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From a War Correspondent to Entrepreneur – Meet Adriana Aristizabal

Exciting News! Our CEO, Adriana Aristizabal, had a captivating conversation with Michael Libbie on Insight on Business!
Explore the latest business news and Adriana’s inspiring journey from war correspondent to the force behind iVoice Communications.

Listen to the interview here:

From Insight on Business the News Hour with Michael Libbie:

She has an amazing story. Adriana Aristizabal was a war correspondent in her native Colombia but when she was facing death threats made the choice to immigrate to the United States.

After some time working at embassy jobs she decided to launch her own business and iVoice Communications, now a global public relations and marketing firm, was born.

As you know we love entrepreneurs and the story Adriana weaves is one of the most captivating we’ve heard. Take some time to get to know her and her story. 

Thanks for listening!

The award winning Insight on Business the News Hour with Michael Libbie is the only weekday business news podcast in the Midwest. The national, regional and some local business news along with long-form business interviews can be heard Monday – Friday. You can subscribe on  PlayerFMPodbeaniTunesSpotifyStitcher or TuneIn Radio. And you can catch The Business News Hour Week in Review each Sunday Noon on News/Talk 1540 KXEL. The Business News Hour is a production of Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications. You can follow us on Twitter @IoB_NewsHour...and on Threads @Insight_On_Business.

Read the Interview here:

Michael Libbie Welcome back to Insight on Business, grateful that you’re listening to us from wherever on the planet you happen to be. You know, you get put in different places and you meet all kinds of people if you’re active and if you’re out and about. And I had the opportunity to meet Adriana Aristizabal, who is the founder and CEO of iVoice Communications, based in New York City, but she is from, originally, Colombia. Adriana, welcome to the Business News Hour. Nice to have you here.

Adriana Aristizabal Thank you, Michael, for inviting me to your space.

Michael Libbie I am so captivated by entrepreneurs. And your story is relatively incredible, because you immigrated from Colombia to the United States, but you’ve been in media for years. Tell us about that journey through media and then to New York.

Adriana Aristizabal Thank you, Michael. Well, I’m a journalist. Originally, I used to work as a war correspondent in Colombia from 1999.

Michael Libbie A war correspondent. Correct.

Adriana Aristizabal Wow. Yes, I cover the drug war in Colombia from the front lines between 1999 and 2004. Basically, what I can tell you is that as a journalist, and many of my colleagues, we witnessed the deepest and most difficult times of our country at a time when Colombia was
one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist. And in addition, was one of the countries that used to have the biggest records of people kidnapped. So, that was the times when I was in the jungle doing my job.

Michael Libbie That must have been frightening and, well, horrific on your side, because you’ve seen war up close, yes?

Adriana Aristizabal Correct. Yeah.

Michael Libbie Now, the history of Colombia and FARC, I think it was, that whole region was, well, it was in turmoil for such a very long time. And off-mic, you told me that it’s gotten a bit worse because now there are drug quartels and other gangs and how many?

Adriana Aristizabal Well, it’s a mix of things. I believe the most difficult years, I would say, of the war in Colombia was in the late 90s, the beginning of the 2000s, because we had different groups that were fighting against the government. We have, for one side, we have the FARC. For the second, we have the ELN, another terrorist group. And then we have the paramilitaries group that the government, at this time, they tried to make peace with all of them. Finally, Colombia signed a peace treaty with FARC in 2016. That obviously was something that was very helpful, if I can say, to try to release a lot of pressure from different regions in Colombia, especially from the south. The paramilitaries group, they have a peace treaty also in 2008 with the former President Alvaro Uribe. So that was another, as I said, like another landmine deactivated to try to find a peace in Colombia. But what is happening right now is like, yes, you can still go to Colombia. I mean, there are places that are amazing to visit. We can go to Medellin. You can go to Cartagena, to Bogota. I mean, you don’t find, you don’t see the country in war like in other places that we have right now. Like in the Middle East, the situation is so bad, or Ukraine. The problem with the security in Colombia is different. In a way, like there are regions in the south where there are new groups that took the lead after FARC was the, let’s say, when they signed a peace with the government. It was like a kind of vacuum that was left in some regions of Colombia, avoiding new groups to warn. So we can say like there are another 16 new groups of rebels, but not just rebels. We are talking about criminals, drug lords. We are talking about groups of guerrillas that disagree with the peace treaty that was signed in 2016. So it’s a melting pot of different, you know, identities, if you can say it. Also a melting pot of organizations that have different ideas and interests, in a way. And everything goes to the same point, to the control, control of the coca plantations and control of the corridors that avoid, if you can say, the exportation of cocaine to other places in the world.

Michael Libbie And then you made a journey to New York as an entrepreneur. And talk to us about your communications company. People would recognize some of your clients. Heidi Klum, for example, with Plows to Vines, who is the 2023 laureate for the World Food Prize. One of your clients, yes?

Adriana Aristizabal Yes. Well, due to my job in Colombia as a work correspondent, my name was listed in a black list of a terrorist group. And I had to leave my country in 2004. That was the reason why I left my post as a war reporter. And I moved to New York City. I had the opportunity to work with the Colombian government in the Colombian consulate as a consul of communications and cultural attache. And I did that job for nine years. And you know, diplomacy and these kind of jobs are not forever. So then I have to reinvent myself again. Like, okay, what am I going to do next? Yeah, I say, well, the natural transition is PR. So I create my company, iVoice Communications, in 2014. And it’s a company that is now global. We help companies, organizations, NGOs, governments to spread the word, the message that they have. And trying to place and attract new customers, but in addition to help them to create a branding. That is everything that we are about. And glad that thanks to the technology right now, thanks to the AI, thanks to many tools that we have right now out there. My company, that’s a boutique firm, has been growing exponentially in the last few years.

Michael Libbi What do you find to be most troublesome as you’re trying to work with the companies that you work with? Do they understand branding as an art? Or is it something that you have to convince them of that the consumer is the one that really creates the company brand?

Adriana Aristizabal You make me smile with that question, Michael, because this is a 101 education exercise you have to do every time you are trying to pursue a customer. Normally, communications, PR, advertising, marketing, that is like, we have been hearing about these concepts for decades. And we have huge examples of companies, personalities, celebrities that have been very smart in a way to use these tools. But still, you find always those questions, why I need it, and that is an expense. And it’s something I say always to my customers, I say, no, you are not spending money, you are investing. Because anytime you place $1 to support your image or your brand, you are making a huge investment. And always, what I said to them is, this is not something that you can do once or twice or just for a couple months, this has to be consistent, and you want really to have any impact of your image out there and be recognized.

Michael Libbi Ladies and gentlemen, you need to pay attention to exactly what Adriana is saying, because it is so true. Having been in the marketing and public relations and communications business for decades, I can tell you that one of the things that many companies do when times are tough is cut out their PR and marketing, which is absolutely the worst thing you could do.

Adriana Aristizabal That is the wrong thing to do in crisis. The first thing that you need is, you need your marketing, you need your PR, you need communications, because in crisis, the first thing, the first measure that come in a crisis is that you are bad, that your business is going to collapse, that things are going in the downside, and communications are made for that one, to just go out and explain how you are thriving and try to convert a situation that could be going against you and put that situation in your favor.

Michael Libbi I tell this story often because it is so true. Back in the 1920s, there were two serial companies, two companies that were competing. One was Post and the other was Kellogg’s. And Post, during the downturn, the economic downturn in the early 20th century, decided to cut their marketing budget. And Kellogg’s said, no, no, no, we’re not going to do that. We’re going to continue and look where we are today. The dominant figure in that world happens to be Kellogg’s and not Post. So we can go back decades with this story, and you’re so right. That is the last thing, especially in times of trouble and travail.
My guest is Adriana Aristizabal, and we are talking about her business. It is called iVoice Communications, based in New York City. When you’re out there recruiting new clients, for example, what do they tell you that they think that they need versus what they really need?

Adriana Aristizabal I’m a great listener because coming from the journalism, by the way, from the old school, when you are sitting with a person and you can’t hear what’s the story, the campaigns that we tailor for our customers are based in their stories that are compelling and that are newsworthy. That is one of the things I always am very careful about it in a way to support, which is the ambitions of those companies or those customers when they are trying to reach out a broader audience. That is one of the things, and it’s more like to try to get to know the customer as one of their employees. Because it’s not just like assigning a contract with somebody. It’s taking the time to go and know that person and know that company, what they are doing, which is the mission, what is the motivation, how they start a business, why is that important to them. But the most important thing is what is the impact of that business in the global atmosphere that we have right now, where we are witnessing so many, a lot of problems, divisions, collapsing economies with problems, people losing jobs. It’s enormous, I mean the need, but also it’s amazing to discover how all these companies or these individuals are thriving in the current situation and also what is the motivations and how they are planning to support it, which is the social impact they are going to have. That is one of the key messages that I always like to dig and to discover, because that is what real people like to listen. You don’t want to receive or get, as a journalist, you don’t want to get a press release where somebody is selling you something in a way like a…

Michael Libbi Tell me the story.

Adriana Aristizabal Exactly. But you, as a journalist, you want to hear stories. What is newsworthy for you? So that is one of the primary, I would say, practices I have with my team in iVoice Communications.

Michael Libbi One of the things that we are time-starved, everybody is just so up to their foreheads in time. Time management is a real critical issue. So how do you get traction out there in a short amount of time, rather than having page after page of information about a company? How do you capture?

Adriana Aristizabal Capture in the media?

Michael Libbi Capture the essence of a company, obviously listening and being able to regurgitate that message in a way that will be interesting to others, but you’ve got a certain amount of time to make an impact.

Adriana Aristizabal Let me tell you, Michael, here is where my training in journalism comes to action. I was trained for that. In a way, like when I’m talking with somebody…

Michael Libbi Write the headline.

Adriana Aristizabal I already had the headline with the person just saying a few words. As I say, that’s it. That is the message that we have to… The campaign has to go in this direction. And so it’s good to sit most of the time with people that like to hear your advices. I have been very lucky working with people that really trust the sense of the way how we want to help them and how we can help them, and they trust us. And also, it has been very interesting for me driving in the market, especially in New York where there are dozens of well-positioned PR agencies, and I’m competing with all of them right now.

Michael Libbi And all the big guns as well, right?

Adriana Aristizabal They are. Let me tell you, they are. All Fox, I would say.

Michael Libbi I understand that. Adriana, thank you so much for spending some time with me. I’m just really captivated by people who are entrepreneurs first, but secondly, immigrant entrepreneurs who could have maybe done something else, but your experience in journalism, in
diplomacy has obviously well-suited you to be able to tell the stories of others. Good stuff.

Adriana Aristizabal Thank you, Michael. And well, I just want to say that my experience doing business in the United States, having the opportunity to navigate different industries, meeting amazing people, it has been amazing. In a way, I love this country very much, and I really am happy and glad to contribute in my way to the economy, creating jobs, and supporting families, and doing anything I can do, like a philanthropist, and as a former work correspondent, and as an entrepreneur right now. It’s just, I feel my heart to do it.

Michael Libbi The interesting story of Adriana Aristizabal from iVoice Communications in New York City. And yes, we will have links to her website up on the radio blog. That’s a wrap for today. Thanks so very much for listening.

For all of us that put this together each and every day, Chap Ramsey is our production coordinator, sales and marketing, Aaron Libby, the voice of the Business News Hour is Hunter Pease, and the music you’re listening to right now is arranged, composed, and conducted by our friend James Goodlett of Jam Good Productions.

For all those folks, and for Adriana, my name is Michael Libby.

Have yourself a great day. Be safe, be well, be careful.

But most of all, be good to your fellow man. Good day.

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