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.

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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.

 

 

Thoughts on Accreditation from Anne O’Connell, APR: A Q & A

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

For the past few years, one way I gave back to the public relations profession was to help nurture professionals who were pursuing the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) credential through my volunteer work on behalf of PRSA Chicago.

I’m pleased and proud to share these thoughts from Anne O’Connell, APR, a Chicago area communications professional who participated in the Chapter training program in 2014 and earned the APR earlier this year.

Here’s Anne’s unedited replies to my questions regarding the APR challenge.

1.   Congratulations again on earning the Accredited in Public Relations credential. What was the most challenging part of the APR process?APR 50th

Thank you, and again, I appreciate your help. It’s hard to pick just one most challenging aspect as the overall process is taxing.  At first, I was worried about the timing of the research and my case study.  How would that mesh with my readiness review and the timing, based on the year, during which to take the examination?  Michael Henry (of Online2Learn, producer of the APR online study program) also was helpful in reassuring me that my timeline was doable. The case study does require a lot of mental energy, but it’s worth it. 

 2.   How do you plan to use the knowledge, skills and abilities learned from the APR process in your work?

I already have been using the KSAs in my current position.  I have been informally mentoring my staff in the best practices I’ve learned.  I work at an all-girls private high school and have started a club for students interested in public relations, journalism, graphic design and related fields.  I have shared some of my new knowledge with these students, as well.

ChgPRSA150325EdwardBuryAnneO'Connell-1

Anne O’Connell, APR, was recognized for earning Accreditation by PRSA Chicago at the Chapter breakfast March 25. Oh, and that’s me at left.

 3.   Can you provide a brief overview of the experience at the ProMetric Testing Center? Were you intimidated in any way by the rigid testing process?

I checked out the ProMetric center prior to my testing day.  The staff were helpful and explained how things would work.  I wasn’t intimidated.  In fact, one thing I found slightly amusing, on the morning I took the exam, was the staff told me if I went into the testing center with my zip-up sweatshirt on (over a T-shirt), I’d have to keep it on for the duration of the test.  Other tidbits were I could not take Kleenex into the testing area, nor could I take a couple of cough drops I had in my sweatshirt pocket. Now, I would not cheat, but even if I were so inclined, there is no way one could put cheat notes on a cough drop wrapper! 

All that aside, the test itself was situation after situation – very much process based, as all had indicated.  Each screen gives you a scenario and then multiple-choice answers.  I took a break to get a drink of water about half-way through.  The time seemed to go quickly, though I did not feel rushed and had extra time than I needed to finish.  I found some of the answers to slightly contradict what I had learned, but I chose the most logical answers that were closest to being what I considered being correct. I only marked a few questions to return to ponder further, but when I did so, I left the answers as I originally had them.

4.   The numbers tell the story: The APR program has been in decline, and PRSA has launched a concerted program to boost participation by professionals. What do you think needs to be done to get more professionals to pursue Accreditation?

I’m not up on what has been considered or done, but perhaps college/university professors could be engaged to help encourage students to pursue the APR once they are eligible. It occurs to me, though, having just met a young professional that the timing is interesting.  Once graduating from college, s/he needs five years in the profession.  That timing roughly puts people around the age of getting married and then perhaps having children.  Maybe there is a way to quantify that the APR enhances one’s earning potential, and that could be promoted extensively.

5.   In 50 words or less, give a shout out on why all serious PR professionals should consider earning the APR.

I highly recommend that serious PR professionals earn the APR.  I am much more strategic, valuable and confident.  I wish I would have pursued my APR earlier in my career. One of my goals now is to directly encourage colleagues I know and then mentor them through the process.

The One, The Only Gini Dietrich: A Very Candid Q & A

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

Here’s how I remember it: In the Fall of 2002, I agreed to help judge awards entries on behalf of PRSA Chicago. The judging was to take place at the offices of a small PR firm — Arment Dietrich — run by a charming, smart young woman named Gini Dietrich.

Gini Dietrich, founder and president of Arment Dietrich.

Gini Dietrich, founder and president of Arment Dietrich.

In the dozen years since, Gini has grown her business and cultivated a national reputation for innovative integrated marketing communications. A very in-demand speaker, Gini is the founder of a blog called Spin Sucks, rated by many sources (including me) as among the best in the communications industry. And, she’s the co-author of “Marketing in the Round,” a guide book on developing integrated marketing campaigns, and author of “Spin Sucks,” a primer for managing communications in the digital age.

I could go on, but will conclude that Gini Dietrich is my friend, and I’m thrilled she took the time to respond to some questions from The PRDude. Here’s an unedited account of our email exchange.

 1. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the vast majority — if not all — of your career has been on the public relations agency side. A purposefully loaded question, but are agency PR professionals “better” than those who work in corporate or non-profit environments?

Heck, no! Why would they be better? I can tell you we’re not any better than our client counterparts. The experience is just different. It would be kind of nice to work on only one client, like you do when you’re in-house. But I think I’d also miss the not really knowing what you’re going to do from day to day. For instance, a client’s attorney called me the other night and said they needed me in a board meeting the next day, but that I had to sign a special NDA that evening. I was NOT planning on being in a board room for three days that week, but so be it. I kind of love that about working on the agency side.

2. You built Arment Dietrich from a one-person (plus intern) consultancy to a powerhouse communications business serving a vast range of big name clients. What one thing did you do right?

Spin SucksJust one!? Come on, EB! You know I’m perfect. I’ve done everything right. This will lead to your next question, but pivoting the business in 2010, before any other PR firm did was a pretty smart move. The truth is, it wasn’t very strategic. I was just tired of being seen as a firm that only does media relations. So I changed the conversation.

3. My sources tell (full disclosure: I read it on your blog) that “Arment Dietrich is no longer a PR firm.”  If you’re no longer a PR firm, what are you?

Unfortunately, when most executives think “PR,” they think “media relations.” The truth is we, of course, are still a PR firm, but writing that blog post and changing our messaging turned the conversation with prospects from “I want to get on Oprah” to “how can you help me grow my business?” I’d much rather have the second conversation.

4. Your current personal schedule requires travel. Lots of Arment Dietrichtravel. Do you miss the “good old days” built around client meetings, strategy sessions and new business development? When was the last time you wrote a news release?

I’m lucky that I still get to do client meetings and strategy sessions and about 75% of my job is business development, which is where the travel comes in (speaking is, by far, one of the best ways to generate qualified leads). But the last time I wrote a news release or did any tactical work like that? A looooong time ago. I will share with you that about six years ago, a friend and adviser told me I had to decide if I wanted to be a really good communications professional or if I wanted to grow a company. He said, if it were the latter, I had to get out of the weeds. So I made the decision to grow a business and haven’t looked back.

5. My sources also told me (okay, I think you told me) that you’re originally from Utah and like to ski. Why, oh why did an avid skier move to Chicago?  Are there mountains around here I don’t know about?

I did grow up in Utah! I also couldn’t escape quickly enough. You know how, when you’re young and you have the whole world in front of you, you don’t think about getting homesick or leaving a part of your soul in the mountains? When I moved to Chicago, I had NO IDEA I’d get ridiculously homesick in October and it would last through March. This year hasn’t been so bad, though, because Utah has had barely any snow so they’re skiing on the crappy manmade kind and that’s not fun skiing. Someday, when this business is at its next level, we’ll buy a condo in Colorado so I can ski all winter and enjoy Chicago in the summer.

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The PRDude has had the honor of publishing posts from other public relations leaders. Visit the links below to read posts featuring:

1. Nick Kalm, founder and president of Reputation Partners, a dynamic Chicago firm.

2. Gerry Corbett, APR, Fellow PRSA, the past Chair and CEO of PRSA and founder of strategic consultancy Redphlag of California.

3. Chris Ruys, founder and president of Chris Ruys Communications, a boutique Chicago PR firm started more than 30 years ago.

4. Ron Culp, a legendary figure in Chicago public relations (and I don’t use that word lightly) and now on the faculty at DePaul University.

More Thoughts on Ethics and PR Pop Quiz Deconstructed

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

Don’t you wish all exams were this easy?

Well, hopefully, those who took last week’s quiz on ethics in public relations found my three questions to be within their grasp.  But before we get to the an analysis of the quiz, two thoughts on ethics.

Ethics_signTechnology — The Great Equalizer and Enabler

The ability to tweet, broadcast, post and publish in real time makes it easy and convenient to call out situations where ethics are breached. That goes for lapses in ethical standards in the public relations profession, as well as in just about every other industry. That’s good.

But from another perspective, the ability for anyone to tweet, broadcast, post and publish could create and certainly exacerbate situations where ethics are compromised.  The take away: An effective public relations program — including an up-to-date crisis communications plan — is essential to mitigate damage resulting from a breach of ethics.

Who’s in Charge of Managing Ethics?

The modern workplace is a much, much different place than it was not too long ago.  In the past, alleged ethics violations more than likely were handled by the boss or management team.  Today, some companies have employed an ethics officer, a senior staff person who becomes “the organization’s internal control point for ethics and improprieties allegations complaints and conflicts of interest,” according to the Society for Human Resource Management.

Conglomerates and publicly-traded entities can afford to pay — and certainly need — staff dedicated to ethics. But what about smaller businesses, local governments, start-up firms? Are there people with the right skill set who can “freelance” ethical counsel?

Now, back to last week’s questions:

1.  You’re the account manager for a new client landed by your agency.  During the first face-to-face meeting with the client, you want t0 capture everything that’s discussed; so you record the conversation — but don’t tell the client or your colleagues.

Is this a breach of PRSA ethics?  If so, which provision?

Answer: Yes, of course it is!  This surreptitious action violates open disclosure of information by being a deceptive practice.

2.  ABC Amalgamated is celebrating its 50th anniversary.  As the director of communications, one of your responsibilities is to order logo merchandise for use at anniversary events.  Your old friend, a fraternity brother, owns a promotional products company in town.  The friend offers your company a discount to get the order. You ask your superior if you could do business with your friend.

Are you violating any ethical standards?  If so, which one?

Answer: No. As long as the boss is aware of your relationship with the vendor, there’s nothing wrong with this type of transaction. There would be an issue if you got a kick back or gift.

3.  As head of business development, you’re asked by agency leaders to complete a new business RFP.  The prospective client is a manufacturer of an agricultural product that is under investigation by the EPA for being unsafe.  Before the RFP is due, you learn though a source at the EPA that the product will be approved.

Answer:  This is a tough one, but I say “yes.”  The way the information constitutes a potential conflict of interest and stifles open competition.

As this post is published, there’s just a few hours left in the month of September, PRSA Ethics Month.  Did you have to cope with any ethical challenges recently?

Think You Got a Grasp on PR Ethics? Take This Pop Quiz

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

Just like a structure is built upon a foundation, the practice of public relations is built upon a foundation, too.

It’s called ethics.

And, anyone who purports to provide public relations counsel should have a solid grasp of established ethical standards and guidelines.  What’s more, serious PR professionals should identify and call out those who violate the rules.

After all, without adherence to sound ethical principles, public relations devolves into hucksterism, or worse, propaganda.

PRSA_RGB_234781_altSo, how well do you know what’s within the boundaries of ethics in public relations today?  In recognition of PRSA Ethics Month, spend a few minutes taking this pop quiz courtesy of the PRDude.

I’ll provide the answers later. Or write a comment and share your thoughts.

If you need a refresher, read the current PRSA State of Professional Values and Provisions of Conduct.

And, for the record: I am a member of the Public Relations Society of America and a member of the Board of Directors of PRSA Chicago.  (What Provision does this statement fall under?)

1.  You’re the account manager for a new client landed by your agency.  During the first face-to-face meeting with the client, you want t0 capture everything that’s discussed; so you record the conversation — but don’t tell the client or your colleagues.

Is this a breach of ethics?  If so, which provision?

2.  ABC Amalgamated is celebrating its 50th anniversary.  As the director of communications, one of your responsibilities is to order logo merchandise for use at anniversary events.  Your old friend, a fraternity brother, owns a promotional products company in town.  The friend offers your company a discount to get the order. You ask your superior if you could do business with your friend.

Are you violating any ethical standards?  If so, which one?

3.  As head of business development, you’re asked by agency leaders to complete a new business RFP.  The prospective client is a manufacturer of an agricultural product that is under investigation by the EPA for being unsafe.  Before the RFP is due, you learn though a source at the EPA that the product will be approved.

Does the PRSA provision of safeguarding confidences apply here?

These should be fairly easy for most of us in the industry, and it should be noted I figuratively pulled these scenarios out of thin air.

Want some more challenging ethics-themed questions? Take this challenging test prepared earlier this year by the Detroit PRSA Chapter.  And, another full disclosure: I didn’t get all 10 questions correct.

Want more on ethics?

Read this post from earlier this year on the question of ethics involving generations.

 

 

 

The Accreditation in Public Relations Credential: Still Has Value A Decade Later

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

Ten years ago this month, I returned from a wonderful Canadian fishing trip to find a large envelope on my desk at home.  It was confirmation that I satisfied the requirements to say I was among the best public relations practitioners in the nation.

Sounds lofty, perhaps haughty. But to me, it holds true.

APR certificateI’m referring to receiving my Certificate of Accreditation and a nice letter stating that I had passed the Comprehensive Examination, the last step before being granted the Accredited in Public Relations credential.

In the ensuing decade since that day in July of 2004, I’ve championed the APR every chance I can.  Next to getting the APR logo tattooed on my shoulder, I can’t think of what else I could do to promote the value behind earning Accreditation.

Over the past 10 years I’ve:

  • Served on the Universal Accreditation  Board for two six-year terms.
  • Helped develop and facilitate APR training courses as a Board member at PRSA Chicago.
  • Published many, many blogs — through this forum and others — promoting the positive impact Accreditation had on my career.
  • Participated in a 2006 podcast on Accreditation.
  • Promoted the credential at PRSA Chicago Chapter meetings.
  • Contributed to many online forums on the subject of Accreditation.
  • Bent the ear of just about anyone who would listen to this statement: “After I earned the APR, I transitioned from a tactician to a strategist.”

A key word in the items above is “earned.” Having the right to put those three letters after my name took a lot of effort, study, time and dedication.  At times I was frustrated — hey, I failed the Exam twice — with the process.

But I maintained a decade ago that earning Accreditation was the best professional achievement of my career.  I feel the same way today, a decade later.  I pursued Accreditation not because it was easy, but because it was hard.

I anticipate I’ll feel the same way a decade from now.