“We” are changing the mainstream – Are Brands Ready to Engage Multicultural Consumers?

   As the ever poignant Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts put it best in his Wednesday Nov. 5th article, ‘We’ are finally part of `We the People’.

And we, communications and marketing people, have quite the road ahead of us. I was so overwhelmed, proud, exonerated and excited while I watched the English-language, “mainstream” news coverage on Election night. From ABC News top political correspondents Cokie Roberts and George Stephanopoulos to CNN’s Soledad O’Brien and others, the talk, buzz, clamor was all about Hispanics and their overarching impact on not only this nation’s political landscape, but how we view issues in general. I mean, Cokie Roberts focused on the Hispanic vote and referred to Hispanics as “an emerging majority” LIVE on a number of occasions. For her part, Soledad O’Brien on CNN quoted directly from the Census Update announcement that was broadly reported in mid August saying “all Americans will be minorities in a few decades.”

For the 2004 election the importance of the ‘Hispanic Vote’ was mentioned but never really held up in importance. This time around, it was front and center, and combined with a whole new group of voters that decided for their voices to be heard- loud and clear.

Public Relations, more so community relations, will change significantly via the Obama Administration’s impact nationally and globally. So as communicators- how are we going to speak with these audiences? How are your messages going to be adjusted to really resonate in the daily lives of multicultural consumers? Some companies are well grounded on this highway and have understood the importance of adjusting their messaging for years. Examples include P&G, General Mills, McDonalds, Verizon and even my very own PR Newswire that acquired Hispanic PR Wire this January and created a Multicultural Markets division that is thriving. Are marketers really ready?

For years dedicated communicators including myself have been preaching that the investment in multicultural marketing and campaigns should not solely focus on special times of the year such as Black History and Hispanic Heritage months, but be year-long, ongoing programs that address a community’s needs and answers them. We have said- “dedicate dollars to these communities and the return will come with strong brand awareness and support.” Now it seems that if marketers don’t see that the mainstream is multicultural- your messages will fall short.

As 2009 approaches and plans begin to be considered and strategized- consider this: will your brand speak to millions of Americans that have varying cultural nuances which impact their purchasing decisions? For example, how will your brand connect with recently arrived, soon-to-be Americans? Will they choose product X because they read about a new initiative in their local newspaper or read it online, in their native language? Or did X consumer see an ad online that connected with them?

One general overview we know most assuredly- people of all shapes, colors, origins, educational and financial levels are talking. Make your brand, initiative or organization take part in those discussions. Set aside dollars within your already constrained budget for research that may highlight areas of opportunity. Don’t just sell to your target audience- engage them. Build a relationship with a community previously not considered in marketing, advertising or PR plans.

As marketing and communications professionals- invest in your own knowledge and development. There are many webinars and local events sponsored by key industry organizations that offer continued tactical learning. Take the time- it will be well worth it. Start building relationships outside your own industry focus. If you’re in advertising- attend a PR-driven event and vice versa. I think we have all figured out that one tactic doesn’t win a full community.

Hasta pronto.

Saludos, Cristy

Christine Clavijo-Kish
Senior Vice President, Multicultural Markets
PR Newswire

cr*****************@pr********.com

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