By Evelyn Perez-Verdia
I hardly watch Television in Spanish, but you can find me switching from one Spanish radio station to another in my car. I am usually with my children sitting at our local Colombian restaurant picking up Nuestra Ciudad Weston, a local community paper in Spanish and English that tells me what is going on in my city or checking to see what is the latest Tweet sent by Miamidiario.com. I am a concerned and dedicated voter, but I have never seen a candidate advertise in these local papers. Hopefully, this article will help campaigns change their mind.
I remember being 22 years old and being the campaign manager for a state house incumbent in a prominent Hispanic district in Tampa, Florida. There was a consultant who would come weekly to inform me what I needed to do in the week with our team. I still remember the media outlets in Spanish that he picked for the campaign were: La Gaceta Newspaper, Univision and a couple of radio stations in Spanish. Now, Tampa as well as the rest of Florida’s Hispanic population has grown and the media outlets have grown with it, but the question is: are consultants continuing to advise campaigns to use the same media outlets in Spanish that were used in 2002? Are the consultants ignoring the rest of local community media outlets that currently exist? Do they not understand the value of the Hispanic media outlets and the local community papers in Spanish? Is it time to update the Rolodex?
Angelette Aviles a Republican businesswoman and a communications consultant certainly thinks so. She believes that campaigns are not getting the big picture. She says: “Political consultants are good at making brochures, mailers, canvassing, etc. and fail to hire a communications expert to focus on the Hispanic market. Consultants have no up to date Rolodex on media contacts or the experience to drum up publicity to garner the attention of those media contacts.”
It is likely that whoever attracts the Hispanic vote in this upcoming 2014 Florida gubernatorial election, will be the winner of the race. The objective of consultants should be to attract the vote of over 1.6 million Hispanic registered voters that exist in Florida. If you want to be the winner in your race, this is what you need to do to win the Hispanic vote:
1. Hire a Bilingual communications consultant.
Orlando Nieves, general manager of Centro Mi Diario, a print and digital paper in Spanish that delivers FREE to more than 67,000 Hispanics in Tampa Bay (Pasco, Pinellas & Hillsborough Counties) had a good point in regards to why political campaigns are not reaching out to Hispanic media outlets like his: “Not every market has a widely circulated publication and it requires buying many small ones which the media buyers may not be familiar with. Also, the lack of a strong bilingual campaign person affects the strategy of the candidate. Unless they can understand the medium it’s difficult for them to buy into it.”
Campaigns now need to hire dedicated people who truly know the community leaders and media in Spanish, who can return a call to the media in Spanish and answer their questions, that can translate a press release and get in touch with the Hispanic/Latino community in their language and with knowledge of their culture. It is like me trying to reach out to the Russian community in Broward and making myself an expert at this. Consultants need to work together with consultants whose expertise is engaging the Hispanic community through the media outlets that exist. I am one of many political consultants focused on the Hispanic community. It seems many of us are not being subcontracted by consultants or being used in statewide political campaigns.
Editor Rafael Palacio from the newspaper in Spanish: El Sentinel of Orlando which has more than 130,000 weekly copies that are distributed mainly to homes in five counties of CentralFlorida, mentions that a great majority of the readers of the papers are people who truly do vote and should not be ignored.
“Both campaigns (Crist and Scott) have inundated us with e-mails and information, but in a very cold manner. Both let us know that they have websites in Spanish. However, when we tried to contact them for more details, they did not respond to us. Then I sent them information about an event we were having, a round table discussion about Immigration Reform, neither campaign responded to us. It is very sad.”
Similar words I have heard from other Hispanic media outlets for years in reference to statewide political campaigns approach to Hispanic media outlets. Most feel that they have either been abused of by wanting free editorials and for the media to publish their press releases. However, when the media asks for advertisement or for an interview, the other side of the telephone goes silent. When they ask to interview the candidate, they do not get a response back. Don’t be this type of campaign. Invest in advertisements with the local community papers and respond back to their e-mails.
When looking at the Scott and Crist campaign, Scott has a Hispanic communications director that focuses solely on the Hispanic media and has the funds to pay for advertisement. Actually, when you ask the Hispanic media outlets, who is reaching out to them, they are stating that Scott’s campaign is constantly reaching out vs. the Crist campaign. It is savy for the Crist campaign to invest in the local papers and the radio as it is more economical than Television. Since we are possibly more than 15% of the registered vote in Florida, statewide campaigns should be investing 15% of their media budget into the Hispanic media outlets.
If you add up the circulation numbers for Spanish print, you are dealing with a source that campaigns have left untouched for years and could create a shift in the amount of Hispanics that show up to vote. In addition, print newspapers in Spanish are the gatekeepers of the Hispanic community. Rafael Palacio from El Sentinel Orlando mentions: “Why do you invest in Television, but us, who are INVADED with your press releases, who ask us to cover your events…we need to make clear that it is not about if you place an ad in my paper then I will cover your event, and if you don’t, I will not cover it. That is not how it works. It is about being aware of your public and the different types of voters, and that your advertising budget should reflect a larger diversity of the media outlets.
Jolie Gonzalez, owner of Latin Times magazine and also a community leader who is currently the president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Tampa Bay, has a statewide publication where her strongest distribution points are Metro Orlando, Tampa Bay – I-4 Corridor, and South Florida. She distributes: 25,000 Print Editions. She also has her e-Magazine and Mobile magazine, same as print, but longer shelf life and typically ends up with 50,000-75,000 readers.
“It is important to build relationships with the media outlets targeting Hispanics, because we are small business owners, and we are specializing in communicating and reaching this niche market in specific. If you are looking to reach and communicate with the Hispanic/Latino community -then you should be utilizing the media tools that they read.” Jolie said.
Could this be why the Democratic Party has not won the Hispanic vote in gubernatorial race since Jim Davis ran for governor in 2006?
Albert Einstein once said: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.” The strategy that is being done over and over again is not working, but could change if campaigns hire a good consultant who knows the Hispanic leaders, the media outlets in Spanish and their community. It is time to stop ignoring the Hispanic media outlets. It is time to start respecting them as the gatekeepers of the Hispanic community and placing ads in their papers. It sends a message to the community that you care. Whoever listens and starts being proactive in this arena will open the gates to becoming the next governor of Florida or the next winner of their race. Regardless which party affiliation you are with, don’t be insane-change the strategy!