Hispanic PR Leader Interview with Clara Carrier of the Ronald McDonald House Charities

Clara Carrier

Today’s Hispanic PR Leader interview is with Clara Carrier, PR & Marketing Manager, Communications & Special Programs for the Ronald McDonald House Charities.

What was your childhood ambition?
When growing up I admired my dad’s passion and care for animals, so I wanted to be like him, the best veterinarian in the world. During our childhood, my sister and I spent long weekends on our farm – a wonderful place in tropical weather, surrounded by trees, rivers, animals – enjoying outdoor activities including riding horses, chasing turkeys, catching butterflies, feeding pigs and listening to birds… Well, my to be a vet changed when I saw my dad conducting a medical procedure to one of the horses in the farm — it had to do with its stomach.

Tell us about three people you admire and why?
There are many people whom I admire, that have left prints in my life. One of the people I admire is my mom Marta. Her dedications to us, her commitment to providing a loving environment at home, and her positive spirit have always been a motivation in my life. I also look up to my sister. She is very strong. No matter how tough situations are, she is always fighting to overcome them; finding solutions and keeping up her spirit. And finally, I admire my husband. He is a hard working, passionate and dedicated individual; not only to his family, but in his work and the group of people that work with him.  His authentic personality, cheerful spirit and demanding expectations, make him a leader, a mentor, and a great individual to follow.

What is your favorite life or business quote?
I don’t even remember where I heard this, but I truly believe “good people deserve good things,” and that the “truth will always prevail.” So I always bring these two principles with me to every aspect of my life; with family, friends and coworkers. I also always follow that little voice inside me – which is usually right.

What are you really passionate about outside of work?
Aside from work, I love painting water colors and painting walls. Yes, painting walls. In a moment of inspiration, I actually painted the walls in our home when we first moved in. As a Latina, I can’t live surrounded by white walls, so I had to have some flavor, some warm colors to brighten our spirit. And they did! Some walls are yellow with tiny hand printed flowers…  Others are burgundy, and recently, I painted my son’s room bright blue and orange… No coincidence there – he is a Bears fan, go figure!

Tell us about your educational background.

I was born in Medellín, Colombia. Because of my mother’s persistence, my sister and I studied in a bilingual school since we were three years old. We attended elementary and high school at Marymount School, and I moved to Bogotá, Colombia where I completed my Bachelor’s Degree in Social Communications and Journalism, in the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana (it’s like Loyola University here in Chicago.) Then 11 years ago, on February 25, during a very cold snow storm, I arrived in Chicago not knowing this was going to be my home for years to come…

What is one of the best lessons your parents taught you about life?

The best lesson my parents taught me is that you should treat others like you’d like to be treated, and to keep family top of mind they always said, “family always come first.” Parents, brothers, even aunts and cousins will support you along the way even from a distance. No matter what the situation is, good or bad, I can always count on them. After all they have been part of my life since I was born… and they have been close ever since!

What is the most important business habit you have?

There are many business habits that I have. I plan thoroughly, get organized before I start my day, prioritize, etc. But perhaps the most important business habit I have is not to make assumptions. Before jumping into conclusions, making a decision, giving a recommendation or simply delegating a project, I try to gather all the facts and answer all the questions. To do this it is very important to find the right people   – and reach out to them – for support, guidance and feedback; after all, two brains are better than one.

What is the best book you’ve recently read and why?

One of the most recent books I’ve read is “El cielo para niños” by Randy Alcorn … A few weeks ago, my husband’s grandparent died. Since then, my son has been asking about heaven, what happens when you die, and where did grandfather, Andy (my husband’s dog,) and Mr. G (our first gold fish) go? Well, even for me it’s hard to understand and have a clear picture or an explanation about death – imagine what’s it like for a 4-year old. So in speaking with my sister, she recommended this book. There is nothing extraordinary here – no magic answers – however, it contains simple language and common sense scenarios based on the bible that have given me a foundation for conversations with my son. We’ve been reading it together as well, and I feel that even for my own sake, death is not that scary anymore. Death is part of life, and another journey that we all have to experience eventually when our time here is up. This is why I live every day at a time… I try to live every day as if it were my last.

How did you start your career in PR and where has that taken you?

I started my career in marketing back in 2001 when I was hired by a small Hispanic agency in Chicago. I was responsible for copywriting, editing and proofreading Spanish materials for Kraft Foods, Sears and Macy’s. It was a great experience and provided exposure to the advertising world. It was my first opportunity to be part of the work force in America. A year after, and as I call it ‘a meant to be encounter,’ I found Marketing Werks, a great family-owned company that specializes in experiential marketing.  With them, I grew as a person and professional, in un-imaginable ways. My first steps into the PR world occurred there, when I was tasked with generating media coverage for top Fortune 500 brands and its programs targeting the Hispanic communities. As a member of the client service and new business development teams, I was able to build up my capabilities, knowledge and understating of the marketing within the Hispanic markets and also learn best practices for time and team management.

After almost eight years, that little voice inside me told me I had to expand my horizons and find other challenges – I had to fly high and find a new journey, and I certainly did! In August 2009, I started what I consider one of the most challenging and fulfilling careers of my life. I was given the opportunity to work for the Communications & Special Programs team at Ronald McDonald House Charities®, as PR & Marketing Manager. Are you kidding? For real, the perfect job, my dream job… Doing what I’ve been passionate about for a charity that helps families stay together, during difficult times; that provides stability and resources to families so they can get and keep their child healthy and happy. It has been a demanding, challenging and fulfilling journey, both personally and professionally where I’ve been able to apply my competencies, and I’ve learned many others from very talented and experienced people. Now I can say that through my job I am generating interest, knowledge and understanding about what RMHC does through its programs around the world; now I can go to bed every night convinced and prod of helping to make a difference.

What advice would you have for young people exploring Hispanic or multicultural PR careers?

To stop thinking as a minority, to never give up and always be proud of your heritage, legacy, culture, values and family! If PR is what motivates them, drives them and makes them happy, then the sky is the limit. A job has to be more than a job. It has to be the place you want to be, one of the reasons why you wake up every morning…  Lastly, be aware that stereotypes about us Latinos, although unfair, are part of life. So in everything you do, learn how to manage your “Latino” traits to your advantage so you advance your career.

Tell us something about you that would surprise even many of your closest friends.

A few things that would surprise even my closest friends – umm… well, I don’t like pickles, and I can’t even touch them. When I get a pickle on my plate I have to ask someone to take it out… I don’t like peanut butter either – which seems to surprise many, but we never grew up eating it. We don’t have peanut butter in Colombia, or I never saw it in my house.

What’s in the works at your company to continue to grow its Hispanic market-related business?  We (RMHC) Continue to open the doors to accessible health care services through family-centered programs like the Ronald McDonald House®, Ronald McDonald Family Room®, and Ronald McDonald Care Mobile®; and fulfilling our commitment to education through the RMHC®/HACER® Scholarship program for eligible Hispanic high school students with financial aid across the United States.

What is the biggest Hispanic marketing cliché that you would love to see go away?

The biggest Hispanic marketing cliché that I would love to see go away is that because we speak the same language, Spanish, we are all the same. The United States is a diverse country racially and ethnically – and this is a beautiful thing. There are Cubans, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, and South or Central Americans, all with very unique and fascinating cultures, belief, traditions, food, music, etc. All very different, but we share similar traits. We are family oriented, hard workers, dedicated, passionate, respectful of authority, adaptable, and loyal to those values, and principles we believe in.

What are the top dos and don’ts about marketing through Hispanic social media?

Do’s:

  • Know your audience before engaging in a conversation.
  • Dedicate plenty of time to build trust and credibility – after all you are building relationships and this takes time.
  • Build a strong social network – they will become ambassadors for you/your cause.
  • Keep it simple and be authentic, transparent – be yourself.
  • Be a good listener, and speak with substance.

Don’ts:

  • Don’t make assumptions or underestimate the presence of Latinos on the web — The total amount of time spent online by Hispanics increased 6.9 percent in 2009 (3.9 times faster than the total U.S. online population) and Hispanics are 31% more likely to be in Twitter than the net population. So YES Latinos have access to the Internet and YES we can effectively establish two-way conversations with them via SM.
  • Don’t only connect with people who have a lot of “followers,” “friends,” “connections,” etc. It makes sense to engage them, but it’s also very effective to connect/engage with other smaller yet quality audiences.
  • Don’t try to do too much at one time and don’t expect to see results right away.
  • Don’t use social media as your strategy. SM is a tool and must be part of your overarching goal. It should be part of your marketing, communications and business plan and objectives.

What are your three favorite sources to find out what is going on in the US Hispanic world and what do you look for in these resources?

Even though I’ve been away from my home town for a long time, I want to continue to be close to my family, friends and be aware of what takes place there. Thanks to the Internet, this information is at my finger tips… and to SM; I now can talk and get up to speed with family and friends every day! I am also interested in learning more about trends and studies and keep current with industry news…After all, information gives the power.

  • Marcela Jaramillo

    Cachis me encantó tu entrevista y me siento orgullosa de ti!!!!!!!!!
    Perdona cualquier inconveniente que hayamos podido tener durante esta semana, sabes que te quiero mucho y a pesar de la distancia te llevo en mi corazon.

    No sabes la falta que me haces y lo feliz que seria de tenerte cerca a ti y a tu familia, pero hemos escogido caminos diferentes pero que al final se unen por el gran vínculo que tenemos: NUestro amor!!!
    Tal vez nunca te lo haya dicho pero te amo con todo mi corazón.
    Tu hermana, Marcela