The search for talent is an ongoing objective in the PR industry. Firms across the board are using Web sites, social networking, employee referral programs, and other methods of outreach to attract qualified staff. The multicultural area, though, poses unique challenges.
The growing size and spending power of the Hispanic population has naturally led to an increased focus on reaching this audience. GolinHarris' Confianza practice, dedicated to Hispanic marketing, looks for bilingual employees literate in Hispanic culture.
"Attracting specialized talent in multicultural areas requires additional tactics because of the language factor," says Zandra Zuno, VP and Confianza practice leader. "Being bilingual [and] having knowledge of the media, the marketplace, and grassroots initiatives is important, in addition to a PR background."
Zuno's colleague in San Francisco, Sharon Sim-Krause, VP and director of Panache, the firm's Asian specialty practice, also emphasizes the need for language skills, particularly as there are so many languages involved in this diverse target demographic. She also seeks talent that can move between cultures and practices.
"I look for people with a chameleon quality," Sim-Krause says. "They will be highly adaptable and fit right in with the English-language mainstream culture, but they're also totally at ease in various niche ethnic markets that we reach out to. I'm looking for people who can cover a number of areas. It's mutually beneficial if talent can grow in many ways, not just in the Asian market."
To recruit, Zuno and Sim-Krause go into the community. Zuno visits inner-city high schools with diverse populations to get future staffers interested early. Sim-Krause visits universities and uses an internship program to attract talent.
Kim Hunter, Lagrant Communications' CEO, also looks for talent with diverse career backgrounds. Two of his most successful hires in the past two years had nontraditional backgrounds: one in research, the other in public affairs radio.
"If we are to diversify our industry, we should talk about diversity of minds and thinking," he says.
Hunter seeks talent at the undergraduate level as well. Two years ago, his firm launched the Executive Leadership Training Program for recent graduates, which transitions participants into full-time posts, if available. The firm also attends events to spread the word. The key, Hunter says, is keeping an open mind.
"Don't make an assumption that the person you [might] have in mind isn't interested," he adds.
Indeed, some potential candidates for the multicultural area might not belong to the target cultural group.
"The most important thing is having a passion for the market," says Ines Rodriguez-Gutzmer, SVP of brand marketing and head of the US Hispanic market at Ketchum. "You might not be part of the market, but if you care and do the research, you might be surprised."
Ketchum focuses on training its new staff members to prepare them for the work they will be doing, regardless of the practice area.
"There's no way that you can be effective in targeting and messaging if you're not constantly learning," Rodriguez-Gutzmer says. "That's where the training component comes in handy."
Word-of-mouth tactics are particularly effective in multicultural recruitment
Recruit those who can move between languages, cultures, and practices
The multicultural population will grow, and the need to recruit in this area will increase accordingly