Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations still active

NEW YORK: It's been more than 20 years since September 15 to October 15 was designated Hispanic Heritage Month in 1988.

NEW YORK: It's been more than 20 years since September 15 to October 15 was designated Hispanic Heritage Month in 1988. While most PR practitioners say months such as Hispanic Heritage Month and Black History Month are still relevant to consumers, they note that the focus of outreach to these communities needs to be culturally-relevant and something continues year-round.

"While maybe the Latino community themselves does not get as hyped up about it, I think that if one does it right and it's culturally-relevant, people can still be successful by doing something during Hispanic Heritage Month," said Juana Veliz, MD of the Hispanic practice for Lagrant Communications. "At the end of the day, we're Latinos 12 months out of the year."

This year, brands such as varied as Target, Sears Holdings Corporation,* and Kleenex are celebrating the contributions of Hispanics in the US with campaigns.

"I'm seeing more companies get involved in Hispanic outreach, although I'm seeing less blatant and transparent hooks around Hispanic Heritage Month in particular," said Mike Valdes-Fauli, the MD of US Hispanic at The Jeffrey Group. But, he added, it isn't likely to go away.

"Nobody says 'Are we moving beyond July 4 and celebrating that in the United States?' It's always going to be an important month." Valdes-Fauli said.

This year, Sears is using Hispanic Heritage Month to "share additional information about our conversations and marketing in the Hispanic marketplace," said Shannelle Armstrong, director of PR for Sears Holdings Corporation, including the Primero Scholarship, a new Espanol.Sears.com Web site, and a program helping students and parents prepare for college.

"As a whole, it's still relevant to capture the attention of customers around those affinity months, whether it's Hispanic Heritage Month, Black History Month, or Asian Heritage Month," she said. Sears works with Flowers Communications Group on Hispanic PR.

Target has its Dream in Color program, which honors individuals during various celebratory months. This year, the company is honoring singer Luis Fonsi, NASCAR driver Juan Pablo Montoya, actress Elizabeth Pena, and school principal Lillian Ortiz.

"[When] we're celebrating diversity, it's not just about individuality, it's also about people's backgrounds," said Kate Gillen, associate specialist at Target Communications, "and I think that ties into these heritage months."

And at Kimberly-Clark's Kleenex, the company introduced a set of limited-edition Kleenex boxes featuring amateur Hispanic artwork. Marla Rappaport, associate brand manager for Kleenex, said the goal of the campaign was to "connect in a culturally-relevant way with this consumer, and gain loyalty and equity for our brand." It worked with Hispania PR on this campaign.

Discovery en Español, which is airing programming showcasing contributions from Hispanics, uses this month in the opposite way: as outreach to the general market.

"We're in a great position to raise awareness of what Hispanics have contributed to this country," said Eileen Montalvo, director of marketing and communications for Discovery en Español, which works with AOR Adcom Marketing and PR.

* A previous version of this article referenced Sears, rather than Sears Holdings Corp. It is the parent company, Sears Holdings Corp., that is overseeing the effort.

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