realized hotel general manager wasn’t the best fit for her. “I still loved the hospitality industry and wanted to stay in that realm,” she said. “I’ve always been a strong writer and a good communicator. At the time I didn’t really know what PR involved, so I thought, ‘I’m social. I can write. I can do PR.’”
She decided to enroll at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) as a transfer student and moved to Long Beach in 2002. Rodriguez took journalism and PR courses full time while working food and beverage at a Marriott hotel downtown. She soon realized she needed an internship before she graduated, and expressed this to the hotel general manager. “He suggested that I intern at the CVB,” Rodriguez said. “I didn’t even know what a CVB was.”
Ironically, the next CVB membership mixer was to be held at the hotel she worked at, and the general manager introduced her to CVB Director of Public Relations Bob Maguglin. “He was so gracious,” she said. “I was in my bartender uniform introducing myself when everyone was dressed in suits. He gave me his card to call him for an interview, and the next week I was an intern at the CVB.”
By the end of her internship, Rodriguez learned two things: she wouldn’t go back to Northern California – that Long Beach had become her home – and that she wanted to work for the Long Beach CVB. Rodriguez graduated from CSULB in 2004 with a degree in journalism with an emphasis in public relations, and went to work for a hospitality PR firm in Santa Monica. She put in three years at the firm to gain experience, all the while keeping in touch with Maguglin.
“The timing couldn’t have been better when I got the call from Bob that there was a position open,” Rodriguez said. Next January marks six years from when she interviewed and got her “dream job.”
“A big reason for Megan being hired as public relations manager for the CVB was her persistence,” Maguglin told the Business Journal via e-mail. “She actively pursued the intern position, did a great job here as an intern, and then made sure to keep in touch with us even when she was working in a different city. When a position opened, her name was at the top of our list of candidates. Now Megan brings that same tenacity and enthusiasm to the Long Beach CVB, as she works with major media outlets around the country to promote Long Beach.”
As public relations manager, the majority of Rodriguez’s day is spent writing. She is responsible for writing press releases, media pitches, backgrounders, social media messaging, copy for marketing materials, CVB website content and even talking points for colleagues, clients and occasionally elected officials. Beyond her writing duties, Rodriguez coordinates group press trips of seven to 10 writers once or twice annually in addition to individual press trips throughout the year. She also attends media events held by Visit California, the state’s CVB, which allows Rodriguez to connect with even more writers from across the country.
This year Rodriguez managed a special project –the CVB’s New York media mission. The trip brought representatives from the Long Beach Airport, the Long Beach Convention Center and Bike Nation (the company behind the city’s upcoming bike sharing program) to the Big Apple for media appointments as well as a large reception with about 60 media outlets to promote some of the new developments coming online in Long Beach.
Rodriguez is proud of the fact that in the six years she’s been with the CVB, Long Beach has been written about in the New York Times three times. The most recent placement was in July. A story was published about how hotels and convention centers are using social space for meetings and conventions, and Rodriguez was quoted talking about the Long Beach Convention Center. It was the only convention center and the only Southern California city mentioned in the article.
“Because there has been so much development in Long Beach in the past several years, there has been a lot of good attention,” Rodriguez said. “Stories like this are now being used as a tool by our sales department saying that we are on the cutting edge. It’s just a really exciting time to be involved and it’s really exciting to be a part of it and to tell the story.”
Looking toward 2013, Rodriguez said she will continue to promote the Long Beach Arena upgrade project – expected to open in August – along with the bike share program launching in February, the recently unveiled concourse at the Long Beach Airport and other happenings and developments with CVB partners.
“PR is about helping people. It’s about building relationships. It’s about spreading information and linking that information with the right people,” Rodriguez said. Outside of her job, Rodriguez helps others by volunteering as a big sister in the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program and mentoring PR students at CSULB. She recently became the professional advisor for the PR department at the university, which further allows Rodriguez to give back to her community.
“I’m a big advocate of paying it forward and giving back to what has made you successful,” Rodriguez said. “The city has been so good to me, and I learned a lot through Cal State, so it’s always good to go back and show people that it’s not that hard [to get your dream job]. You just need the right people to push you and guide you and let you know that it’s okay to go outside and be successful.”