Checo’s success wisdom for Hispanic PR pros: “Network, network, network” and “Get Involved!”

When Hispanic PR and marketing veteran Andy Checo joined New York’s DEX this month, he added another high-profile agency to his impressive résumé. Over a 20-year career, the Domican-American Checo has worked at Havas Formula, Boden Agency, Weber Shandwick, Edelman and RL Public Relations. Between agency stints, he scored three years of in-house marketing experience at MundoFox. 

The list of nearly 50 major brands Checo has worked with includes PepsiCo, Heineken, The Home Depot, TurboTax, ABInBev, Chase Bank, Avocados from Mexico, Wonderful Pistachios and Canela.TV. A big believer in the power of networking and being an active industry member, Checo also served as president of the HPRA (Hispanic Public Relations Association) for nearly two years.

We caught up with the industrious Checo to learn more about his new role at DEX (d expósito & Partners), the Hispanic marketing landscape, strategic insights, his New York upbringing and of course, as many success tips as possible from this highly respected industry leader.

What attracted you most about joining the d expósito team? 

The US Hispanic market has always been my passion and where I have accumulated the bulk of my experience over the past 20+ years. Having worked at large mainstream agencies, I strongly believe that specialty shops like d expósito & Partners (DEX) offered unparalleled expertise in the market. Those who have been in this space and seen it evolve over the past two decades know that the US Hispanic market has continued growing rapidly, with more brands wanting to engage us as consumers. DEX has been able to position itself as “The New American Agency,” leveraging its integrated offering to produce best-in-class work that addresses clients’ needs by tapping cultural influences and today’s societal trends, maintaining an impressive roster of clients over the years. Currently, the agency’s work for its clients goes beyond Hispanic, and it is driving clients’ engagements with a multicultural audience that reflects the new mainstream in America.

Be active in the industry, not just an employee doing a job.” — Andy Checo

How will your role be different at d expósito vs other major agencies you have recently worked at, such as Weber Shandwick, Boden, or Havas?

My role at DEX gives me the opportunity to build upon the agency’s track record of developing and executing award-winning campaigns in every aspect of the marketing matrix, including PR, creative, and media. DEX is distinct from the others, in that it is an integrated, full-service agency, where I can apply my strategic leadership and diverse experience in PR and social to the broader team’s expertise in strategy, creative, media, and grassroots outreach.  I look forward to helping them connect with multicultural audiences and stakeholders to drive the goals and objectives for clients like McDonald’s, Tajin and Nielsen. Additionally, I am charged with identifying and pursuing new growth opportunities as we seek to expand our PR and social offerings.

What will be your top priorities in 2023?

My first priority at DEX will be to continue focusing on developing winning strategies for current clients, offer up counsel, and position our capabilities as a strong player in the industry with a proven track record and a deep understanding of and expertise in the multicultural space.

From your vantage point of having worked at several major agencies, what insights can you share about the successes and challenges brands are facing in the current climate, where diversity, equity, and inclusion have become priorities?

Multicultural, and especially Hispanic, is a business imperative for any brand. Clients must demand from their partner agencies that their teams be representative of this demographic and reflect the diverse composition of their customer base. However, lived experience and DNA are not enough for anyone to claim to be an expert. True expertise is something that is gained with time out of curiosity and passion, and it is the specialized shops like DEX that are better equipped to develop and execute impactful strategies.

As a Hispanic PR Zen Master…what do you see as your biggest strengths?

Experience is built over time. I think my major strength is the understanding of the industry landscape, the trust in the relationships I have been able to build and maintain and the passion I bring into the work, which I hope translates to building impactful results for both the clients and agencies I have worked with. Through my experience, I am able to apply multicultural insights in building client strategies that connect with relevancy to the audience.

What areas do you want to get even better at?

We live in a time where PR undergoes constant evolution. Every day is a learning experience. I am again working at an integrated agency that gets me closer to the key components of the marketing matrix. Looking forward to learning from my counterparts in the media and creative side of the business.

Lived experience and DNA are not enough for anyone to claim to be an expert. True expertise is something that is gained with time out of curiosity and passion.” — Andy Checo

What are some of your favorite campaigns you’ve worked on over the last few years and why?

TurboTax by far has been one of the most rewarding experiences for many reasons. Through that relationship, I was able to introduce a brand to the Hispanic market, and see it grow year-over-year in terms of investment, creative execution, but most importantly, business results as Latinos embraced the brand. Wonderful Pistachios was another brand I helped introduce to the Hispanic audience and loved taking the message of adapting smarter snacking habits to the community, creating engaging experiences, and generating receptivity with Hispanic media outlets. Being part of the team that helped launch “Juntos Crecemos” for PepsiCo and working with a client that is truly committed to the advancement of Hispanic small-business owners was very much a rewarding experience. Lastly, launching Canela.TV and bringing to the community a new and refreshing media platform, while helping support the vision of a Latina entrepreneur, Isabel Rafferty Zavala.

What advice can you share with PR professionals who want to be more effective at engaging the Hispanic market?

We work in an industry where relationships matter. Think about building relationships that are mutually rewarding. Support Hispanic-owned partners and remember that effective programs need to aim to address a need within the community. Be active in the industry, not just an employee doing a job.

You attended the Hispanic Leadership Summit this week. Can you share any insights that jumped out at you?

My presence at the Hispanic Leadership Summit was fairly limited, however, I think I got to experience one of the most powerful parts of the programming, featuring speakers like Stacie de Armas at Nielsen (client), Cristina Kolbjornsen at NBCUniversal Telemundo and Claudia Edelman, all of whom shed light on the Latina pay disparity. I was also impressed with all the stakeholders in attendance and how passionate the audience was about driving change.

During your recent two-year stint as the President of the HPRA, what do you feel were your biggest accomplishments and where would you like to see the HPRA in the next few years?

I have been involved with HPRA for almost 15 years and have served in many different capacities. During my time as president, one of the accomplishments I am most proud of is elevating the profile of the organization’s National Bravo! Awards and helping raise funds to support the organization’s mission. I am extremely proud to say that my friend Sonia Diaz (current president) has taken Bravo! and HPRA to new heights and looking forward to many great things to come. I remain a board member of HPRA and co-chair of Bravo! Awards.

Effective programs need to aim to address a need within the community.” — Andy Checo

At Weber Shandwick, you were the Vice-Chair of LIGA. What insights can you share from this experience?

LIGA (Latino Inclusion & Guidance Alliance) is the agency’s Latino Business Resource Group (BRG) and an important part of building a community within the agency. It also serves the role of providing strategic council to account teams activating within the US Hispanic space. Given my experience, it was one of my main contributions to the agency, and I was able to foster strong relations with the leadership.

This year you won the Leader Change Agent Award. Congrats! Can you tell us more about this?

This was a recognition by my peers, so it was important. It recognized my impact on the organization’s programming, bringing on speakers like Ana Flores, Ingrid Hoffmann, Rosemary Ravinal, and Antonio Tijerino and actively influencing strategies within several account teams servicing some of today’s most recognizable brands.

Any other success or leadership tips you can share with PR professionals? 

  • Network, network, network… building and fostering relationships is key in positioning your future within the industry. 
  • Get involved! Don’t just be a passive industry member. Find a way to be a part of the greater industry and help address some of the issues facing the communications industry today. 
  • Find a mentor and be a mentor.

What’s your Hispanic heritage, where did you grow up and what are your fondest memories of growing up Hispanic?

I am a proud Dominican-American who came to this country in the late 80s, living in the emblematic Washington Heights neighborhood at the time, transitioning to The Bronx, and then finding my way to New Jersey where I have lived for the past 20 years. I attended what was considered at the time one of the worst public high schools in New York City, which for me turned out to be a blessing as I was given opportunities there that helped me expand my horizons and exposed me to a world outside of the neighborhood, which for some youth living in the inner city can be a challenge. During high school, I took classes at Fordham University (literally across the street), attended a private summer camp in Vermont, and eventually moved on to college (Mount Saint Mary College & Middlebury College). With what I do today, I am very much helping build initiatives that positively impact the same community I was raised in.

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