Scoring PR Success with the Ethnic Media

NCM EXPO & Awards 2002

EXPO EXTRA! News Team, Angela Rueda Posted: Sep 22, 2002

Public relations practitioners must acknowledge the importance of building relationships with ethnic media and the communities they serve if they want to reach the hearts and minds of California’s new majority, a group of public relations experts said at the third New California Media Expo on Sept. 18.

In a conference room filled to overflowing at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, five panelists shared their experiences promoting public service campaigns with an audience of representatives from nonprofit organizations, government agencies and ethnic media.

“Ethnic media is a great resource,” said Patricia Perez, president of Valencia, Perez & Echeveste, the nation’s largest Latino-oriented public relations firm. Perez’s sentiments were echoed by Claudia Mendoza, ethnic media outreach coordinator for Pacific Gas & Electric. “The impact of the ethnic media is tremendous and oftentimes you get a result that you are not ready for,” said Mendoza, referring to the success of a PG&E energy conservation campaign that she promoted through ethnic media.

The panelists talked about their experience with different ethnic markets and how to approach each of them individually, according to their needs.

“You’ve got to understand the history that will enable you to pitch to all,” said David Lang, co-founder of L/P/C Public Relations in Los Angeles. He advised the audience members to offer their markets something they need.

“It’s still useful to take them out for lunch, but more important to help them try to operate and try to assist them,” Lang said referring to ways to get editors and reporters interested.

The experts emphasized the importance of speaking to people in their own languages and adapting press releases to the culture to make them more appealing, a term that Lang describes, not as translating, but “transcreating.”

“We must approach them with a very respectful position,” said Gwen Young, president of Young Communications Group.

Young has worked to reach the “emerging minority populations” for the past seven years and is the mastermind behind the state-sponsored anti-smoking campaign targeting African Americans through the African-American press.

Young explained how she persuaded African American publishers to run a series of articles that showed the relationship between tobacco and slavery since the 1500s. She said this approach succeeded in overcoming the publishers’ concern that her anti-smoking campaign would result in a loss of tobacco advertising revenues.

Don Solem, founder of Solem & Associates, moderated the panel.

Solem defined the key points of success in public relations as the ability to look at the target population, examine resources and know the media.

Debra Nakatomi, president of Nakatomi & Associates, based her suggestions on 25 years of experience in public relations, public education and community outreach.

Nakatomi talked about the challenges of introducing sensitive topics to the Asian community in California. She successfully introduced “Get Real,” a teen pregnancy prevention campaign to the Asian market throughout the state.

Nakatomi has experience in topics that the Asian media are reluctant to cover but said that in the past five years these issues have started to surface.

“The media have boundaries on how they are going to cover this issue, we have to determine what those boundaries are,” Nakatomi said about the strategies that took the Asian teen pregnancy campaign from the pages of Asian-language media to the pages of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Among other topics discussed by the panel were campaigns to gain support and recognition for ethnic media from local politicians and the differences between targeting messages to different generations of immigrants and to different groups within the same ethnic populations.

“Third generation Latinos have more in common with third generation Asians than with new immigrants,” Perez said.

The public relations workshop was part of a two-day Expo put on by NCM to spotlight the achievements of the ethnic media and showcase different organizations.

The Expo hosted 23 different workshops that focused on topics of importance to the new majority media of California.

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