Inside the Profession

My Fellow Relacionistas

Fourteen years ago, I relocated to the United States from Puerto Rico. I became interested in the diversity of this country after I was often told that Puerto Ricans are pretty much “all the same.” After I joined PRSA, what I saw was a very different marketplace with a range of PR practitioners who were racially diverse, but had a multiplicity of ideologies and approaches that did not resonate with me. And I wondered, “Where are my fellow relacionistas?”

Since that day, I’ve been a constant promoter of diversity and inclusion in our profession. As our industry evolves and works to attract younger generations to our industry through mentorship and scholarship programs, there is still that need to feature those who are paving the way. Those who one day will be the movers and shakers of our industry. Those who will inspire younger generations to pursue PR.

All these years, I’ve presented at conferences, talked to students, and given interviews in hopes of showing the world that we are here, and we are here to stay. As much as I research professional groups and societies, it is almost impossible to find statistics on the exact number of Hispanic practitioners today. What is scarier is the fact that by 2060, this country will have 119 million Hispanics and our industry still estimates us way below the African American practitioners’ percentages.

There is a still a long way to go and I hope that our work, examples, and good intentions inspire those just starting. For now, I’d like you to meet five Hispanic PRSA members from all walks of life, who graciously offered me their views and opinions on the importance of diversity in the industry.

Read their stories. Get inspired. Take action.

Liza Cáceres Mulkowsky, APR

Director, Communications & Change Management, Genuine Parts Co./NAPA Auto Parts, Atlanta, GA

Years in PR: 17

What is the biggest misconception you face in your workplace? 

There were times early in my career where I felt I was only being considered for positions that required a Spanish-speaker or interfaced only with Hispanic audiences. Being bilingual is a desirable skillset and a true differentiator.  However, it can also be a niche that’s hard to break out of.

How can the industry be more inclusive of Hispanics? 

I definitely think more can be done locally and nationally, as well as at the agency and corporate level, to create greater inclusiveness in the profession. Whether it’s creating shadowing opportunities for Hispanic students, expanding recruitment efforts, naming more diverse leadership, or creating diversity programs that are relevant to PR professionals, it will only make our industry stronger and better prepared for the future.

What is being done right in your workplace or industry-wide? 

I’m lucky that my company understands the critical need to keep up with generational and demographic changes. There is a concerted effort to recruit and retain personnel and leaders that can develop our business in a way that meets the evolving expectations of our diverse customers and employees.

Mario Sánchez

Account Executive, CWA Strategic Communications, Albuquerque, NM

Years in PR: 10

Biggest misconception?

There is a perception that I am the all-out authority on everything having to do with Hispanic culture and am the first tapped to head up things such as, Hispanic outreach, Latino engagement and targeted diversity messaging groups. I don’t speak Spanish!

How can the industry be more inclusive?

The industry needs to begin looking at the Hispanic population as a diverse group of men and women who have been just as active in the evolving landscape of media and message consumption as everyone else.

What is being done right?

Working in an agency in New Mexico – a proclaimed “minority-majority state” – we have no issue with doing things right when it comes to the inclusion of Hispanics, however, we should continue to strive to bring young Hispanics into the PR field. I feel like we have fallen behind the ad industry when it comes to hiring young Hispanics.

Vivian Dávila, APR

Vice President of Public Relations, DDB Latina, San Juan, PR

Years in PR: 28

Biggest misconception?

That all Hispanics are equal and will react the same way; not recognizing the diversity of backgrounds, cultures, perceptions and even language within Hispanics.

How can the industry be more inclusive?

Broadening the vision that Hispanics practitioners can only work for Hispanic audiences; this can be achieved if individual capabilities and talent are valued beyond ethnic considerations.

What is being done right?

DDB has been actively promoting diversity and inclusion all across the network, being Talent has no Gender our latest campaign to celebrate the power of talent without boundaries or limits.

Isidro Reyna, APR

Senior Communications Specialist, NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX

Years in PR:  11

Biggest misconception?

The biggest misconception I’ve come across from people is assuming I’m a native Spanish speaker. My family has been in Texas for several generations. As Mexican Americans, we’re Texans with Mexican ancestry, which makes us Tejanos. As generations have passed by, English has become the predominant language.

How can the industry be more inclusive?

The PR industry can become more inclusive by first recognizing the lack of diversity in the field, understanding the Hispanic culture is diverse within itself, and taking the necessary actions to enable change. As a board member and assembly delegate for the PRSA Houston Chapter, I’m able to add my own perspective to our leadership team to ensure diverse viewpoints are represented in our programming. Last year, our chapter revived our Diversity Committee, with the intent to create a dialogue among PR professionals and foster mutual understanding with diverse audiences.

What is being done right?

Our center director, Dr. Ellen Ochoa (veteran astronaut and first Hispanic woman in space), serves as an excellent role model for our workforce. Our center is fortunate to have employee resource groups to raise awareness about different cultures (including the Hispanic community), promote recruitment and retention of employees, and strengthen leadership and communication between staff and management.

Jennifer Michelle Valdés

Account Director, rbb Communications, Miami, FL

Years in PR: 7

Biggest misconception?

The city where I live and work is a culturally rich and diverse environment. Thanks to the city’s robust Hispanic heritage and culture, misconceptions are rare. It is widely understood that all Hispanics are not one in the same.

How can the industry be more inclusive?

The industry must be dedicated to embracing and advancing diversity internally and externally. From recruitment and talent development to PR research, strategy and execution, understanding and welcoming diversity is essential. It is also our responsibility to educate and coach clients appropriately about Hispanics so they can think critically and make informed decisions.

What is being done right?

Beyond race, ethnicity and gender, diversity has greater meaning in today’s world. There is no secret formula or one-size-fits-all solution for reaching Hispanics, so companies are forced to further examine and dive deeper into the traditional demographics.

Join the conversation during our upcoming Twitter Chat, “State of Diversity & Inclusion in PR” on August 11 at 2:00 PM EDT.  Follow @PRSADiversity and use the #PRdiversity hashtag.

Ana Toro, APR, Fellow PRSA is a project director at ICF International in Atlanta, GA. She is vice-chair of PRSA’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee, member of the Health Academy and co-chair of PRSA|GA’s Healthcare SIG. During her spare time, she mentors Hispanic students to choose PR as their career of choice. Follow her on Twitter at @anatoro.

About the author

Ana Toro, APR, Fellow PRSA

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