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IAM1786 – CEO Boosts Brands and Builds Relationships

Podcast Interview with Melissa Rodriguez

Why it was selected for “CBNation Architects”:

In this episode of the I AM CEO Podcast, host Gresham Harkless Jr. interviews Melissa Rodriguez, the founder of Social Media Relations, a full-service agency that specializes in branding, content production, social media marketing, and public relations. With over 10 years of experience in the industry, Melissa is a marketing and advertising specialist who holds BS degrees in Global Perspectives and Corporate Finance and Accounting from Bentley University.

Throughout the episode, Melissa shares valuable insights on branding and building relationships, emphasizing the importance of intentionality in building community. She talks about her journey from public accounting to marketing, and how she left a six-figure job to pursue her calling. She also discusses her approach to working with clients, building custom plans that align with their goals and help bring their brands to life.

In addition to sharing her expertise, Melissa offers practical tips and advice for entrepreneurs and business leaders. She recommends meditation as a helpful tool for gaining insight and making clearer decisions and emphasizes the importance of understanding successful people's mindsets in order to achieve success oneself.

Overall, the episode provides valuable insights and advice for anyone looking to improve their branding and marketing efforts, particularly in the realm of social media and public relations.

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Melissa Rodriguez Teaser 00:00

Understanding successful people's mindset is far more important than understanding what they did to get there, because what they did to get there can change, and evolve with time. It can be different, but mindset, what they were thinking, how they were thinking, what was driving them, what was their perceptions and their awareness, that is the juice. That is the magic socks.

Intro 00:23

Do you want to learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales, and grow your business from successful entrepreneurs, startups, and CEOs without listening to a long, long, long interview?

If so, you've come to the right place. Gresham Harkless values your time and is ready to share with you precisely the information you're in search of.

This is the I AM CEO podcast.

Gresham Harkless 00:50

Hello, hello, hello. This is Gresh from the I AM CEO podcast and I appreciate you listening to this episode. If you've been listening this year, you know that we hit over 1600 episodes at the beginning of this year.

We're doing something a little bit different where we are repurposing our favorite episodes around certain categories, topics, or as I like to call them, the business pillars that we think are gonna be extremely impactful for CEOs, entrepreneurs, business owners, and what I like to call CB Nation architects who are looking to level up their organizations.

This month we are focused on the visibility game, a.k.a. marketing, advertising, PR, and sales. I often say the name of the game is being found, and these tools will help you to do that. We have heard the philosophical question, if the tree falls in the forest and no one is around, does it make a sound? If there's a really, really great product or service and no one knows about it, How great is it really? What impact does it ultimately make? This is where we will go into this month looking at visibility, branding, marketing, public relations, sales being the lifeblood of businesses, building, meeting companies, and so much more.

This is probably one of the most exciting and probably the most excruciating topics, but we hope this month to demystify or maybe even vanquish the fear and help and arm you with the tools to be able to increase your visibility. So buckle up and sit back and enjoy this special episode of the I AM CEO podcast.

Hello, hello, hello. This is Gresh from the I AM CEO podcast. I have a very special guest on the show today. I have Melissa Rodriguez of Social Media Relations. Melissa, super excited to have you on the show.

Melissa Rodriguez 02:21

Thank you, Gresh. I'm excited to be here.

Gresham Harkless 02:23

Yes, excited to hear about all the awesome things that you're doing, and before we jump into that, I want to read a little bit more about Melissa, so you'd hear about some of those awesome things.

Melissa is a marketing advertising specialist and the founder of Social Media Relations out of Los Angeles, California. With over 10 years of experience, she specializes in branding, content production, social media marketing, and public relations.

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Melissa holds a BS degree in global perspective in Corporate Finance and Accounting from Bentley University. Melissa's contribution to social media relations have contributed to their five-star rating across multiple platforms, including Google, Yelp, and Facebook.

A visionary at heart, it is Melissa's mission to take your brand online and create relationships that matter. Super excited again to have you on Melissa, are you ready to speak to the I AM CEO community?

[restrict paid=”true”]

Melissa Rodriguez 03:09

I am pumped and ready to go. Let's do this.

Gresham Harkless 03:12

Let's make it happen then. So to kick everything off, I wanted to rewind the clock a little bit, and hear a little bit more on how you got started, what I call your CEO story.

Melissa Rodriguez 03:20

Amazing. So I have a little bit of an unconventional story in terms of becoming a CEO entrepreneur because I actually went to school for Accounting and Finance. As a result I went into public accounting out of school. I spent about five or six years there in public accounting. And then one day I woke up and decided to quit my job and start a marketing agency. So you can imagine the faces on my LinkedIn, they were like, what are you doing?

It's one thing to become an entrepreneur out of the blue, or that's something that's in a related field. It's another thing to go from the accounting world into the marketing world. So, that was a very big drastic leap. Oh yeah. Yes. Talk about a leap of faith. Exactly. Go from a comfy, cozy six-figure job that I had already figured out to saying to myself, okay, let's start over. Let's lose all the safety net that you got. Let's cash out your 401k, which I did, and let's just dive into this new field that you know nothing about, but that's what's calling you.

I remember the moment too when it came to me, it was like, Hey Melissa, you figured out accounting, which you needed for your experience. Now we want you to figure out marketing. And I remember being like marketing really. Like really? It was just like my gut feeling, my intuition is learn more about marketing, learn more, and so it just kept nagging at me and I was like I guess that makes sense. If I know marketing and I know accounting, then I'm like two out of the three ways there, right?

To build my business, I dove into marketing while working in corporate. I started to like really brush up on those skills and learn everything I could learn. And then started to get some clients while working a full-time job, which was pretty long days.

Gresham Harkless 05:11

Awesome. So I wanted to hear a little bit more on what you knew about what you decided to build and grow. Could you take us through a little bit more about your agency, and how you're making that impact in serving your clients?

Melissa Rodriguez 05:20

Yes. So this is another aha moment that I had a few years after leaving my corporate job. It was important of integrating the experience that you've had in your past into your present. So I love the question you're asking because it's understanding that there is an integration period. For a long time, I was actually rejecting that experience, thinking to myself that it was no longer serving me and that I had to adopt new skills.

But in reality, a lot of the experience that I gained in the first few years of working in corporate, was Insurmountable valuable because at that time I experienced incredible trainings. I experienced the ability to learn how to work in a team, but also lead a team and build a team. I experienced what working around really smart individuals was like because I was constantly surrounded by executives and boards of directors of Fortune 500 companies.

So I understood their lingo, their language, how they spoke, their demeanor, what professionalism looked like because I did not know that until I started working in corporate. So I got all these amazing skills in my arsenal .It was funny because in the beginning I was rejecting it. I almost wasn't even telling people I used to work in corporate because I was almost ashamed of that background. But it wasn't until I started to really shine a light on that, that I was able to actually grow and build even faster because I saw how much everything was actually connecting.

Gresham Harkless 06:48

Yes. So I wanted to hear more about your Social Media Relations. Could you take us through a little bit more on how you serve your clients and what you do there?

Melissa Rodriguez 06:55

Absolutely. So we are a full stack, full-service agency. So basically we help brands who are usually already established offline introduce their brand and establish them online. We help them from building their brand messaging, visuals, and aesthetics for their social presence. And then build campaigns that really speak with the audience they're trying to reach and amplify those campaigns through the mediums of PR social media ads, radio, television commercials, you name it. Whatever aligns most with their target client and their goals, we help them bring to life.

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What I realized was that I was from brands who would come to me afterward saying we tried this Facebook ad agency and my comment was Facebook ads aren't meant for your type of business. And so what I saw was a very big disservice happening to a lot of brands. And it wasn't about it. I was like, one size does not fit all and if we just try to pigeonhole you into this one service, technically we might accept almost anybody, even if it's not for them.

So, because I was really much more in a place of service, I wanted to go the extra mile and figure out what made sense for that brand and their audience and build a custom plan for them that really aligned with their goals.

Gresham Harkless 08:15

Yeah, absolutely. So I wanted to ask you now for what I call your secret sauce. This could be for yourself, the business, or a combination of both, but what do you feel sets you apart and makes you unique?

Melissa Rodriguez 08:25

I think that this past year we actually really tapped into this and uncovered it a little bit more. But I think that what makes this difference is the understanding that we are building relationships, and you said it in my bio and that was extremely intentional as well. I think, as you said, we get caught up in the media and we get caught up in the channels of digital marketing. We get caught up in these fancy little words that we have learned, but we forget the intention behind everything we're doing and we forget that the whole idea is to build a community.

The only way you can build a community is by building relationships. Gone are the days when it's cool to post and not reply to comments. That's not cool anymore. Who are you fooling? You're not building a community if you're just talking to your customers and you're not engaging with them. So for me, our secret sauce is that we know that we understand that we're not in the business of just selling or creating content to create. We're in the business of building communities, of building relationships in a completely new forum and is still something that people are still trying to wrap their heads around.

It's in a digital forum and it's possible and it exists, but I don't think a lot of brands have figured it out. Some have, but not all of them. You're talking a lot about the customer journey and getting in tune with the customer journey. Caring about that customer's journey and being intentional about their journey before they become your customer, when they're your customer, and after they're your customer because there's a whole trail of this.

Gresham Harkless 10:04

Awesome. So I wanted to switch gears a little bit and ask you for what I call a CEO hack. This could be like an app, a book, or a habit that you have, but what's something that makes you more effective and efficient?

Melissa Rodriguez 10:16

My personal hack is really meditation. I'm sure a lot of CEOs you've had on this podcast have shared that at one point or another. I was trying to go away from it and share another one, but I just couldn't because I know if anyone that's listening to this podcast, you're probably already an overachiever. You're already doing the right things, you're working hard.

So often we're not told to actually unplug and ground and connect with ourselves. So the power of meditation is that it gives you insight into the next step. It also connects you so that you can make decisions on the fly, at the moment that you're much clearer about the decisions that need to be made. So you gifting yourself 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes, whatever fits for you, you gifting yourself those 20 minutes a day, allows you to be a hundred percent better leader throughout the day.

Gifting yourself and using the give-and-take idea and concept is crucial. It's absolutely crucial if all you're doing is giving and not receiving. You are not gonna be able to receive that incredible contract that you're waiting for. You're not gonna be in this place of receiving the opportunities of a podcast or a new project. You have to practice receiving and giving yourself.

Gresham Harkless 11:34

I absolutely love that. So I wanted to ask you now for what I call a CEO nugget. This is a little bit more of a word of wisdom or a piece of advice. I like to say, it might be something you would tell a client or if you hopped into a time machine, you might tell your younger business self.

Melissa Rodriguez 11:49

This is a good one. So a lot of times we're looking for the techniques. We're looking for the steps to success. We're looking for how did you do it? How many people did you call? How many emails did you send? What we're not looking at is the mindset. It's funny to think about how quickly somebody will take notes when they try to tell you the steps to success, but how fast they also stop taking notes the moment you start telling them about your mindset. But the reality is, understanding successful people's mindset is far more important than understanding what they did to get there, because what they did to get there can change, evolve with time.

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It can be different, but the mindset, what they were thinking, how they were thinking, what was driving them? What were their perceptions and their awareness? That is the juice, that is the magic sauce. Once you understand that mindset and you understand the frequency of abundance and wealth and success, once you understand how to tap into that mindset, you will do whatever it takes to get there. Because you will already be tapped into that energy and that frequency and that level of success because you know the mindset of it.

Everything else is just like child's play. I wish someone had told me that, I wish someone had said, Melissa, it's more important to understand the mindset of a successful person than it is to understand the five different careers they had before they got there because those things didn't matter. It was how they were thinking along the way that mattered.

Gresham Harkless 13:22

Absolutely appreciate that. I wanted to ask you now my absolute favorite question, which is the definition of what it means to be a CEO. We might have touched on this, but this is basically a definition and perspective of what you think being a CEO means to you.

So Melissa, what does being a CEO mean to you?

Melissa Rodriguez 13:37

So interesting because I always manifested being a CEO, I wrote it down. I was like, one day I'm gonna be a CEO. I used to think of a CEO as this person sitting in a big company and like having a nice like corner office with glass and a big view and a lot of power and really good bank account. And it's what I think a lot of us think when we're starting the journey, like that's what it's gonna be like when I'm CEO. Oh my gosh, I couldn't be more wrong. There are aspects of real, right? There are aspects like you can have a nice office, you can have a good bank account, but that's not what a CEO is at all.

A CEO is a servant leader in my perspective. It's actually a person, a leader who services their team, who is supportive of their team, and who removes any barrier that they possibly can, any obstacle that is in the way of their team doing the best possible job. So, we're no longer the leaders that are setting like, this is how it's gonna be done. It's this way or the highway. We're no longer those types of leaders, or that's not what we're being called to be anymore. We're being called to be servant leaders that empower, that coach, that educates our future. I encourage everyone that works for me. I encourage them all to be their own version of entrepreneurs, whether it's within the company or one day they go out. I really encourage it.

I say you're the entrepreneur of your role. You're the leader of whatever project you're doing. You're the entrepreneur of that project. Because now I'm teaching them how to think, how to be critically thinking about their work, but also how to develop the mindset that it takes to be an entrepreneur so that I don't leave them hanging if they go out into the real world and start trying to do their own business one day.

Gresham Harkless 15:25

I absolutely appreciate that Melissa. I of course appreciate your time even more. What I wanted to do now was pass you the mic, so to speak, just to see if there's anything additional that you can let our readers and listeners know, and of course, how best people could get ahold of you and find about all the awesome things you and team are working on.

Melissa Rodriguez 15:40

They can add me on LinkedIn, Melissa Rodriguez. Or they can find me on Instagram, melissarinc. Then I have a couple of other channels, but if you find me there, you'll find the other channels, oh, on our website, I guess or

Gresham Harkless 15:58

Awesome, and to make it even easier, we'll have the links and information in the show notes as well, too and I hope you have a phenomenal rest of the day.

Outro 16:04

Thank you for listening to the I AM CEO podcast, powered by CB Nation and Blue 16 Media. Tune in next time and visit us at I AM CEO is not just a phrase. It's a community.

Get your driven CEO gear, Don't forget to schedule your complimentary digital marketing consultation at This has been the I AM CEO podcast with Gresham Harkless, Jr. Thank you for listening.


Dave Bonachita - CBNation Writer

This is a post from a CBNation team member. CBNation is a Business to Business (B2B) Brand. We are focused on increasing the success rate. We create content and information focusing on increasing the visibility of and providing resources for CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners. CBNation consists of blogs(, podcasts, ( and videos ( CBNation is proudly powered by Blue16 Media.

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