Selling to the heart: the power of Latino community relations and cause marketing

We have all read the articles about the latest Latino boom triggered by the 2010 US Census.

We have all read the articles about the latest Latino boom triggered by the 2010 US Census. Latinos represent more than half of the population growth, and control more than $1 trillion in purchasing power, making them the 15th-largest consumer economy in the world. As corporations work to find ways to connect with this attractive and youthful segment, community affairs and cause marketing can make a difference with a group that, despite growing, is still struggling and looking for partners. The PR industry should take the lead in this.

The opportunity stems from the fact that most Latinos are more likely to support brands that invest in their communities and in programs tailored to their progress. It's the chance to be there for a consumer during critical life stages, such as when they are learning a new language or becoming familiar with new healthcare and financial systems. For US-born Latinos, this collaboration might mean helping them deal with the multigenerational pressures of caring for Spanish-dominant parents, or accessing tools for education as they focus on their own American dreams.

Community affairs and cause marketing also makes sense in a Latino community that is more closely knit then the general market. This cohesion is due to language, similar challenges and experiences, and high geographic centralization. Also tightly knit is the base of influencers representing this community, including the major TV networks, key national community and political organizations, as well as other influencers, such as sports stars and artists. 

The community's closely knit nature, along with its openness to valuable partnerships, creates a clear opportunity for corporate relations and cause marketing. But they must be done right. They should begin with an understanding of the issues impacting the community and consumers. This begins with a conversation with Latinos representing all aspects of the community: from community leaders to celebrities, and from entrepreneurs to artists and entertainers.

The goal of these conversations is to identify a potential bridge for a partnership. What is it that you can provide Latinos as they focus on getting ahead? The connection between these issues and what the company or brand can provide is the base for the initial connection. An immediate place to begin this exercise would be to speak to leading Latino organizations such as the League of United Latin American Citizens and the Hispanic Scholarship Fund. They and others have a great track record in creating programs that can serve as a base for cause marketing campaigns. They also have access to critical research, as well as to partners with valuable insights to build a strong community program.

When building a relationship with these organizations, make sure to do your homework: listen to them and ask lots of questions, and identify someone at your company that can manage the relationships. Make sure you work closely with these organizations to build programs that are win-wins, and don't be shy to challenge them to find ways to leverage, and when appropriate and relevant, donations and partnerships to connect with consumers.

Partnerships form a strong foundation for sustainable corporate reputation initiatives. But for these programs to work, they must involve multiple stakeholders such as corporate boards and top executive leadership for support and representation, employees and partners for authenticity of voice, and consumer influencers for impact and scale. All these key stakeholders must be engaged in a fluid yet methodical fashion that taps into their unique insights and strengths.

Brands that want to lead in a cluttered competitive environment must not be shy about their investment in the Hispanic community. To stay mum about your partnership would be business-foolish, given how Latinos value those who partner with them. Instead, corporate reputation and cause marketing programs should look for ways to use the values that inspire the programs to build engaging interactive campaigns. At the core, must be a spirit of partnership and authenticity. Do not be afraid to tell your cause marketing stories. Tap into the community's strong creative class to do so. Your goal should be a movement saluting the community and the drive of its members.

As Latinos continue to build on their progress, they are looking for partners to achieve their American dream. Brands and corporations can do this by investing in their future. And the time to act is now.

Roberto Ramos is president and CEO of The Vox Collective.  

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