In an exclusive webinar interview with Hispanic PR Blog, the former La Opinion journalist and media communications strategist shares insights from her new book
PR professionals who wish to score coverage in ethnic media outlets would be wise to heed a lesson from Vice-President Kamala Harris.
In 2015, when Harris was running for California Senator, she received a surprising early endorsement from the country’s largest Spanish-language newspaper, Los Angeles’ La Opinion. Why did La Opinion support Harris instead of her Latina rival and fellow Democrat, Loretta Sanchez?
According to Dr. Yurina Melara, author of “The Power of Ethnic Media,“ it’s because Harris understood the importance of building strong personal relationships with ethnic media outlets. She understood the power of face-to-face interactions.
Melara, a former La Opinion journalist and now a media communications strategist and author, was at La Opinion on the day they held a cocktail event to celebrate a new marketing campaign. The newspaper invited both Harris and Sanchez. Harris took the time to attend the event. She charmed the staff and made her case to the editorial board. Sanchez never showed up.
“Kamala was very approachable,” Melara said. “She started telling stories. She was just having a blast. And when it came time to actually get behind a candidate, our editors decided to go with Kamala. So I really think that face-to-face really made a huge difference.”
That’s one of the many lessons Melara shares in “The Power of Ethnic Media: A How-To Guide for Communications Professionals,“ published on Oct. 1. Melara intended the book to be a practical guide, a quick-read manual for busy professionals, and not a directory of top outlets or a vehicle to push a particular agenda.
Her inspiration for writing “The Power of Ethnic Media” was the result of encountering all kinds of faulty thinking from general market communications professionals about ethnic media.
“Sometimes people who are managers or who are used to just mainstream media strategies don’t understand the value that our media brings,” Melara said.
And even those pros that understand the value don’t understand the right way to influence ethnic media.
Aside from showing up to ethnic media events and building strong personal relationships with the editorial staff, here are two additional tips from Melara for scoring coverage in ethnic media outlets:
2. Disregard the traditional line between paid and earned media that you use at larger outlets
Ethnic media outlets tend to be smaller. Often the publisher is also the editor and the sales manager. As a smaller operation, they will need financial assistance. Consider investing in a small ad campaign parallel to the announcement. The ad buy could be as small as $200 or $500.
“When you are thinking about ethnic media tactics, you have to realize that, first of all, they’re businesses and they’re going to need the help,” Melara said. “Don’t just look for them to run your stories for free. You also have to give them a little bit of love. So when you’re putting together a campaign, think about putting your money where you want the stories to be. The key is to treat in-language media as business partners.”
3. Before approaching ethnic media outlets, take an inventory of your inherent biases
Most of us have racial, cultural, or ethnic biases, Melara says. These can manifest in subtle ways, such as “insensitivity, triviality, overlook and disregard.” Recognizing these biases will improve your chances of success with ethnic media.
“We all have inherent biases, the ones we’re aware of and the ones we don’t know. And by being humble, we can understand that we might have that. It’s either racism or some type of cultural bias,” Melara said. “For example, you might think that your culture is better than the others. In Latin America, the lighter your skin, you might have better opportunities. So there are a lot of biases that we acquire socially a lot of times without even knowing. Just take an inventory and acknowledge that you probably have biases in certain industries and these biases might show up in different ways. In PR and marketing, for example, it might be shown in the people you hire. It might be shown in who you choose to appear in your commercial. It might show in the different segments of the population you reach out to. That’s something that we really have to be aware of as communicators.”
Among the additional insights Melara shares in both her book and in our exclusive Hispanic Marketing Webinar, moderated by Noticias Newswire CEO Bill Gato:
- How journalists and marketers perceive the difference between media and “ethnic media”
- The characteristics that define ethnic media
- The best way to pitch ethnic media and prepare your communications materials
- The power of using Trusted Messengers
- How to handle the challenges of monitoring an ethnic media campaign
- The biggest mistake PR professionals make when targeting ethnic media
- How Melara utilized her insights to engage hard-to-reach communities during the COVID-19 pandemic
- How ethnic media is evolving into new platforms
An El Salvador native, Melara began her career as a journalist in her home country. She moved to Los Angeles in 2000 and began working for La Ola, a Spanish-language newspaper launched by The Wave, an African-American community newspaper. Melara later worked for years at La Opinion and then pivoted to public relations work for California agencies.
To view the free, full-length webinar, click here.
To read the full transcript of the interview, click here.
For more information about Dr. Yurina Melara, visit her website at www.yurinamelara.com.