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!

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