Archive for February, 2008

img_2577.jpgThe Nielsen Company – the one that brings us television ratings – has released a new report on consumers’ preparedness to switch to digital when it becomes the only television format next year.

On Feb. 18, 2009, what is being hailed as the most significant development in television history will take place when the medium will become all-digital. And according to Nielsen’s report, 13 million households are unprepared for the change. Cable and satellite owners are safe; so are people who own digital consoles; however, anyone with an analog-only set will need to purchase a converter if they wish to watch their stories.

What’s significant about these findings is that they show a higher lack of preparedness in Hispanic and Black households. The data show that 17.3 percent of the U.S. Hispanic population is completely unprepared, and 26.2 percent have at least one television set that will be affected.

What does this mean for public relations practitioners and advertisers who want to reach the Hispanic market? They may have to reinvent the wheel (again).

According to Advertising Age’s 2007 Hispanic Fact Pack, in 2006, approximately $2.42 billion (or 64.3 percent of total ad spending in Latino markets) was spent on television marketing. The next largest medium in terms of ad spending in Latino markets was radio, which accounted for $726 million (or 19.3 percent) in 2006.

If the majority of ad spending directed at the Latino community is spent on television, and Latino consumers across the country are unprepared for the change to an all-digital format, it will be difficult for marketers to reach their target audience.

Strategies and tactics will have to be rethought, and this may be the opportunity for public relations practitioners to utilize social media to make a legitimate impact on Latino consumers.

Perhaps things will change before Feb. 18, 2009, but how? It would benefit the people who want to reach the Latino community with their messages to address this situation proactively.

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img_2424.jpgThat’s right: Facebook is now available in Spanish. At the login screen, there is now a button in the top right corner of the page where you can select English or Spanish as your preferred language.

Facebook describes itself in Spanish as “una herramienta social que te conecta con gente a tu alrededor.” This is a faithful translation of the English description that says, “Facebook is a social utility that connects you with the people around you.”

Reading the Facebook blog, I found some interesting information on how the creators of the site developed the new page to accurately represent the Spanish language.

In a move reminiscent of Wikipedia, Facebook allowed users to translate parts of copy found on the site and then had users vote on which ones they thought were best through an alternate version of the site.

It then hired professional translators to do the same work, editing and refining the “strings,” as well as developing resources like glossaries and style guides. However, the users completed translating all of the “strings” in under a week.

According to the Facebook blog, “We’ve found that Facebook users are incredibly passionate about finding just the right wording to express Facebook in their own language.”

I must applaud Facebook’s choice to utilize the skills of its users to develop content. As more social media make their services accessible to speakers of other languages, I hope that they will employ similar tactics to get the highest quality results.

Facebook is setting a great example of what will be happening for many companies in the future, and of how to do it right.

More translations are on their way, with the next being French and German.

img_2388.jpgAccording to an article featured in Adweek’s Marketing y Medios, a recent study entitled “U.S. Population Projections: 2005 – 2050,” conducted by the Washington, D.C.-based Pew Research Center, states that the U.S. Latino population will triple to approximately 128 million, or roughly 29 percent of the total population, by the year 2050.

During the same period, the Latino population is expected to account for 60 percent of the nation’s total population growth. In the year 2025, the immigrant population is expected to exceed that of the last great wave of the early 20th century at roughly 19 percent.

This has huge implications for the direction of communications in this country. In another Adweek article, author Mike Valdes-Fauli uses this information to discuss its relevance for crisis communications and the inclusion of Latino audiences. He says that Latinos make up the largest ethnic minority in the U.S., with a younger median age of 27.4 years (compared to 36.4 in the general population).

In response to current efforts to communicate with Latinos being made by CEOs and crisis communications specialists, he writes: “Companies as varied as toy manufacturers and airlines have had recent communications challenges, and most of them successfully executed the bare minimum in communicating with Hispanic consumers: translating releases and statements to reach Latino media outlets. However, so much more could have — and should have — been done.”

To address the particular concerns of cross-cultural communication, Valdes-Fauli outlines the following guidelines:

1) Remember emotion resonates: Present a more heartfelt tone.

2) Adapt, don’t translate: Many nuances get lost or lack clarity in direct translations.

3) Think new consumer, old school tactics: Many Hispanic media have been slow to adopt new technologies.

4) Find the Hispanic angle: Why is the issue relevant to Hispanic audiences?

5) Respect cultural differences: Not everyone who speaks Spanish is from Mexico.

He ends with these words of wisdom: “Even though crisis is spelled the same in English as in Spanish, the word has different implications and attributes in each culture.”

Communications are changing a lot on this country, and it’s important for public relations practitioners and advertisers to educate themselves as to how they can most effectively reach their consumers. Whether it’s a crisis or general day-to-day communications, knowing the best ways to communicate with Latino consumers and having the ability to put that knowledge to use are great skills that every company should have.

img_2332.jpgThis term, I am a party to the fun that is public relations campaigns, the capstone course for the public relations sequence in the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication.

In addition to the already intense curriculum, I am participating in the PRSSA-sponsored Bateman Case Study Campaign Competition. It’s an excellent opportunity to utilize the skills we have acquired in the public relations sequence, and to see what other students around the country are doing.

Our client is Safe Kids Worldwide, who partners with General Motors (GM) to bring us the Safe Kids Buckle Up program. The focus of our campaign is to create awareness of the program and GM’s efforts to keep drivers and passengers safe, as well as to reinforce already existing safe behavior.

One of our goals is to execute an effective community relations campaign in the local Latino community.

I will be coming back to the issue of language rather frequently in this blog because it is an issue. Although there is a perceived need for native Spanish speakers in this country to learn English, many people do not have access to the necessary resources to do so.

For this reason, we are creating materials to address the important topic of automobile safety among native Spanish speakers who may not speak English or whose knowledge of the language is limited. I am excited to see how our audiences react to these efforts.

Not only is this is the first opportunity for me to explore a topic that I am interested in working on in the future, but I will also get to work toward positive change in the community. And that’s what can make public relations so exciting, challenging and rewarding.

img_2235.jpgIn case you’ve been living on a deserted island and had no access to media of any kind, 2008 is an election year. In fact, it’s shaping up to be one of the most important elections in national history, with a Black man and a woman coming out as the early favorites for the Democratic party.

But what would an election year be without the darlings of pundits across the country: wedge issues. An issue is by definition controversial, and a wedge issue takes it to the next level. They are so polemic that they are able to mobilize thousands (even millions) of voters who otherwise might be disengaged from the political process. However, wedge issues tend to be an example of trendy politics that often lose momentum after a campaign season.

This year, one of the huge issues being addressed by all of the candidates is immigration. According to a piece on the New York Times blog, roughly 30 percent of Democrats in California who participated in the Super Tuesday primary there identified themselves as Latino. Although Latinos are not the only voters who care about immigration, their votes could sway the election in many states where they represent a large voting bloc, such as Texas, California and Florida.

The article goes on to state, however, that in many of yesterday’s primaries, when exit polls about important issues were conducted, Democrats were not given immigration as an option. Republicans were. Is this an issue that only Republicans care about, even though a larger percentage of Latino voters identify as Democrats?

Reaching out to Latino voters is becoming more important because of the implied connection to immigration – thus solidifying its status as a wedge issue.

What’s important for the candidates to realize is that true commitment to the Latino constituency goes beyond the immigration debate and requires an understanding of the community. Research is the first step in any successful campaign, and this is a time when comprehensive primary methods should be used for the benefit of all involved.