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(From left to right) Tony Felice, Karl Gentles, Julio Herrera and Carolina Guana.

It was high tea at the University Club of Phoenix, complete with tiny spoons and open-faced sandwiches. PRSA Phoenix members gathered in the small dining hall, eager to hear from some of the Valley’s best. The topic: Diversity and multicultural communications.

Being aware of diverse and multicultural communities while creating a communications plan is extremely important. According to the US Census Bureau, 30 percent of the population in Arizona is of Hispanic or Latino origin and 25 percent is bilingual. In Phoenix, 6.4 percent of people are a part of the LGBT community, ranking as the fifth U.S. city with the largest gay community, just behind San Francisco. Needless to say, that’s a large chunk of your audience.

Guiding the discussion was Phoenix PRSA member Karl Gentles, president and CEO of Karl Gentles Public Relations, member of the National Association of Black Journalist and a director of the Greater Phoenix Black Chamber.

The panel of experts included Tony Felice of Tony Felice PR and chair of the Greater Phoenix Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and board of directors for Local Frist Arizona; Julio Herrera, director of multicultural markets at Cox Communications and a recent Phoenix Business Journal’s 40 Under 40; and Carolina Guana, senior public relations account executive at Urias Communications.  These three panelists represented large minority groups that exist in our community and shared their tips to integrating diversity into communications plans.

Julio Herrera chats with Karl Gentles

The key points were:

  • Power of communities
    • Communities are large groups of people with similar wants and needs. By identifying these, you can develop messaging designed towards that community. And as there is power in numbers, there is power in communities as influencers can drive markets in your message’s direction.


  • Keep clients focused on the message
    • The key message may not be “we are diverse,” but that can be incorporated subtly without taking focus off what the client is selling. A good example is this commercial. The message is the American Dream (isn’t it always); that you can achieve anything if you have the right goods. In this case it is an AT&T smart phone with a wicked data plan. But did you notice the actors are Latino? Showing a Latino become president sends a strong positive message to the Latino communities that non-Hispanics may not have noticed.


  • Know the right way to market
    • A mass campaign to everyone that doesn’t alienate any certain group -- but represents them all -- is far more effective then pinpointing a minority group. For example, an ad for an auto-shop depicting two men, a child and a family mini-van placed in the Phoenix New Times will be more effective than an ad of a shirtless man bending over an engine in Echo magazine (although a fine publication).  Both will appeal to the LGBT community, but one will also appeal to their supporters, neighbors and other cultural groups.


  • Be sensitive to language
    • As any communicator knows, “language” is just not a spoken tongue. It includes tone, style, idioms, metaphors and dialect. The Spanish that Columbian-born Guana speaks does not always have the same meanings as the Spanish Herrera speaks. One cannot just translate a message word-for-word; it needs to be rewritten in a style that is appropriate for that language into which you are translating.


  • Grass roots campaigns are successful
    • A whole blog post – heck, a whole blog – can be and has been written about what qualifies as a journalist today and how we can be sure our sources are reliable. The fact remains, though, that people will always listen to the opinions and recommendations of fellow community members, or sources trusted by the community as a whole.


  • Target communications
    • Research the communities. Find out who is talking about what. Learn who the key reporters are within the communities. Meet the influencers of the community. Know your market. Know your audience.


The last one is especially important, as we are all people and (for the most part) have similar goals. By creating a more diverse, universally accepted campaign, you are able to tap into a larger market and have more potential to grow, as a communications professional and as a human being.


Stephanie Lough
Stephanie Lough
A former HMA Public Relations employee.

1 Comment

  1. A key point about Latino marketing is that we really don’t want to be segmented, simply acknowledged and included. This also applies to all targeted efforts (LGBT, gender, ethnic, etc.) You don’t need a separate Hispanic marketing effort to be successful, you just need to be sincere and consistent. Congrats PRSA Phoenix on addressing the need for increased diversity.

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