We had the good fortune of connecting with Rolando Rodriguez and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Rolando, how does your business help the community?
I think many marketing and communications firms see themselves as valuable instruments for a client to achieve a specific objective, like sell more products or be seen in the community more favorably. I’ll tell you something that’s probably controversial in my industry. I don’t care about any of that. In fact, I see my clients as important instruments to make people’s lives better and to tell better stories about communities of color who rarely have control of their own narrative. That’s all I care about. That’s why I’m in business. Because my professional life’s purpose is rooted in elevating lives, my clients are going to get the best possible thinking, ideas and innovation they can get out of an agency like ours, because I’m not concerned about corporate interests – only community ones. My only concern is if it’s right for the community, if it moves the needle in helping people advance their lives, beat structural racism, erase stereotypes through positive storytelling, improve the Black and Brown workplace experience, and claim the power that’s been taken and hidden from our communities for so long. If a client is truly, truly going to care about Black and Brown communities, then they’re going to be aligned with that as well. If not, there’s a line of agencies that’s going to rub their back and tell them they’re doing a wonderful job, who want the logo on their website and want to be a tool in the toolbox. If they’re aligned with our value system, then we can help them with designing a public relations strategy, building corporate social responsibility programs, writing communications that move their audiences, negotiating their sponsorships, funneling money into nonprofits, creating employee engagement programs – all the things we do well as an agency. And I assure you, if their North Star is our North Star, they’ll ultimately achieve their objectives, whether I care about them or not.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Trill Multicultural is an agency that produces socially-conscious marketing and communications that elevate brands and communities. It’s hard to be excited about an influx of business from brands that all of a sudden started practicing religion around diversity, inclusion and equity, because it came at the price of lives. George Floyd had to die. Breonna Taylor had to die. Vanessa Guillen had to die and countless others. Before we celebrate the booming of an industry because people are trying to get in touch with their humanity and compassion, we need to acknowledge that it came at a huge cost. With that, agencies like ours have to handle this new business responsibly. We have to push our clients for real change inside of themselves and to be bold agents for change externally. In other words, if it doesn’t feel uncomfortable, you’re not any more of an ally than before George Floyd died. People need to be pissed. Your top performers who hold racist beliefs have to be shown the door. Tears of freaking joy from your Black and Brown employees need to be flowing because they can’t believe the depth of the commitment. That’s what change looks like. I’ve learned in my career, which was spent in newsrooms, nonprofits, ad agencies, and corporations, that nine times out of 10, brands move to do right by communities of color because of either profit or shame. Those are sad motivators, but it’s reality. Make no mistake, many brands see money signs by doing the right thing here and certainly feel shame if they don’t employ some elaborate campaign around advancing equity. So if it’s going to go down like, we as agencies must ensure their work isn’t a public relations campaign, but real structural change. If they do the former, call them out and tell the story. If they do the latter, praise them and tell the story.Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I’d take them to the Houston Flea Market off 59 and Hilcroft to show them what it looks like for the undocumented arrival to start over in a new country and to eat the best pupusas in your life and maybe buy a thick gold chain. I’d take them on a run at Memorial Park so they could see the sheer diversity of lives that huff and puff their way through this city. I always look at the people passing me on the trail and I always have so many questions about who they are and where they come from. I’d take them to my favorite dive bar, Poison Girl in Montrose, so we could have a real catch-up. That dark place has inspired some of the most in-depth conversations of my life. I’d take them to Chinatown to eat crawfish. I feel like I’m transported to a new world when I’m there and I always feel so proud to be a Houstonian. I’d take them to Brazos Bend State Park right southwest of the city so they could come feet from a Texas-sized gator and wander in the wilderness. I’d take them to a fruteria on the northside of Houston.Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I have to shoutout author Donald Miller for writing the book “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.” His book altered my mindset on how to pursue the rest of my life and what it means to write a good story with the pages of your life. At the beginning of his book, he writes that, “If you watched a movie about a guy who wanted a Volvo and worked for years to get it, you wouldn’t cry at the end when he drove off the lot, testing the windshield wipers.” He maintains that nobody cries at the end of a movie about a guy who wants a Volvo. “But we spend years actually living those stories, and expect our lives to be meaningful,” he wrote. “The truth is, if what we choose to do with our lives won’t make a story meaningful, it won’t make a life meaningful either.”