ANALYSIS: Ethnic PR - Stats verify need for PR to cater todiversity. It's been talked about for some time, and now the 2000 Censusfigures confirm the rumblings...

Census results aren't usually the most earth-shattering of

statistics. But the millennial report on the ethnic background of people

living in America provided startling insight into the makeup of the

population, something PR specialists, especially, should find

interesting.



This kind of information comes around only once a decade and the numbers

have a lot to say about what audiences are out there. These numbers -

supposedly some of the most accurate ever - are taking a lot of people

by surprise.



The statistics



- America's Hispanic population now exceeds 35 million people, placing

it even with the African-American population;



- The Asian population grew by almost 50% during the last decade to

about 10 million people;



- The Asian population in New York City has risen by as much as 70%, the

Hispanic population in New York City has risen by 30% and the Caucasian

population has dropped 3%;



-In Texas, Hispanics now make up 32% of the state's population, and the

number of Asian Americans living there has doubled.



Surprised? You shouldn't be. These numbers only prove what countless

minority PR firms have been trying to communicate for years.



'This is what we've been yelling and screaming about for the last

decade!



This should be a wake-up call to everyone,' says Ritchie Lucas,

president and CEO of CreatAbility, a Hispanic PR and marketing firm in

Miami, FL.



'What few people understand,' he continues, 'is that soon, one out of

every four kids born in America will be Hispanic. That's a population

that exceeds the African-American market. They have disposable income in

the billions.'



Bill Imada, CEO of Asian marketing firm Imada Wong, echoes Lucas: 'We're

not at all surprised at these results. We've been telling companies for

a long time that the population estimates are conservative.' And Larry

Moskowitz of Kang & Lee Advertising notes that Asian Americans have the

highest median household income of any ethnic groups in America -

including Caucasians. They also have the highest levels of education and

the highest online presence - with 40% actually making purchases over

the Internet.



To folks like Lucas, Imada, Moskowitz and countless others specializing

in Hispanic or Asian PR, these census figures should translate into new

business, new opportunities and a higher status in the general

market.



Most of the major PR firms - and lots of the not so major ones - have

spent the past two years planning specialized practices to target ethnic

groups.



For example, Manning Selvage & Lee has Bromley/MSL; Weber-Shandwick has

GroupoLink; BSMG Worldwide has BSMG Latino; and Vorhaus Communications

is now launching V!Diversity, a venture that Kyle Potvin, an SVP at the

firm, says will 'formalize what we've done in minority marketing for

years.'



Weber-Shandwick is set to debut a particularly ambitious initiative: a

service that can translate corporate literature into any one of 45

different languages. The reason the agency is offering such a large

number of languages, says Washington president David Krawitz, is that

'there are so many Spanish-speaking markets. If it's Mexican American or

Puerto Rican or South American you're dealing with, there's a different

subtlety to each language. You really need to understand the

sensitivity.'



Demand for ethnic targeting is sporadic among marketers. Some of the

biggest companies have been putting resources behind researching it for

years - others are only just starting to wake up to the need.



Proctor & Gamble gets high marks from many Hispanic and Asian marketers.

Other companies mentioned as having grasped the reach of ethnic groups

include UPS, AT&T, United Airlines, E*Trade, Charles Schwab and

Verizon.



'A lot of consumer product manufacturers, especially P&G, are getting

it,' claims Lourdes Mateo de Acosta, VP of Weber Shandwick's Hispanic

'hyper practice,' GroupoLink. 'When I sit down with my Grandma and she's

watching her tele-novellas and P&G commercials come on, they're really

speaking to her.'



But the hi-tech companies are universally derided for ignoring the

market.



According to several Hispanic marketers, there is a pervading myth that

people in the Hispanic market aren't interested in, or aren't educated

enough to understand personal computers. Not so, says Mateo de Acosta:

'Hispanics don't have computers because they don't have information

about computers.' Hi-tech companies ignore the market, so the market

ignores the products.



Learning the hard way



And Firestone can attest to the risk of not having a Hispanic marketing

plan in place. Lucas believes the company's image would not be in the

unfortunate position it is now if it had been more aggressive with

Hispanic media following accidents caused by faulty tires in Venezuela:

'Hispanic journalists look much closer at stories - they don't take

things at face value. I was telling them, 'You will be able to tell your

story. These people understand there are two sides to every story.'

Instead, (Firestone and Ford) started pointing fingers at each other,

and that became the story. If they had spoken directly to these

journalists, they wouldn't be where they are now. But they had no plan

in place to deal with it.'



As Neil Comber, director of Hispanic communications at P&G, explains,

paying attention to this market can pay dividends. (He should know. P&G

has been making TV ads aimed directly at the Hispanic population for 40

years.) 'Best as we can measure, our Hispanic business is growing faster

than the general market,' he says. 'Many other brands don't talk to

Hispanics.



We find that they are very responsive and very loyal as long as you give

them a fair proposition and a superior product.'



'We did some focus research and instead of asking what Hispanics thought

of our brands we asked, 'What do these brands think of you?' The

response was incredible. We had people saying that products like Tide

and Cheer 'love us' and 'care about us.' There was this outpouring of

goodwill toward our products because they had been a part of their

experience of coming to this country, setting up a home and caring for

their families.'



That loyalty extends to Asian markets as well, according to

Moskowitz.



'They are extremely loyal to American companies that come to them and

say, 'We recognize you.''



However, Moskowitz warns that Asian Americans prefer to receive

information in their native language. And given the variety of languages

spoken by people categorized as 'Asian-American,' it will take more than

a passing effort to properly penetrate this market.



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