Spotlight on a Solo PR Pro: Meet Melissa Vela-Williamson, M.A., APR, CDP

Living the Life

Spotlight on a Solo PR Pro: Meet Melissa Vela-Williamson, M.A., APR, CDP

Nov 1, 2022 | Living the Life

Spotlight on a Solo PR Pro: Meet Melissa Vela-Williamson, M.A., APR, CDP

Nov 1, 2022 | Living the Life

The real question is: what can’t Melissa Vela-Williamson do?

She’s a wife, mom, PR pro, thought leader and, most recently, author.

As chief communication architect at her PR firm, MVW Communications, she’s a solo business owner, too.  

Strategic partner to all

Melissa’s unique job title stems from her belief that her primary job is to put together big, integrated marketing and communication plans for clients — something like a blueprint that guides their work.  

She feels what makes MVW Communications stand out is her focus on supporting clients’ internal communications. And her ideal clients are heart-based organizations.

“I love using PR and marketing to inspire hope and bring about positive incremental change,” Melissa says. “What’s special is when you have your own firm, you can attract clients that are more aligned with your values.”

Melissa also uses a contractor-only model, meaning she is a full-time team of one, but partners with other professionals across the country. She’s been connected with a lot of these folks thanks to the Solo PR Pro network.

“We team up like Avengers, and when the campaign is done, we can disassemble,” Melissa explains. “It’s lean overhead for me and the client. We're nimble when times are a little tough, like we've experienced with the pandemic, and I can look for specialized experts across the country.”

An unexpected calling fills market gap

This past October marked the publication of Melissa’s book “Smart Talk: Public Relations Essentials All Pros Should Know.”  

It’s a book Melissa never intended to write. But during the pandemic, she felt a call to do so.

“The pandemic brought out a boldness in me,” she says. “I grabbed onto my silver linings and tried to weave a blanket.”

Melissa knew she had a wealth of knowledge, so why not put those thoughts to paper and help others in the industry? She also saw a gap in the market for PR books. She wanted to write something that pulled back the curtain to the industry and offered “real talk.”

“Then, of course, there was nothing pushing the conversation forward into cultural strategy, which I was learning more and more really resonated with and was important to people,” she says. “What I value about becoming an author is the opportunity to have conversations and share lessons that help people.”

Melissa adds that the book is specifically written for people from diverse backgrounds as a way to encourage more professionals and students of color to enter the PR industry.

Part of the reason why is because she’s found people from collectivist cultures are focused on family and don’t always branch out on their own. She hopes the book serves as encouragement for them to try a new profession, reach for leadership opportunities, and invites them to think or do differently.

“Smart Talk” also includes a number of embarrassing, uncomfortable scenarios that Melissa has experienced as a PR pro, as well as the nuts and bolts of media relations, crisis communications and more.

“But then I end with how to think and act like a PR pro,” she says. “Because sometimes we're our own PR crisis or our own personal hot mess.”

Melissa wrote most of the book using the voice to text feature in Google Docs while she was walking her dog. That’s another facet of her identity: multi-tasker.

Centered on DEI

For Melissa, DEI is at the heart of all she does.

“It's been a through line in my life, where connecting needs to resources and promoting advocacy by creating social good has been something that started early in my career and has been happening ever since,” she says.  

In fact, DEI is so important to Melissa that she became a Certified Diversity Professional.

And while her career as a PR pro has helped her find purpose, it’s really her work in the DEI space that she most values.

“Intersecting PR with cultural strategy and understanding people as unique human beings has been something that, particularly since the pandemic, has shone brighter than ever for me,” she says.

And as she looks to the next chapter of career, Melissa hopes to continue being of service to others.

“As I get older in my time on Earth and my career, I want to be more of that mentor and teacher, and I don't always want to be in the trenches of newsroom media relations,” she says. “I enjoy where I’m headed as I train upcoming professionals and have more global industry conversations.”

Written By Solo PR Staff
Solo PR is a membership community for independent/freelance professionals in public relations, social media and related fields. The Solo PR staff includes Editor, Jessica Lawlor and President, Karen Swim.