Spanish Spoken Here, There and Everywhere

This post is part of a series written by zcomm interns. Be sure to check back each week for their take on the latest in the public relations industry. This week, Claire discusses the importance of knowing your target audience.

If you’ve been living under a rock, you may be surprised to learn that America’s Hispanic population has grown to more than 50 million people, meaning nearly 17% of the country is Latino.

What’s more, Latino buying power this year is estimated at $1.2 trillion.

And if you’re not specifically targeting these consumers, chances are your brand is not relevant to them…a study on advertising effectiveness showed that 38% of Hispanics surveyed found English language ads less effective than Spanish ads in terms of recall and 70% less effective than Spanish ads in terms of persuasion.

But creating a Spanish-language campaign is only the beginning.

Researching your Hispanic audience to gain understanding and insight into their culture and lifestyle is key.

I’ll illustrate the importance of getting to know the unique needs of your Hispanic target audience with two examples, one about lifestyle and another about media consumption habits – – –

While in college, I attended a presentation by a Hispanic Marketing specialist that discussed the vitality of going beyond English-to-Spanish translation in your Hispanic campaigns.

To highlight this point, she told us the story of a client that came to her agency confused as to why their product was not seeing increased sales among Latinos, even though they had created new commercials in Spanish and placed them on Univision and in key TV stations in Hispanic-heavy markets.

Initially, the presenter’s firm wasn’t sure either. After conducting some research, however, they realized that the problem was a scene at the end of the commercial where the family dog jumped on the bed, the Latino owners petted him and he rested at the foot of the bed.

…Nothing out of the ordinary here, right? Wrong. While many aspects of the English commercial translated over, one cultural difference was a major turn-off for Hispanic consumers and affected their purchasing decision: allowing a dog on the family’s bed.

This example illustrates the importance of going beyond just translating your message from English to Spanish, and really delving into the culture and lifestyle of your Hispanic audience.

When customizing your communication to Latinos, it is also important to consider the way that they use and engage with media.

Here at zcomm, we deal primarily with broadcast and new media, so the staff understands the listening/viewing habits of many different segments of our population. While working on a radio promotion for one of our clients, I learned that, while Hispanics consume every type of media, radio is the most effective way to target this population.

Did you know that Latinos listen to the radio, on average, for 26-30 hours each week? To put it in perspective, that’s more than 13% more listening than the general population.

TV is another heavily-consumed media – with the growth in our Hispanic population, Univision has become the #5 television network in the US.

I could go on and on with these examples, but I think you get the gist, and since studies show that people only read about 28% of the text on a webpage (this percentage decreases as the amount of text increases!), I’ll stop here…I know my audience 😉

PR and the Spanish-Speaking Media: ¿Hablas Español?

Guest post by zcomm Director, JoAnn Mangione

I attended a session this week designed to better acquaint public relations practitioners with the Spanish-speaking media and its audience.

For the most part, the advice from the panelists was typical: don’t call at deadline, don’t pitch something too commercial, and if they are interested in the story, they will let us know. But this group of media professionals, all with many years of working at Spanish-language outlets, had a few other things to say that wouldn’t come up if the session had been with journalists from English-speaking outlets.

As you read this, please keep these facts in mind: according to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 50.5 million Hispanics in the United Sates, making people of Hispanic origin the nation’s largest ethnic or race minority. That’s 16.3 percent of the nation’s population. By 2050, that percentage is projected to be 30 percent.

So why would a panelist have to tell us not to treat Hispanic news outlets like second class citizens? She explained that when she sees a story in every major English-speaking news organization and two weeks later is approached to do that same story, she has to wonder what the crazy PR person is thinking. Do you blame her? Her actual words were, “Don’t give us sloppy seconds.”

The news director of a Telemundo affiliate said his content has to inform his mostly immigrant audience about the very basics of how to live in the United States – how to open a checking account, choose a doctor, etc. So when it comes to all these mortgage-related stories right now, he says forget it. He needs to tell his audience the basics of just applying for a car loan, never mind explaining what happened to the housing market and when will it come back. Do English-speaking people even understand that stuff?

He’s looking for stories on the simple things that we know like the back of our hand but are literally foreign to immigrants. And he wants to protect his viewers from scam artists that would take advantage of the language barrier. I’m paraphrasing, but he says don’t pitch the guy who wrote a book about the many ways of baking an apple pie just because the author speaks Spanish. It doesn’t really help his viewers make a go of living in America.

One last tip: to write or not write a release in Spanish, that is the question. Well, actually, no, it’s not a question at all, according to the panel. Get it translated, and by someone who really knows the language, not someone who studied it in college and hasn’t used it for years!

How do you maximize radio placements?

"There are many ways to maximize audience reach and impressions on radio,” says Joan Carrese of zcomm. 

When pitching Radio News Releases and PSAs, customize your story to each market.  “zcomm researches and includes statistics in pitches to localize stories and, whenever possible, uses a local spokesperson to add a credible, community angle,” adds Carrese.  Stations across the country prefer stories with a local newshook. 

If you are targeting multi-cultural demographics, such as the Hispanic audience, produce both and English and Spanish language release for stations in markets with large Hispanic populations.  And Spanish language outlets are pitched less than general market outlets, so they are more receptive to news releases, interviews, PSAs, podcasts and radio contests.

For Radio Tours, send an audio clip of a dynamic spokesperson with a written pitch and when appropriate make sure the stations are streaming your interview on their website for value added.  Take advantage of a great spokesperson and produce a series of audio Podcasts about your message to download on aggregators on the web, in addition to a client’s website. 

Finally, remember to personally pitch often and pitch well.  “A short, informative and newsworthy personal call and email increase the odds that a media contact will like your message and say yes,” says Carrese. 

Why are spanish language radio stations more receptive to broadcast PR?

Hispanic households will soar to over 13 million by 2010, controlling almost $700 billion in personal income by that time.

As the Hispanic market continues to rapidly expand, more clients are looking for effective ways to tap into this affluent community.

zcomm founder and CEO Risë Birnbaum says radio stations are more receptive to broadcast PR tactics than general market stations.

“The reason,” says Birnbaum, “is that Spanish language stations are still not getting the volume of pitches that general market stations receive, and if you pitch a topic or issue that’s important to Hispanics, they’re definitely willing to listen.”

For example, finance, housing, immigration, pharmaceuticals, cars and food and beverage and consumer products are all of interest to Hispanics.

“But to reach them effectively to book an interview, radio news release or PSA, you have to be on the same wavelength,” adds zcomm’s Birnbaum, “and that means using a PR professional who not only knows Spanish but also understands different dialects.”

Another way to reach the exploding Hispanic market is to use bi-lingual spokespeople and book them on both popular Spanish language and general market stations in markets with large Hispanic populations such as Miami, Los Angeles and Dallas.