As assistant VP of communications for Comerica Bank, Nicaragua native Alfredo Padilla brings an unquenchable thirst for all things PR - and he never takes no for an answer.
"It's funny," says Alfredo Padilla, assistant VP of communications at Comerica Bank, "but sometimes when I see a new event in the paper, I have to go see how they did it. It's just my PR training."
Funny to some, an obsession to others. Either way you look at it, Padilla is a PR pro who prides himself on being committed to his job 24-7.
Since his days as a student, when he first decided to pursue a communications career, the 38-year-old Latin American native has been on overdrive. He says the PR profession appealed to him from his first introduction to it as a student at California State University, where he took an introductory class that hooked him. "I sat in the classroom and said, 'This is what I want to do,'" he recalls. "I've always had ideas about how things should be said or done by companies, and I found that this field allowed me" to turn those thoughts to action.
After graduation, Padilla took a communications job with the local Univision affiliate. Among numerous responsibilities, he handled media relations for the station's Nuestra Belleza beauty contest. "It was a dirty job, but someone had to do it," he says with a laugh.
Although he didn't plan to specialize in ethnic PR, Padilla immediately concluded that his Hispanic background gave him numerous avenues to aid his work. Originally from Nicaragua, he came to Los Angeles in his early teens.
"My father worked in the government when he was young," explains Padilla. After that country's civil war, "he felt like [Nicaragua] wouldn't be safe with a new government taking over." So he brought his family to the US. Despite knowing almost no English when he arrived - "The only word I knew was 'business,'" he says. "Don't ask me why" - Padilla reveled in the adventure his new country brought. "The diversity amazed me," he remembers. "It was just the excitement to learn something new."
That passionate spirit has become one of his defining traits among those who know him. After leaving Univision, Padilla joined Hispanic specialist Valencia P?rez & Echeveste (VPE), where he worked for clients such as McDonald's.
"His strengths were a sense of eagerness and inquisitiveness," says VPE principal John Echeveste. He has always been well-respected and regarded by his colleagues."
Padilla stayed with the firm for a year before going to the Los Angeles office of GolinHarris as an AAE. He says he made the jump for the same reason many young pros do - to try his luck at one of the big shops. While he liked the experience, he moved back to a smaller agency, Stoorza, Zeigaus & Metzger, for a year before taking an in-house job at Union Bank of California.
After the hectic workload of balancing multiple clients at an agency, Padilla says he was ready to "just focus on a brand and a message. There is still a lot going on, but at day's end, it comes down to one objective. It's more focused."
As a media relations officer for the bank, Padilla handled a range of tasks, from news releases to speech writing. As in past jobs, he quickly won over co-workers with his spirit.
"He was someone I just enjoyed working with," says Sharon Woodson-Bryant, VP of PR for Union Bank. "He had such a tremendous enthusiasm for the bank's programs. Specifically, he was always someone who had good ways of maximizing our community efforts."
While Padilla was charged with a wide range of duties for Union Bank, he says media relations has always been his "forte" and the most interesting aspect of his work, even in his off time.
"I'm always watching the news shows," he says, when asked about his hobbies. "It's just something in me that I have to do. I'm looking for ideas and to figure out what they are looking for, the timing of what they are covering."
He adds that he loves the challenge of thinking like a reporter. He makes it a point to never take no for an answer when he's pitching. "When reporters tell me no, I say, 'Let me come back and repitch it. It's so sad. I just come up with something new," he says.
Padilla left Union Bank to join Washington Mutual as a PR manager. In that role, he supervised regional publicity and handled all external media announcements for the bank's operations in California. After four years, he left to try his luck at freelancing, and worked on strategy and communications for clients such as Nextel, Kaiser Permanente, and White Memorial Medical Center.
Recently, however, Padilla has returned to the corporate side, taking his current role for the western division of Comerica Bank. Based in Michigan, the bank is in the process of establishing a stronger West Coast presence, and Padilla is helping with both communications and strategy.
"They now have branches in Southern California, Texas, and Florida," he explains of Comerica's expansion. "They want to grow, so there is a challenge for me to bring my perspective in the media while simultaneously introducing the brand to the region."
When he's not working to further Comerica's goals, Padilla spends a good deal of his time helping to further the industry's objectives. He has served as president of the LA Hispanic Public Relations Association, and currently is an advisory board member. In discussing this aspect of Padilla's life, colleagues are quick to point out another quality: his willingness to mentor other young professionals.
"He's very involved in the community," says Echeveste. "He's committed to PR and does whatever it takes to get the job done for his company and his industry."
Comerica Bank, assistant VP of comms
Freelance PR consultant
Washington Mutual, PR manager
Union Bank of California, media relations manager
Stoorza, Ziegaus & Metzger, AE
Valencia P?rez & Echeveste, PR rep