Qwoted Updates : Interviews and Webinars : Lou's Views

Aquila Mendez-Valdez of Haute in Texas


There can be no doubt that 2023 will go down as the year AI shook up the media world. And whether that’s a good or bad thing depends on your perspective, though many agree that it could streamline media jobs and take out much of the drudgery.

Aquila Mendez-Valdez, CEO and Founder of Haute in Texas, sees the possibilities and no wonder. Since 2001, she’s grown her agency from scratch into a multiple six-figure business. San Antonio Biz Journal named her a 40 Under 40 honoree; she also launched a satellite location in July, Haute in Austin.

As our latest Qwoted 100 PR superstar, Mendez-Valdez talks about how her positive attitude, speed and willingness to innovate have helped her stand out from the media relations pack.

Qwoted: What do you see as the future of PR—technologically, strategically, or in any category you’re passionate about?

Aquila Mendez-Valdez: I think AI will continue to shake things up, streamlining some of the parts of our jobs that are tedious and eliminating other parts that are outdated. It also seems like integrated marketing with PR as an ancillary strategy will continue to be the way the industry is headed. Particularly as marketing budgets continue to fluctuate, industry pros will have to be multi-faceted in their experience, as it’s rare that small businesses like we work with have enough budget for multiple team members assigned to multiple deliverables.

Qwoted: What do you think you do that other PRs could learn from?

Mendez-Valdez: Oh boy, I tend to hope that I’m never the smartest person in any room as that means I need to be in a different room! But from an agency philosophy standpoint, I do think we’ve been at the forefront of building a team that appreciates remote work (even pre-COVID) and allowing flexible schedules so they can fit other passions and life in their day-to-day outside of work. I never wanted to create an old-fashioned agency where everyone was chained to their desk from 9-5, and I’m really proud that we’ve been able to hold onto those values. We also created a franchise model and launched our first location with Haute in Austin this past July, so we hope that we’re now breaking ground with a systems-driven approach to growth that has a local expert taking ownership of their market.

Qwoted: What’s your toughest challenge with reporters?

Mendez-Valdez: Frankly, I think just getting their attention and helping them understand why they should care about our clients. Especially when we’re going after national coverage, they expect enterprise-level experts and often turn up their noses at small business owner experts. Our job is to make sure they at least consider the points of view our clients bring to the table, and that can be tough when reporters are spread so, so thin.

Qwoted: How do you approach breaking through the noise floor to get effective coverage?

Mendez-Valdez: Particularly with Qwoted, I think “speed to lead” is critical. I love that pitches are saved so I can see an email alert, respond within minutes to the request, and only need to tweak a saved pitch to make sense for the individual story request.

Qwoted: How does PR in 2023 square with the future of journalism?

Mendez-Valdez: I hope we can continue to be seen as an asset for journalists to rely on in the face of demanding deadlines and overwhelming workloads. I always aim to have all the materials prepped and urge my clients to get everything to a reporter as soon as they ask for it. My job is to make their jobs easier and that’s when you build relationships where they’re comfortable coming to you again and again.

Qwoted: What advice would you give to those seeking to find an effective PR person?

Mendez-Valdez: Don’t necessarily worry if they don’t have experience in your industry, look for the caliber of publications they’ve worked with and how they track their results instead. Reporters change so quickly and freelancers write for so many publications, to me in 2023 it’s less about being an agency that only works with one niche industry and more about having a broad range of tools at your disposal to drive results.

Qwoted: What is your golden rule of PR?

Mendez-Valdez: PR requires thick skin so perhaps “never give up.” I will keep pitching and pitching for our clients until I’m blue in the face because I believe in their causes and company missions so much. If I let it get to me every time a reporter said no or didn’t respond I wouldn’t last five minutes in this industry. Honestly, it just makes the wins that much sweeter because you know how much effort went into securing that coverage.

You can connect with Aquila Mendez-Valdez of Haute in Texas via email at aquila@hitpr.com or connect with her on LinkedIn. Learn more about the company’s franchise model via hauteinfranchising.com.

Lou Carlozo is Qwoted’s Editor in Chief and the Editor/Publisher of Talking Biz News. Email lou@qwoted.com or connect on LinkedIn.