6 lessons from industry-leading Latino voices in PR

Note: This is a reposted blog by Kristen Dunleavy from Muck Rack. For the original blog, please visit here

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Understand the complexities of Hispanic communities

To kickstart the webinar, host Sonia Diaz, president of Zaid PR and president of the Hispanic Public Relations Association, shared an alarming statistic: while Latinos make up 20% of the population, they only account for 13% of the PR industry and just 6% have roles at the senior executive level.

“In a profession where knowing your audience is the first rule of engagement, it would make sense to have more, not less, of us in the room when building out a strategic communications plan for our clients or our organizations,” Sonia said.

She shared that it’s always been her professional goal to work in the multicultural space, and she’s been lucky enough to do that for the majority of her career.

“While much has changed in the past 20 years, a lot has not,” Sonia said. “One thing that has remained constant is that our community is incredibly diverse, and only becoming more so.”

Another statistic Sonia shared is that U.S. Latino economic output ranks fifth in world GDP and is the fastest growing in the nation, but capturing these communities from the C suite to the “commodore” continues to lack.

“In order to reach and engage our community with authenticity, you need the right people at the table, and you really need to understand the complexities of these communities,” Sonia said. “For the brands that have done it, it has paid off in spades because the Hispanic consumer is the most loyal in the world.”

Move past the word ‘monolith’

During the webinar’s panel, Denise Penagos, vice president of client experience at Egami Group, shared about her work with external clients.

“There are always tough conversations, and we have to teach a lot,” she said.

Denise explained that clients come to her organization because they seek to learn about culturally competent topics. She said oftentimes this results in honest conversations about how the Latino culture is not a monolith, which for some clients is a new word.

“All the work that we do starts with those conversations and explaining and getting into the nitty gritty of what does it mean to be multicultural to start, and then diving deeper and deeper before we even get the work started,” she said.

Julissa Bonfante, director of external communications at Macy’s, also added her two cents about Latinos not being a monolith.

“I’ve lived in New York, Texas and South Florida—I got the gamut of everything,” she said. “I think when you look at how brands need to talk to Dominicans in New York versus Mexicans who are third generation in Texas versus a big Cuban and Venezuelan community here in Florida, it’s so important to look at the groups and be culturally relevant.”

Added Sonia, “For 62 million people, there are 62 million unique stories and perspectives. And so it’s more about having that meaningful, authentic conversation about what unites the community and showing that you understand.”

Recognize the ever-growing influence of Latino culture + Spanglish

Throughout the webinar, the panelists discussed the prevalence of Latinos in pop culture.

For example, at the VMAs this year, Shakira, Karol G and Peso Pluma took the stage. The panelists also pointed out the fact that Bad Bunny, who only speaks in Spanish, is one of the most streamed artists right now.

“I think music and culture continues to be a way to connect and engage with Hispanics, but where do we go from there?” asks Julissa. “There’s so much opportunity to do that beyond the culture and the music.”

Denise added that one way to do so is by using Spanglish. In fact, 20% of Spanish-speaking Gen Z-ers are comfortable with Spanglish, which is the highest of any generation.

“When it comes to Spanglish, for me personally, I might see a campaign that incorporates it, and it resonates with me, because it gives me this sense of home and nostalgia,” Denise said. “It might not be a brand that I would go for necessarily for other reasons, but if it’s done right, it gets me.”

Be authentic in your marketing and communication

Denise and Julissa both discussed that when it comes to marketing to the Latino population, brands have a big opportunity. But whatever they do, it has to be authentic.

“We’ve seen a lot of brands take the more obvious road of hiring musicians or hiring a Hollywood actor who speaks Spanish as their way in, and it works time and time again,” Denise said. “But there are probably more grassroots and real authentic ways that might resonate more with Gen Z.”

Julissa added that brands who do it well engage with the Hispanic community all year long, not just during Hispanic Heritage Month. She shared that at Macy’s, they do a lot of advertising on radio and Spanish language TV, because they know that’s where their Hispanic consumers are. The company also recently launched a brand of women’s clothing that’s for all body types.

“Thinking about us as Latina women in our curvy bodies … it’s designed for everyone,” Julissa said. “I think that in everything that we do, whether it’s partnerships or business or social impact, we make sure we have the Latino consumer in the mix.”

Julissa shared that Macy’s is also cognizant of advertising in Spanish. “Embrace the language and embrace the culture,” she advised.

Know that there’s more work to be done

Troy Blackwell, Jr., spokesperson for the Biden Harris administration, talked about work to be done.

“For me, Hispanic Heritage Month is not only a time for reflection just on where we have come from as a people and the critical attributes that our community has given to this country, but it’s also a time for us to look toward the future,” he said. “It’s time for us to look at where we are going, look at the areas that we are adding value and contributing to, and what more we can add.”

This is particularly important given all the challenges the Latino population has recently faced, especially the fact that COVID-19 disproportionately affected the community, with four times more Latinos likely to be hospitalized and two times more likely to die. Troy shared that Latinos make up the highest rate of unemployment and are collectively underpaid by $288 billion every year as well.

“I say this to you all not to be pessimistic, but because I am optimistic and hopeful,” he said. “In fact, big problems demand big solutions, and big solutions need Latinos at the table.”

He noted positive changes like that of Latin music, which grew 55% between 2020 and 2022. Troy also pointed out the Latino Media Network, which raised $80 million and bought 18 radio stations across 10 major cities.

“That is huge news and shows that radio is not dying and definitely not dying in our community,” he said.

Troy also pointed out an increase in Latino podcast audience numbers and the fact that one in five adult Tik Tok users are Hispanic.

“I say this to you all because Latino engagement is imperative for brand strategies,” he said. “As we close out this event and we look to the future, I want to highlight there is no one way to champion change for our community. There are many ways, whether it is joining a board and advocating for change, whether it is registering people to vote, promoting VI and consumer strategies, forging new business partnerships, or even developing classroom curriculums despite the banning of books… lead your call to action via salary change in a way that you uniquely can, not just this month, but all year long.”