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.
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 for “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.
* * *
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.