Antonio Hernandez: Providing a Global Voice in Modern Communications

Strategic communicators know that understanding and targeting your audience is one key element that leads to success in building a brand, mitigating a crisis or generating awareness for a product or service.

From a textbook public relations perspective, it’s called “defining your publics.” But that’s a subject for another day.

Antonio Hernandez.

Antonio Hernandez.

Today we’ll hear from an expert who manages communications programs for clients in the multicultural market. Our Q&A guest, Antonio Hernandez, is managing partner of Globovoz Communications, a Chicago consultancy that concentrates on communications for consumer products companies.

I’ll share that I served with Antonio on the PRSA Chicago Board of Directors, and he invited me to moderate a panel discussion in late April. I could share more about this outstanding professional, but I’ll let Antonio take it from here.

Below you’ll find Antonio’s responses to five questions.

1. Your bachelor’s degree is in business administration and psychology. Where did you turn the corner and start working as a public relations professional?

I remember that I was always interested in writing and the practice of public relations. I often found myself exploring PR as a professional career throughout my college years. While working on my undergraduate degree at the University of the Incarnate Word, I served as business editor for The Logos, our campus newspaper, and was named Outstanding Communicator by my graduating class. At some point, I was encouraged by one of my professors to apply for an internship with a local PR agency. From there, I completed another internship with the PR department at VIA Metropolitan Transit Authority, San Antonio’s public transit system. Upon receiving my bachelor’s degree, the company offered me my first professional PR job.

After my early start in PR, I was fortunate to have worked with three Fortune 100 companies: McDonald’s, Abbott and Exelon, before opening my own global business advisory firm, Globovoz, which is a Spanish-language expression for “global voice”.

Still today, I channel my studies in psychology and human relations when exploring barriers to effective communications and to come up with combined solutions for clients.

2. You have a tremendous resume in the corporate side of public relations, having provided counsel for household names like McDonald’s Corporation and Abbot Laboratories, among others. What insight can you offer practitioners representing clients of more modest size? What strategies, skills, experiences apply to both local and global clients?

When I lecture on multicultural public relations, I tell students that most companies today, regardless of their size, are focused on having a global reach with a local impact. To that end, what is most important for PR practitioners today is to know the business inside and out and to be diligent about building relationships across divisions, geographic areas and with key internal stakeholders.

I have seen the value corporate senior management places on strategic PR counsel evolve over the last couple of decades. This is why PR pros need to get up to speed on what’s going on in the business world that could negatively impact their brand or client. From what I have observed – skills and experiences aside, PR professionals flourish in their careers when they are viewed as trusted advisers and this outcome is built one relationship at a time.

3. Globovoz Communications provides communications GLOBOVOZ final logo-1for “multicultural consumer segments,” as noted on your website. Do you face the same challenges in the multicultural market as communicators representing clients in the “general public” market (if that even still exists)?

Based on my experience in the corporate sector and on now on the agency side, I believe there is still work to be done when it comes to prioritizing and allocating corporate budgets to support multicultural versus general market PR programs. Some brands are doing a great job at understanding where their greatest market growth will be and apply the necessary financial and management resources to their PR teams. Based on my consulting work today, these are companies that have a vested interest in building brand trust and external relationships with diverse and emerging consumer segments, such as Hispanic, LGBT and millennial.

I also counsel clients that multicultural consumers will continue to grow and will demand a new set of engagement touch points when it comes to building market relationships in the future. In fact, research shows America of the 21st Century will be the most pluralistic, multicultural nation on earth with ethnic ties to every part of the globe, and by 2042, ethnic consumers will make up more than half of the U.S. population.

When it comes to multicultural PR, I also caution clients about the notion of a “total market” or “cross-cultural” approach when trying to connect with many different consumers with one full sweep. Successful marketers know that leveraging powerful cultural cues relevant to specific ethnic consumer groups can establish brand loyalty with multicultural consumers over many generations.

4. We’ve read about pioneers and innovators in mainstream public relations, advertising and other communications disciplines. Who would you rank as pioneers in the multicultural side of the industry?

One person who immediately comes to mind is John Echeveste, a true Hispanic PR pioneer and someone I have learned a great deal from. I met John when I was leading U.S. Hispanic public relations for McDonald’s and he was a partner with Valencia, Perez & Echeveste – the company’s national Hispanic agency of record.

More than 31 years ago, John also was a founding member of the Hispanic Public Relations Association (HPRA). Today, HPRA is the nation’s largest and premier national network of Hispanic public relations, marketing and advertising professionals with chapters in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Miami and Washington, D.C. I currently serve as National President-Elect for HPRA and look forward to expanding our association’s influence and outreach in the U.S. and globally.

John also received the Public Relations Society of America Pioneer Award in 1994, and was named one of the top 100 Corporate Influentials by Hispanic Business magazine in 2010. In 2003-2004, he served as president of the Public Relations Global Network, an association of 40 worldwide PR agencies.

5. What three issues — political, cultural, technological, etc. — will impact multicultural communications in the next five years?

Talent. Talent. Talent. Leading brands that want to build relationships in diverse and emerging markets around the world know it begins with recruiting, developing and retaining talent reflecting their client population. These companies know they can develop the most robust marketing plans, but at the end of the day, consumers want to trust and do business with companies who understand them from different economic, political and cultural perspectives.

I continue to counsel clients that they must define and market an employee experience that will resonate with new generations of workers whose opinions are shaped by globalization, cultural preferences, inclusion, social media and a brand’s corporate citizenship.

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Did you enjoy this post? Want more insight from another outstanding professional?  Read this Q&A post from December of 2013 featuring Elena del Valle.

Memorial Day 2015: A Memorial Close to Home

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

This Memorial Day 2015 morning, I set out for a walk in our Avondale neighborhood seeking exercise and inspiration.

I got both.

My hour stroll along quiet, empty streets took me north along Milwaukee Avenue north past Diversey Avenue, where I could observe first hand the changes taking place in our little corner of Chicago.

The next time you're in Avondale, take a moment to visit St. Hyacinth. They don't make 'em like this anymore.

The next time you’re in Avondale, take a moment to visit St. Hyacinth. They don’t make ’em like this anymore.

Some old storefronts, once home to mom-and-pop shops, were getting a facelift and new businesses were opening up. Old frame structures on the side streets were replaced by modern homes, adding a new dimension to some blocks.  Improvements — or call it gentrification — was happening beyond the Logan Square apex.

Then I got to St. Hyacinth Basilica and found the inspiration for this post.

There, in a small garden, next to a statue to commemorate Pope John Paul II, was a memorial to men of the then predominantly Polish parish who died and served in World War I. The handsome stone marker was dedicated in 1924, four years after the war ended.

There were 499 men from the parish who enlisted and were sent to Europe — the place where they or certainly their ancestors were born — to fight in the “war to end all wars.” Twelve of the men — 11 with Polish surnames and one Italian (I think) — did not make it home.

The memorial to men from the parish who served -- and died -- in World War I commands a prominent place on the parish grounds.

The memorial to men from the parish who served — and died — in World War I commands a prominent place on the parish grounds.

(Unfortunately, of course, we’ve not found a way to end all wars.)

I sat in the garden for a while and read the names of the men who died on the battlefield and the inscriptions. Their sacrifice allowed their families to continue to live in America in peace and build lives here.

What I realized this Memorial Day is that there probably are thousands of small memorials, like the one at St. Hyacinth’s,  to those servicemen and women who died in places far from their homes.

What I hope is this: That along with the large, public ceremonies that will take place in America on Memorial Day 2015, that someone visits the smaller places, too.  Perhaps you’ll be inspired, just like I was earlier today.

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Want more Memorial Day inspiration from The PRDude? Please read this 2013 post.

What the Newly Inaugurated Mayor of Chicago Should Not Do

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Earlier today, Rahm Emanuel — the man who rose from being a so-called Democratic “political operative” to a member of Congress to a second term as Mayor of Chicago — stepped up to the podium to formally accept his job to run the city for another four years.

He reportedly made a rousing speech, which was reported in this fine article from the Chicago Tribune. His old boss, Bill Clinton, even was in town for the event.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

I’ll leave it to the established newsmen and women to offer commentary on Mayor Emanuel’s thoughts today, and what he and his administration needs to do to steer Chicago back to a more stable course financially, end the seemingly endless cycle of violence in some parts of the city, and usher in greater overall prosperity.

(As a home owner, however, I still want my trees trimmed, snow plowed and the garbage picked up regularly.)

Without question, the pundits and commentators are already pounding out articles and editorials offering advice. So, I’ll take a different track.

Mr. Mayor, I offer these three things you should not do during the rest of your term.

Mr. Mayor:  If you have to wear a sweater -- please not this way.

Mr. Mayor: If you have to wear a sweater — please not this way.

1.  Do not wear sweaters. We all remember that famous campaign commercial during the run-off election. You donned a nice (probably cashmere) dark grey sweater to show your softer side.  You told voters, that at times, you “rubbed people the wrong way.” To me, wearing a sweater sort of rubbed me the wrong way. Hey, you’re the mayor of Chicago; you look better in a suit. Thankfully, you didn’t have the sweater draped over your shoulders in Burt Bacharach fashion.

Keep these beauties in Chicago, where they belong!

Keep these beauties in Chicago, where they belong!

2. Do not participate in those “contests” with other mayors over sports. You know what I’m referring to: Should the Blackhawks, the Bears, the Bulls, the White Sox or the Cubs (Let’s not count out miracles: The Cubs are in second place) participate in a championship game, decline an offer to wager cheesecake, hot dogs, Italian beef sandwiches or deep dish pizza against food stuffs popular in the opposing city. These are just silly ways that local companies get exposure. (Some people call it “free publicity,” you know.)

3. Do not run red lights. I know, the Mayor isn’t behind the wheel when he and his crew are out making public appearances. Someone else is driving. But the media has had a field day reporting on the Mayoral motorcade’s frequent disregard for traffic signals.  Plus, it’s dangerous, for crying out loud! Tell the guy or gal driving to obey the law. Remember: Chicago has lots of red light cameras at many intersections around the city.

And, one more thing: Do not compromise on your integrity. We need a strong leader right now.

 

Network. Network. Network. Why I Keep Doing It

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Even at this stage of my career — 30-plus years in public relations and other communications disciplines — I still find it necessary to expand my network.

(Note to self: Where has the time gone? Can I get some of it back? Can someone develop an app for that?)

Yes, that's me in the center of it all, in my role as moderator.

Yes, that’s me in the center of it all, in my role as moderator at recent panel discussion. Photo credit: NAHJ Chicago Chapter.

Given the opportunity and time, I attend events and activities hosted by PRSA Chicago and other organizations. My mantra: Every time you can interact, speak, present, lead or learn, you grow as a professional.

Here’s a case in point. In late April, I moderated a panel discussion hosted by the Chicago chapters of the Hispanic Public Relations Association and National Association of Hispanic Journalists.  The theme: “PR Pros and Journalists Working Together for the Good of the Story.”

The dialogue was spirited, from the panelists and those who attended. Photo credit: NAHJ Chicago Chapter.

The dialogue was spirited, from the panelists and those who attended. Photo credit: NAHJ Chicago Chapter.

The event was hosted at Edelman’s Chicago offices and featured outstanding panelists from local broadcast news, the corporate sector and the agency side of public relations.

You can read my thoughts in this post published on a great industry resource, Hispanic Marketing and PR, a site I’ve contributed to before.  And, visit this page to get a more extensive visual perspective of the afternoon.

So, what did I gain from this exercise:

1.  Better insight on working with the media.

2.  Greater understanding of people who comprise the Hispanic demographic.

3.  Another opportunity to hone my presentation skills.

4.  Promotion of myself and the university research unit where I now manage public affairs.

5.  And, the ability to network with fellow public relations professionals and members of the media and make new friends.

Digital communications has changed the world forever.  And, as I noted in this post from last year, I’ve nurtured some great virtual friendships.

Still, to me, interpersonal communications offer so much more. After all, it’s impossible to shake hands virtually. But I’ll bet someone’s working on an app for that.