Yahoo! en Espa�ol speaks language of local markets

Yahoo! en Espa?ol has marketing staff in several countries, but only one PR person running things from Miami. Anita Chabria looks at how he's able to get the company's message across both here and abroad.

Yahoo! en Espa?ol has marketing staff in several countries, but only one PR person running things from Miami. Anita Chabria looks at how he's able to get the company's message across both here and abroad.

Yahoo! en Espa?ol (http://espanol.yahoo.com) is one of the nation's leading Spanish-language portals. That distinction is a hard-won accolade that's due in part to the company's commitment to getting its message out to stakeholders, despite a conservative growth policy for Yahoo! and a limited internal PR staff in the US. In fact, the entire PR department is basically a one-person outfit, helmed by senior manager of communications David Duckenfield out of the Miami headquarters of Yahoo! en Espa?ol and Yahoo! Latin America. Despite being a sole practitioner in a major division of an internet powerhouse, Duckenfield has helped create a strong brand name and consumer presence for Yahoo! en Espa?ol by relying on his agency, taking a bit of help from other divisions within his unit and within the company, and topping it all off with a dose of enthusiasm and creativity. "My role basically is to make sure our general message gets across in terms of how we present ourselves and the key messages, which change quite often," says Duckenfield of his work. But getting those messages out is more than just crafting a press release. Yahoo! en Espa?ol takes an integrated approach to its public relations, combining sales and marketing initiatives with corporate messaging. That gives Duckenfield myriad possibilities for his programs and increases the scope of the company's PR work, creating "several different goals" for the overall strategy. To reach those goals, the company has shifted much of its focus to the US Hispanic market, yet still carefully crafts messages for the numerous Latin and South American countries in which it also operates. A year and a half ago, the company decided to refocus its efforts on serving US-based Hispanics rather than stick with its original focus on Latin America. Its ability to rapidly carve a place in the American market is one of the accomplishments outsiders credit in part to good communications. "They've made a smooth transition from a PR practice that was focused on Latin America to US Hispanics," says Manny Ruiz, president and CEO of Hispanic PR Wire. "Quicker than normal, they've established a strong presence here. And now it seems like both the Hispanic and Latin American sides are equally strong." "My job overlaps between PR and marketing," Duckenfield explains. "Not only do we try to get our success stories placed in the important trade publications, such as Hispanic Market Weekly, but one criteria for a successful PR campaign is how much feedback our sales folks get from what their contacts have heard about us through our PR efforts." Working toward goals with MLS For the coming year, that results-driven approach will center around an integrated marketing and content agreement the company recently signed with Major League Soccer. "We're going to leverage this to the hilt," says Duckenfield. The deal makes Yahoo! en Espa?ol the official online sponsor of MLS, and gives it a presence at MLS events and games. The San Jose Earthquakes also wear Yahoo! en Espa?ol logos on their uniforms, and the site has a section devoted to coverage of the league. "They allow us to reach a very important demographic for our league," says MLS press officer Alan Plum of the new deal. "Just by their reputation and the service they provide to their constituents, it opens up a ton of new windows for us." The company also has an exclusive, multiyear relationship with FIFA. Yahoo! ran the official website for the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan last summer, and created an extensive buzz marketing campaign. It will do so again for the 2006 World Cup in Germany. That kind of synergy and relevance to audiences is the hallmark of what Yahoo! en Espa?ol looks for in marketing and PR opportunities. "Our challenge," says Duckenfield, "is how do you take the excitement you have online, and take it offline? We don't just go out and say, 'Yahoo! en Espa?ol is out there.' We try to focus on one aspect of the site that is useful to our users." Duckenfield relies heavily on Ketchum Vanguard to help Yahoo! en Espa?ol craft those types of campaigns. He has worked with the agency since last fall, and says its national network and ability to garner local press in multiple markets is one of the agency's strong points. Activity outside the US Despite the focus on US Hispanics, however, Yahoo! en Espa?ol does remain very active in Latin and South America. The company has a presence in Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico, with small marketing staffs in each of those locations. Each of those departments also relies heavily on agency help. Duckenfield is in charge of PR for those operations, and spends a good deal of his time making sure messages match across international boundaries. He also helps each country craft a public relations approach tailored to its own unique needs. "I work with the marketing teams in each country to oversee their PR efforts," he explains. "They rely heavily on the agencies, and they rely on me." Duckenfield also makes sure foreign markets receive the same - and no extra - information about the company. "It's a challenge sometimes because they are on the ground and looking at their local media, and across the board they want to give out numbers," he explains. "We don't break out numbers by country, but reporters always want to know. When we speak of Yahoo!, we like to speak of Yahoo! as a whole, and not break it down into parts." While the desire to hand out financial information is one trait those three markets share, in general they each have a unique PR environment. In Mexico, Yahoo! en Espa?ol is number two in terms of portal reach, giving the company enough cachet to garner coverage on a regular basis. Duckenfield says that that advantage makes the PR team able to concentrate its time on maintaining media relations. "People know about us, and they write about us," says Duckenfield. The Mexican division is also currently looking for a new agency, having previously worked with Fleishman-Hillard. It's in a review process, but "not rushing into it right now," says Duckenfield. "They'll probably choose someone within the next six months." In Argentina, Yahoo! faces a very different challenge. Like virtually every other company doing business there, Yahoo! has weathered tough economic times as the Argentinean economy continues to struggle. While Duckenfield says Yahoo! is committed to maintaining its presence there, he adds that PR has been cut back and refocused to match the realities of the market. "Argentina is going through a very rough time right now," he says. "They are not going to be talking about their key successes, because there is not a lot of money in the country right now. They've done some other branding opportunities instead, like sponsoring a marathon. They are focused on maintaining brand loyalty and making sure our stickiness to the site is maintained until things pick back up." A brighter spot for the company is Brazil, where the economy is better, but the competition is fierce. "We're competing against heavyweights and holding our own," says Duckenfield. "The level of what's going on and the type of PR we're doing is completely different from Mexico and Argentina because of the competition and the amount of money to be made. That's really big for us, and our PR reflects that. We're much more active down there." While Duckenfield has accomplished a lot on his own, he does say he would like to build up an in-house department at some point. But in the meantime, he's confident of getting the job done with the resources he has. "I do have a lot of internal support from the corporate side," he says. "I don't feel that I'm out here alone." ----- PR contacts Senior manager of communications David Duckenfield External agency Ketchum Vanguard

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