As the daughter of Spanish immigrants, Maria Rodriguez learned the importance of education and hard work early in life. Finding her true “calling” as a PR practitioner, she has been honing her skills in communications strategy; social marketing; diversity, equity and inclusion; media relations; and event production for the last three decades.
A New Vision for PR
At the time of its inception in 1987, Vanguard was one of only a few agencies in Washington, D.C., working exclusively on social issues led by nonprofit or government agencies. With a keen eye on cultural and linguistic competence and the needs of underserved populations, Maria and her colleagues carved out a unique market space for Vanguard to thrive.
Making an Impact
Maria and her team have helped Willie Nelson raise awareness about the critical role of the family farmer in caring for our health, economy and environment by promoting Farm Aid’s annual music and food festival. She promoted Earth Day 1990, leading to the establishment of national recycling programs across the country. She has designed communication strategies to reduce infant mortality, prevent substance abuse and rally communities to address underage drinking.
Maria also has brought attention to the mental health needs of children and youth and helped educate women of color about the risk of heart disease. She demonstrates her commitment to mentoring young PR professionals and expanding diversity in the communications field through Comunicadores for the Future, a program she conceptualized and fully funds, which is managed in partnership with The George Washington University’s Cisneros Hispanic Leadership Institute.
Staying True to the Mission
Maria has built a distinguished roster of longstanding clients in the areas of public health, behavioral health, civil rights, education and the environment. And all the while, staying true to the company’s mission of helping nonprofits, government agencies and foundations lift up the communities they serve.
- Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Workplace Certificate, University of South Florida Muma College of Business, 2021
- B.B.A., Marketing, The George Washington University
- Signature Program, Leadership for Greater Washington, Class of 2020
- Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, Immediate Past Board Chair
- National Press Club Communicators Team, Co-Chair
- Girl Scouts Nation’s Capital, Treasurer
- The George Washington University’s Leadership Advisory Council, Member
- Cisneros Hispanic Leadership Institute Advisory Board, Member
- 2019 PR News Hall of Fame Inductee
- 2018 U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce Award for Innovation and Performance
- 2016 National Capital Public Relations Hall of Fame Inductee
- 2016 Finalist, Washington PR Woman of the Year 2016
- 2006 25 Best Small Companies, Working Mother Magazine
- 2004 Matrix Award, Association of Women in Communications
- 2003 PR Week Agency of the Year
- 2003 Young Entrepreneur of the Year, Hispanic Magazine’s Latina Excellence Awards