Pitching Hispanic Media Requires Culture Savvy, Basic Skills


Unless you've been living under a rock, by now you know that the 35.3 million Hispanic Americans living in the United States are a tremendously important demographic, whose characteristics include staunch brand loyalty, ever-increasing spending power and enormous projected growth in the coming years. The media targeting Latinos is growing at a constant rate as well, and while experts emphasize that the basic tenets of good media relations apply to pitching the Hispanic press, language and culture barriers mean adapting your practices in order to achieve the best results. The same skills you apply to pitching the mainstream press are mandatory with the Hispanic media, as well: building lasting, mutually-beneficial relationships; doing your homework on media outlets; creating the right lists. But when the outlet you're pitching is Telemundo, Univision or a local Spanish-language newspaper, accomplishing those goals requires a different approach. En Espanol One fundamental of pitching the Latino press that many in PR still ignore: Speak the reporter's language. Even if a reporter at an Hispanic-targeted publication is fluent in English, speaking the language helps immediately establish a bond between PR pro and journalist. It also could be the difference between an accurate story and misleading information. Luis Vasquez-Ajmac, president of Maya Advertising & Communications in Washington, D.C., works with the Office of National Drug Control Policy to target Hispanic media outlets with ONDCP messages. "One thing that helped us land a nationwide Telemundo broadcast was to have lots of information to target reporters," he says. "They want fact sheets, bios - and if you can have it in Spanish, even better. They don't have to think about translating, and you don't have to think about someone translating your message." In fact, creating a Spanish version of your release and other collateral materials from scratch is a wise plan. Translation, whether on your end or on the media's end, can be risky. Jose Moreno, director of public affairs and Hispanic marketing for GCS PR in San Diego, points to the infamous example of a translated version of the "Got Milk" ads which, when it hit the airwaves, had to be pulled because the translation meant, "Are you lactating?" "It's a mistake to take a press release and give it to the reporters in English. But it's also a mistake to translate it without having someone fluent in Spanish read it. It's always easier if you create it from scratch," Moreno says. The U.S. Airforce is targeting Latino media with a variety of new recruiting messages designed to "fill a vacuum and reach out to a demographic we have not been servicing as well as we should with information about the Airforce," says Major Mike Paoli, director of the Airforce National Media Outreach Office. Paoli and his colleagues knew that "to get effective outreach, we needed a Spanish speaker." But their choice of Senior Airman Sara Banda to conduct outreach with Hispanic media reflects an understanding of something deeper than a language barrier. PR professionals who have an understanding of the cultural issues impacting Latinos and the media that cover them will be more successful than PR pros who are simply fluent in Spanish. "Sara understands the cultural distinctions," Paoli says. "We needed someone with the background and life experience to understand the person they're talking to." Banda, for example, points to research conducted by the Airforce showing the vast differences among three primary Spanish-speaking U.S. markets: Los Angeles, Miami and New York. "Hispanic audiences are regionalized by dialect," she says, "so the best approach with these media is a regional one." Relevant Points Different regions tend to be focused on different types of stories, so it's not always easy to make a story relevant to the Hispanic audience in general, says Marcie Perez, senior account executive with Magnet Communications' Hispanic practice. In Miami, an international gateway, for example, an international story may be bigger than in other heavily Hispanic markets, so the press will likely focus more attention on those stories. However, one quick way to make a story resonate with the Hispanic press is to pitch a prominent Latino figure or use an Hispanic American as a spokesperson. One of the primary hooks for the ONDCP's story on Telemundo, for example, was that Richard Carmona, a Latino and the U.S. Surgeon General since March, was going to make his first major address at the event the ONDCP was pitching. Likewise, Banda and Paoli are pitching the media with a highly accomplished Airforce General whose background is Hispanic. Selecting Your Targets Finding the right Latino media to target with your news can be a bit more difficult than pitching the mainstream media, where the key influencers are a given. The heavy-hitters nationally are networks like Telemundo and Univision, but within regional markets, there are various Spanish-language newspapers and Web sites, as well as alternative pubs and radio stations. "It's more than going to Bacon's or MediaMap and saying, 'They list these papers,'" Perez says. "There's a whole underground grassroots media." For more on finding the best media for your pitch, see sidebar. Aside from the Spanish-language outlets, says Vasquez-Ajmac, look at the various publications written in English but targeting Latinos. Regardless of where you pitch, however, media relations fundamentals hold true. Editors and producers are looking out for their audiences, so building trust with those journalists is of paramount importance. Latino audiences have been burned in the past by companies that don't take a sophisticated approach to meeting their needs. If you're promoting an 800 number, for example, work closely with other departments to be sure your corporate infrastructure can handle Spanish-speaking callers or an influx of new customers who've just heard about your services. And maintain consistent contact to demonstrate your commitment to a long-term relationship and not just an occasional pitch. "You can't go in and get a hit, scurry away for five months, then go in again and pick it up," Perez says. "You really do have to have the relationships." The Hunt for Hispanic Media Finding the best outlet for your news within the vast array of Hispanic media outlets may require more research than usual. But check out these resources for pitch potential or news on the latest new pubs and programs to hit the scene. Yahoo! en Espanol CNN en Espanol EFE Wire Service La Opinion (Los Angeles) El Nuevo Herald (Miami) Hoy (New York City) Radio Unica AOL Latino Hispanic Magazine Hispanic Business Terra.com Univision.com Hispanic Broadcasting Corp. (radio) (Contacts: Vasquez-Ajmac, luis@mayadc.com; Moreno, jmoreno@gcs-pr.com; Paoli, michael.paoli@afnews.af.mil; Banda, sara.banda@afnews.af.mil; Perez, mperez@magnet.com)

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