Five Questions with SMS Account Director Victoria Cela


When she’s not watching UF football, walking her dog, or lamenting Tom Brady’s retirement, you’ll find Vicky in the thick of things counseling her clients.

Six years ago, Victoria Cela walked into the Schwartz Media Strategies Miami office in pursuit of an internship. Her enthusiasm for public relations and marketing, coupled with her desire to launch her career in South Florida, were key selling points.

Following a six-month internship, Vicky was hired full-time and has since grown her role at the Firm by learning, asking questions, and diving into campaigns head-first.

This year, Vicky was promoted to the role of Account Director, putting her in a position to teach and lead others. Assertive, determined, smart, strategic, and kind, Vicky exemplifies the essence of SMS.

SMS Partner Yudi Fernandez Kim sat down with Victoria for a candid conversation covering a range of topics, from community and culture, to their families.

Yudi: This is probably one of my favorite interviews I’ve ever conducted. Let’s jump in by going back in time. I remember when we first met. You were fresh out of the University of Florida. I loved the fact that you were a fellow gator. How did joining SMS as an intern prepare you for a career in communications?

Vicky: Prior to joining SMS, my experience working with PR agencies was minimal. I was hoping that an internship would give me real-world, hands-on experience. Almost from day one, I was involved in all aspects of our client work. It felt like I was a full-time member of the team.

Looking back, the opportunity to grow my career at the same company where it all began has been extremely rewarding. SMS has represented many clients going back 5, 10, 15 years, so my longevity has allowed me to really understand our campaigns and how these businesses work at all levels. I’ve also had the opportunity to mentor some of the team members who have since joined the firm, which has put me in a position to draw upon my own internship experience.

YF: What advice would you give to college students or aspiring practitioners who are interested in pursuing a career in communications?

VC: Don’t be afraid to speak your mind and stand up for your beliefs, even if they are not perceived to be the most ‘popular’. As communications counselors, one of our primary roles is to provide clients with advice that may be at odds with what the client wants to hear or with the ‘trending’ narrative, but it’s important that we are honest and transparent.

It’s human nature to get caught up in agreeing with the general consensus or conventional wisdom. I’m never shy about bringing a different opinion or fresh perspective to the table and I would advise the same for anyone in any profession.

YF: Now that you’re several years into your career, what are your favorite parts of working in the communications industry? And which ones present the biggest challenges?

VC: There is a perception that public relations is all about the glitz and glam. Many people enter the field because they are drawn to celebrity-studded events. And it’s true, less than a month into my internship at SMS, we orchestrated the public launch of David Beckham’s MLS soccer club , which was a once in a lifetime experience, but my career has been defined by so much more.

I enjoy writing and putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) to translate my thoughts into a cohesive narrative. Most of all, I get to work with fascinating people who value what I do and put me in a position to learn new things every day.

As for challenges, there’s nothing easy or simple about coming up with new and creative ways to advance our clients’ goals. Some of my clients have been working with SMS for more than a decade, so we are always identifying new ways to create value. I take pride in the fact that I represent some of the most respected people and companies in Florida. I am constantly raising the bar for myself by bringing new ideas to light and finding new avenues for helping our clients and connecting them to their target audiences. That’s how I’ve learned, and that’s how I intend to teach others.

YF: The PR industry continues to transform, particularly with the integration of social media and digital marketing. How is this evolution impacting your role and plans for clients?

VC: As a millennial, I grew up alongside the evolution of social media. I remember the days of AOL Instant Messenger, MySpace and Tumblr, and now people are spending hours every day on Twitter and Instagram. I’ve always been interested in digital platforms and that has made me comfortable incorporating new mediums into my work.

Nowadays, there’s barely any daylight between digital media and traditional media. An integrated campaign must incorporate both to be effective since different audiences are consuming information through different mediums. Our team may land a front-page story for a client in the Wall Street Journal, but if we’re limiting the audience to people that read the paper, then we’re only scratching the surface. As communications strategists, it’s up to us to make sure that we’re taking that story and amplifying it across all channels. It’s our job to stay current on the trends, and to understand how we can utilize these ever-changing tools.

YF: We know you love Miami, sports and dogs (and, your fiancée!). You also work with high-profile clients and the nature of what we do can be demanding at times. How do you manage work/life balance?

VC: I am blessed to have one of the most supportive and understanding partners. He (thankfully) makes sure I’m not always focused on my work, but at the same time, he recognizes that advancing in this profession requires certain sacrifices.

While we’re not the most adventurous bunch, we do enjoy kayaking and exploring a local spring or river with our rescue dog, Jasper, who has his own doggie life vest. Exercise is key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, both mentally and physically, just as wine, chocolate, pasta, and pastelitos are all essentials.

I practice yoga every morning, and while I am by no means a yogi, even if it’s just 15 minutes, I’ve noticed a significant change in my mood and stress levels. Yoga helps get my mind in the right headspace and prepare me for the day ahead.