Editor’s note: In November, PRSA will celebrate PR Diversity Month by acknowledging the diverse communities, people and practices that encompass the public relations profession and by providing advice and insight on how to build a better PR industry though diversity. We’ve invited PR practitioners and thought leaders from around the country to offer their thoughts on various diversity topics affecting the PR industry. Track the series and join the discussion by using the hashtag #PRDiversity. For a full list of Diversity Month activities visit the 2014 Diversity Month section of the PRSA site.
Public Relations professionals are an integral part of communicating effectively to audiences. Their experience and that of their clients provide a necessary service in shaping content in different economic cycles, community affairs, trending topics and diversity.
Too often and incorrectly, diversity is seen as a box that needs to be checked. “How many people of a certain age, gender, race or ethnicity are employed here,” is a question often asked. Such simple minded practices often lead to failed strategies in hiring and others because of a lack of understanding of diversity’s true potential…revenue growth.
Diversity is good for business.
There’s no need to feel ashamed about saying so.
Yes, diversity is about doing what’s right for the community. And in doing so, the end result often concludes with improved workplace practices around problem solving, innovation, transposition and brand growth. When brand increases so too do the earnings.
Media companies are dependent on ratings in order to make money from advertisement sales. What they charge for those spots (commercials) depends greatly on the dots (ratings) their programming garners. The recipe for success of any programming relies on its ability to connect with the public. Few programs relate better to a community than local news.
Regardless of the platform, people gravitate to local news for information and entertainment about where they live. The stories are a mirror of their daily experiences. If they are to resonate with the public, than they need to be reflective and inclusive of them. With more than 54 million and counting in the United States, there’s no demographic more often discussed around board rooms than the Hispanic community. Still reaching this community is proving to be very difficult because of three main hurdles: language, self-identification and generation. This is where public relations professionals can be an asset.
4 Ways PR Can Help Newsrooms Improve Hispanics Engagement
Here are four simple ways PR representatives can help newsrooms improve how they reach Hispanics in the United States:
1. Do your homework; know the market:
Who are the Hispanics in your market? For example the majority of Hispanics in New York City are Puerto Rican; in Los Angeles they are Mexican. How media connects to each differs not only because of the cultural uniqueness, but also geographically (types of business, weather), political (historical relationship with the U.S.) and language (by comparison most Puerto Ricans are bilingual). You add other markets across the country like Chicago, South Florida or anywhere in Texas and well…who the Hispanics are will be similar or differ greatly. Understanding these nuances will assist you in providing services and clients with the correct focus based on the makeup of Hispanics in the community that the newsroom serves.
2. Be inclusive and reflective:
Who delivers the message is equally important to the focus of the message. It’s not enough that the content is specific to the Hispanic community in the market. The person who is providing that information needs to be part of that target audience. Communication is all about building relationships. One will always be more receptive to a person who they’re familiar with; someone like themselves. If you’re not a Hispanic, then maybe someone from your office who is should be taking the lead in reaching out to the media. If your client isn’t Hispanic, the same applies.
The example I most often give is that while I have an affinity for African American culture and am a champion of women’s issues — I am not an African American and I will never be a woman; so I am not the best person to lead initiatives focused on those groups. I can participate in the discussion, but not lead it.
3. Know the language:
Not all Hispanics speak Spanish; not all Hispanics speak English. When you provide information be sensitive to the media organization you’re trying to reach. It might seem obvious that you provide content in Spanish to Spanish language media and English to English language media, but you’re wrong. Language proficiency is crucial. Do not think the 2 years of high school Spanish classes or the Spanish your abuelitos (grandparents) taught you at home is enough to converse professionally. The same thing goes for your clients. Ask yourself, “Would I pitch a client to CNBC who couldn’t articulate well in English the intricacies of how the housing market is affecting the overall economy?” You probably wouldn’t. Give Spanish language the same respect in meetings and with the clients you provide. This will not only be greatly appreciated, but also assist you in nurturing valuable relationships.
4. Choose the vehicle wisely:
Hispanics are the youngest and fastest growing demographic in the United States. How they consume news, information and entertainment differs depending on their age. There is no “one size fits all” approach in choosing the vehicle to reach them. So, before you hit the “go” button on pitching your story or client be sure to keep in mind which medium is best in reaching the target audience. A recent study found that most millennials say they get their news from social media. If you’re trying to reach a 18-34 year old Hispanic; it might be best to use the digital platform instead of broadcast or print. Casting a wider net might help you catch more fish, but are they the fish you were looking for?
All newsrooms are struggling to remain relevant.
Producing content which educates and empowers is a collaborative effort and Public Relations professionals are key in the success of those goals.
It’s important for PR representatives to leverage their talent and experience by understanding that the quality and not the quantity of the content is what matters most to an ever increasing diverse audience.
Hugo Balta, Senior Director, Multicultural Content for ESPN’s Digital & Print Media is an experienced Broadcasting/Digital Media professional directing growth, change and innovation in several divisions and business cycles for English/Spanish language markets. Hugo is also co-founder of the Latino Multimedia Communicators group. As a Diversity & Inclusion media specialist, he develops and executes strategies focused on the booming U.S. Latino community. Find out more about Hugo by visiting www.hugobalta.com or following him on Twitter @HugoBalta.