“Industry Q&A” Featuring Michelle (Revuelta) Gonzalez of Choose Chicago

March 6, 2018

Michelle (Revuelta) Gonzalez, Choose Chicago

In this installment of our ongoing Industry Q&A series, we chat with Michelle (Revuelta) Gonzalez, vice president for media relations with Choose Chicago, the official destination marketing organization for Chicago, Illinois. A veteran of more than 20 years in the business, Michelle worked for the Greater Miami CVB and Tourism Toronto before joining Choose Chicago. Here she reflects on the dramatic changes in the media landscape over the last 20 years, shares her perspective on the skills needed to take on leadership roles, and offers some advice on juggling the demands of family and career.

Q: How were you introduced to the world of destination marketing?

A: Right out of college, I knew I wanted to go into Public Relations. Fortunately I had done a ton of internships and made a ton of contacts, which helped me land my first job (at the Greater Miami CVB). These days you have to really network and get your name out there. And there’s no better time to start than when you are in college and industry veterans are willing to give of their time and expertise to help you understand the business.

Q: You’ve now worked successfully for three major destination marketing organizations (DMOs). What are the most significant changes you have seen during your 20 years in the business?

A: Number one is the evolution of media. The traditional writers and broadcasters are still out there, but now we have social media and bloggers and other digital influencers. The changing media landscape changes the way we communicate. You turn around, and you’ve got more and more emails coming at you, and it’s not just about a simple media request. Now, it’s about content creation and partnerships. Key is prioritizing and making sure that you respond and story-tell, promote and sell your destination, and inspire media to keep writing or broadcasting or blogging about it.

Q: Talk about your career path and what you believe is the most important thing public relations professionals can do to rise through the DMO ranks over time.

A: Internships are incredibly important. We try to employ two interns year-round in the media relations department at Choose Chicago. As you start growing your career now or at any stage, really, it’s important to find a great mentor, someone who can act as a sounding board and also help you continue to expand your professional network. Education and professional development are important throughout your career. Sometimes we are so busy we don’t carve out enough time to stop and say, “OK, go take this class, or go immerse yourself and find out what your marketing partners are doing, or what other DMOs are doing. Go make some industry friends that you can call on at any time.” As you move up the ladder, communication skills continue to be very important. You need to be a good listener. You have to be able to take constructive feedback. And you have to be able to provide it as well.

Q: You’ve managed staff both in an office environment and remotely. With many organizations including at least some off-site workers these days, what keys to success can you offer those who are managing remote staff?

A: Remote workers are an extension of our team. A lot of our remote staff are in different time zones. So it goes back to the constant communication, staying in touch, sharing calendars. As a manager, you should have access to your remote workers and their availability. It’s important to connect daily, whether it’s by email, phone or Skype. At the same time, your remote employees need to keep in touch with you as well to demonstrate their ability to deliver results and collaborate from afar.

Q: You have worked with many agencies over the years. What is the most important thing an agency can do for you?

A: In the DMO world, our public relations and social media agencies are our in-market experts. We rely on them not only to give us market updates — what’s going on in Germany? Or China, Japan, Australia? — but also to establish and maintain relationships with key in-market journalists, those we’re looking to tell our story to. Connecting us with the right media and other potential partners, facilitating those introductions, and making sure we’re continuously receiving quality media coverage of the destination, in the right outlets, through the right channels— those are the just some of the things we look for from our agencies.

Q: In five years, what skill will a destination public relations professional need in order to remain competitive?

A: PR professionals will need the ability to keep up with changes in the media landscape. Who’s covering what? Who’s influencing whom? It all boils down to: What are your pillars? Who and what are you trying to attract for your destination? And how much is it going to cost? It has become a very pay-to-play world, and determining what funds go where will continue to be a challenge for all DMOs, large and small.

Q: Public relations is a labor-intensive job, and yet you’ve nurtured your career while raising two smart and energetic kids. What tips would you offer PR professionals who want to work and raise a family?

A: It’s definitely possible, but having a great support team goes a long way. You need to surround yourself with family and friends who are completely supportive of your career and willing to help out, especially when you’re traveling.  And, you need to be part of a corporate culture that is equally supportive. No matter how busy it gets, you need to take time to plan out your travel schedule or your work schedule well. And make the time to show your children not just the work part of work, but the fun part of work, too. Finally, you need to love what you do and work for a company that values you. Don’t be afraid of challenge and change.

About Choose Chicago

Choose Chicago® is the official destination marketing organization for Chicago, Illinois. Our mission is to bring regional, national and international business and leisure visitors to Chicago for the economic benefit of the City, the community and our membership. www.choosechicago.com, @ChooseChicago, #ChicagoHome

Karyl Leigh Barnes

Written by Karyl Leigh Barnes

Karyl Leigh Barnes is President of DCI’s Tourism Practice. Since joining the firm in 1998, Karyl Leigh has led destination strategy and created marketing communication programs for destinations on every continent except Antarctica.

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