Jungle Island marketing director Leo Sarmiento

This Hispanic PR Leader profile is with marketing veteran Leo Sarmiento, Director of Marketing for Miami’s famed Jungle Island theme park.

What was your childhood ambition?
I always wanted to do something in sports, which I was lucky enough to have been able to do for a large part of my career.

Tell us about three people you admire and why?
I admire my dad: he came to the US from Cuba with his wife and 3 kids (and later had one more – me) and worked hard to provide all of us a decent life and instill great values.

I admire former Senator Bob Graham.  I had the opportunity to meet him early in my career and witnessed him first-hand lifting up his sleeves and “getting dirty” to help those in distress, unlike other politicians who appeared for the photo op and quickly left. He also established his Workdays program where he would work a full, eight-hour day at various jobs which represented Florida’s constituents. He truly tried to know his constituents needs, or in a business sense it would be, knowing your client.

I admire Dave Barry.  I admire his wit!  He’s someone that’s worked hard and put his talents to succeed.  And yet when you meet him and talk to him, he remains humble and a genuinely nice guy!

What is your favorite life or business quote?
My favorite quote applies to both life and business.  It’s been attributed to both Charles Swindoll and Lou Holtz, so I’m not really sure who to give credit!  “Life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it.”

What are you really passionate about outside of work?
While I enjoy sports and taking photos, right now it’s all about my family.  I have a 4 year old and a 10 month old who, no matter what type of day I had at work, always make me smile when I get home.

Tell us about your educational background.
I graduated in 1994 from Barry University with a Sports Management Major and Business Minor.

What is one of the best lessons your parents taught you about life?
Be honest and respectful.

What is the most important business habit you have?
Being reliable. This means not missing work, meeting deadlines, etc. but taking it a step beyond, coming up with new ideas and strategies in times when they are needed the most.  Being reliable is much about knowing they can count on you to not just sit behind your desk.

What is the best book you’ve recently read and why?
I’m currently reading “The New Rules of Marketing & PR” and so far it’s a pretty good book.  But to be honest, I much rather read a good novel or history book than a business book.  One of the best books I’ve read recently is a history book that reads like a novel; “The Lost City of Z,” about an archaeologist lost in the Amazon and the writer’s journey in trying to follow his footsteps.  Great Read!

How did you start your career in PR and where has that taken you?
My career started doing PR for a local soccer marketing company called, aptly enough, Soccer Marketing & Promotions.  I worked on everything from media relations for a local event to community and media relations for a major international event (Olympic soccer in South Florida). I learned to deal with International athletes and media, working with all types of characters; from divas to some of the nicest people you can meet.  This prepared me to deal with difficult media, clients and even bosses, and learning not to take things personally, but rather figure out what you need to do to get the job done right.

What advice would you have for young people exploring Hispanic or multicultural PR careers?
I believe whether working with Hispanic, Multicultural, or mainstream, the most important thing is know your customer. No matter how good your product or campaign is, if you don’t understand what they really want, it’s going to fail.

Tell us something about you that would surprise even many of your closest friends.
I didn’t learn how to ride a bike until after I got married!

Describe the most effective Hispanic marketing campaign you’ve worked on and what made it special?
When I worked at The IAC Group we did a multi-brand campaign for Procter & Gamble aimed at Hispanic Teens.  This campaign was special because it truly had all the vehicles of a successful campaign.  We created a campaign titled “By Taking Small Steps You’ll Reach Great Goals.” The campaign was done in both English and Spanish We did a concert tour in seven key cities with some of the biggest Hispanic artists, created a contest through the school system, created print, radio and TV PSAs, did a media tour, products sampling at the events, the whole nine yards.  We received an incredible amount of media coverage, the concerts were sold-out, and the client was extremely happy with the exposure they received in the Hispanic Teen Market.

What’s in the works at your company to continue to grow its Hispanic market-related business?
We are starting small with some online campaigns, such as celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month by doing a series of articles highlighting some of our animals that are from Latin American countries, and inviting our annual passholders to a special guided, interactive tour. However, I do have some plans to hopefully make some major news hopefully next year, but I’ll have to tell you more about that at a later time!

What is the biggest Hispanic marketing cliché that you would love to see go away?
Hispanics don’t spend money. (Yes we do!)

What are your three favorite sources to find out what is going on in the US Hispanic world and what do you look for in these resources?
I enjoy some blogs such as Hispanic PR Blog because it gives me a good insight into what’s going on in the Hispanic industry nationwide. I enjoy Hispanic Business as well. I also like to look at general market publications such as AdAge and what they publish about Hispanic Marketing as it seems to give me a slightly different insight on what’s going on.

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