Minority shift signifies a new comms era

The US population is made up of numerous groups of minorities from various ethnic backgrounds. But a recent Census reports what many have already noticed: Non-white groups are emerging as majorities.

The US population is made up of numerous groups of minorities from various ethnic backgrounds. But a recent Census reports what many have already noticed: Non-white groups are emerging as majorities.

Nearly one in ten US counties are "majority-minority" and have more than 50% minority residents, according to data released by the US Census Bureau on August 7. The survey found that as of July 2007, 302 US counties have more people that identify themselves as non-white, than those that label themselves white. In addition, minorities under the age of 20 make up 43% of the population.

As the country's demographics continue to shift, PR pros will have to move away from a general market mindset.

"I think ‘general market' is going to be a word of the past in a few years," says Ana Toro, VP at Fleishman Hillard and co-chair of F-H Multicultural. "General market is going be just another segment among this big, interesting group of people. These are exciting times. Numbers are changing by the week in every category, so it's interesting."

Jimmy Lee, VP of IW Group adds that the “general market” still leads today's campaigns, but, “I think that's going to change."

Mark Pauze, senior solutions consultant for R.L. Polk & Co., which tracks and analyzes data on automotive transactions, found that multicultural consumers are also changing their past loyalty habits. The company released data on August 11 that found the multicultural market maintained 22% of the automotive market, consistent with past years. But, he says, brand loyalty has changed as more companies conduct multicultural outreach.

"The flip side to this is that [multicultural consumers] are seeing that they have more choices and are taking advantage of that," Pauze says. "You can't necessarily take for granted like 'Oh, we've always had Hispanic buyers.'"

The Census data also shows that counties all over the US are seeing increases in minorities, not just the major urban areas where multicultural consumers were traditionally found.

Toro notes this trend as well, and says it provides “more opportunities for our clients” to realize the change is not confined to only a few markets. Instead of focusing on geographical-targeted outreach, PR can take a lifestyle and cultural approach, she says.

"I think the big challenge for the PR industry is going to be if they don't have the talent or expertise to be able to target those respective markets," adds Lee. "I see a lot of general market agencies claim that they do multicultural, but I don't think there are enough seasoned professionals that have both PR experience and multicultural expertise."

Lee notes that some agencies are developing a niche practice area, and others have teamed with firms like his to aid specific multicultural efforts. Another tactic is to focus media relations on newspapers and Web sites that target these groups, sometimes in the native languages of the demographic, Lee says.

"Here in the US, there aren't a lot of portals that really focus and target Asian-American consumers in their respective languages," he gives as an example. "While they still may be getting news from overseas, they still depend on the local papers, TV stations, and radio for day-to-day living information."

Zandra Zuno, VP at GolinHarris and the practice lead for Confianza, the Hispanic-focused group, suggests agencies target the youth demographic, which can help them prepare for the coming changes in the culture.

"It is the youth audience that is much more multicultural," she says. "Youths of all backgrounds are interested in similar types of music, entertainment, and products. You're making a connection with an audience that is much more multicultural in everything they do, how they interact, how they communicate, and how they want to be communicated to."

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