WASHINGTON: As the Republican National Committee (RNC) ramps up Hispanic outreach efforts for the 2012 election cycle, its initial communications strategy will steer clear of focusing on specific candidate platforms and concentrate on messages that are universally important to Republicans.
Newly hired Hispanic outreach director Bettina Inclan told PRWeek that the group will do so until the party determines a presidential candidate.
“As long as we have primaries going on, and until we determine a nominee, our biggest job is working with the community to get the Republican message out there,” she said.
Recently, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the frontrunner for the GOP nomination, said he would veto the Dream Act, which would give legal status to illegal immigrants brought to the US as children if they join the military or attend college. Eighty-five percent of Latino voters back the legislation, according to the Pew Research Center.
Meanwhile, Latino participation in national elections has been on the rise. Nearly 10 million Latinos, or 50% of Latino eligible voters, cast a ballot in the 2008 presidential election, according to the Pew Research Center. More than 21.7 million Hispanics are eligible to participate in next year's election, up by more than 2 million since the last presidential contest.
“The Latino community is the fastest-growing demographic in the nation. As a Latina, I want to make sure people like me, who are bicultural and bilingual, are engaged,” Inclan said.
A challenge for the RNC is crafting a message that will speak to the various ethnic groups within the Latino community. For some groups, border issues might be a major focus, while agricultural issues or taxes might be more relevant to others, Inclan said.
She explained that the RNC will emphasize social media as it works to get its message to voters. It has a new Twitter handle, @RNCLatinos, a bilingual Tumblr blog, and a mobile text-messaging campaign called “Unete.” The group is focusing on social media in part because research shows the Latino population skews younger, with an average age of 37.
Inclan is also planning to develop strategies in states that have larger Hispanic populations than they did in the last presidential election, such as North Carolina.
Meanwhile, the strategy of the Democratic National Committee is largely focused on providing a contrasting message to Republicans, according to a committee press secretary. For instance, shortly after Inclan was hired on Wednesday and the RNC announced its Latino outreach, the DNC made sure Hispanic-focused media knew Romney was endorsed by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the architect of controversial state immigration laws.
The strategy is a smart one, said PRSA's former chair and CEO Rosanna Fiske. She recited a popular Spanish phrase that translates to “tell me who you're with and I'll tell you what you're like.” Phrases like this are important to keep in mind, she said, adding that the Latino community “thrives on collectivism.”
Fiske noted that between the two parties, Republicans have a longer way to go to build trust with Latinos to make up ground won by the Obama for America campaign in 2008.
Despite many Latinos identifying with the Republican Party's social and fiscal conservatism, advertisements from some Republican nominees have offended the group, said Manny Ruiz, creator of Hispanicize.com, a social media resource site for Latinos in marketing and communications.
“There have been commercials about protecting the border that have insinuated Latinos are terrorists,” Ruiz said. “The challenging thing going forward is changing the tone of the message by not demonizing Hispanics and sending out consistently positive messages about the role of Hispanics in this country.”