To provide a perspective from the front lines, I recently reached out to the following sources:
- Fernando Holguin, MD, Director, Latino Research and Policy Center (LRPC) at the University of Colorado;
- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services/Office of Minority Health;
- José Szapocznik, PhD, Chair Emeritus, Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of Miami; and
- Karla Siu, behavioral health expert and former Clinical Program Director at El Futuro, which provides mental health services for Latino families.
Based on our findings from conversations with these experts from across the country, we at Boden will be developing recommendations to help organizations and brands connect with and support Hispanic communities across the country.
As a first step, we mapped out the following guidelines for communications teams at the country's leading brands and organizations. We hope these recommendations provide you with insights that promote continued support for one another and the communities in which we live.
Natalie Boden, President & Founder,
COVID-19 and our Hispanic Community: 6 Important Considerations
- Make diversity a part of your COVID-19 task force: When forming your COVID-19 communications task force, ensure the members of your team represent diverse communities. The communications team should be composed of diverse members in order to ensure that all of the segments' needs are taken into account when developing external and internal strategies. The cultural elements, from language to education barriers faced by several diverse segments, require nuanced communications strategies.
- Communicate to your Hispanic employee base: If you represent a brand - from retail, to delivery to the service industry - that employs a comparatively large number of Hispanic employees, remember the importance of communicating to your front line: your stores, drivers, warehouse team members. Oftentimes employee communications programs are developed only at the corporate level. If you lack mechanisms to communicate in real-time to your front line, start now. Simple, daily, in-language communications can make a world of difference.
- Empower senior leadership to communicate in Spanish: During this time, senior leadership of corporations across the country is communicating the multiple ways their organizations are keeping employees and customers safe, updating internal and external stakeholders on a regular basis. Do not forget to translate messages and distribute them throughout your networks to Spanish-speaking stakeholders including the media and employees. Senior leadership does not need to speak Spanish for your public relations team to develop and deliver messages in Spanish on their behalf.
- Prepare a Spanish-speaking spokesperson: Ensure a Spanish-speaking spokesperson is ready to speak on behalf of the company. If your organization competes in both a national and local footprint, remember to also identify spokespeople in a local market, even for a national role. Choose from areas such as Miami, Houston and Los Angeles, where the largest Hispanic demographics and media outlets exist; nevertheless, nationally available spokespersons based anywhere in the country can be remotely interviewed regardless of media form.
- Partner with local and national organizations for in-kind support: Examine how your service or product offerings can support this community. Our Latino community, of which over 50% earns an average of only $50,000 or less a year, often does not enjoy the discretionary income to purchase materials and household goods above and beyond the week's needs. Determine how your company or organization can help support minority communities by providing them with the products or services you offer to organizations that can help distribute them. Consider creating and launching a meaningful initiative in partnership with national or local organizations, or even fast-tracking a program previously planned for later in 2020.
- If you represent a healthcare brand, go into overdrive. If your mission is to develop healthier lives for citizens across the country, demonstrate your commitment to this powerful stakeholder group, showing up in culturally relevant ways that are authentic and true to your brand promise. For example, insurance companies can provide free screenings in partnerships with hospital groups, physician groups can partner with local organizations for mobile units, and medical suppliers can partner with national and local organizations to provide much-needed medical supplies.
While the 59+ million Hispanic community in the US constitutes an economic, social and political force in the U.S., the COVID-19 pandemic presents unique and formidable health and economic challenges. It’s not too late to address Hispanic audiences through partners and news sources they trust, support them as employees and develop initiatives in their communities that help them stay safe and healthy.