Public Relations Tactics

5 tips for multicultural communications

March 1, 2012

The latest Census figures have shined a bright spotlight on our nation’s diverse demographics. Minorities now comprise a majority of babies in the United States and by 2042, the U.S. Census predicts that we will have a majority-minority population.

It’s clear that these diverse audiences must be included in our communications strategies — and it doesn’t have to be as daunting as it seems.  Whether you work in-house or are at an agency, these tips will help you better understand, get started with or improve your multicultural communications programs.

  1. Understand multiculturalism. Multicultural doesn’t just mean Hispanic and African-American. While these are the largest minority segments, there is also the emerging Asian population — the fastest-growing demographic of any race in the 2010 U.S. Census — as well as pockets of Europeans, Middle Easterners and Pacific Islanders.

    There may be a need to communicate to other diverse communities depending on the goal of the communication. For example, if you’re trying to increase awareness about soy bratwursts, then you may want to tap into Chicago’s large Polish-American community. During the research stages of your PR campaigns, include ethnic segments and note the differences between their responses.
  2. Identify your audience. In Los Angeles, any PR campaign that hasn’t included the Hispanic market has failed miserably.  That’s because more than 50 percent of its population is Hispanic.

    In the San Francisco Bay Area, about one-third of the population is Asian-American. Every region is different. Hone in on the region that your campaign is focusing on and analyze the demographics there. If there is a specific segment that you’re interested in reaching, then identify the DMAs or regions with the highest concentration of that population group.
  3. Prepare the enterprise. You and your organization must devote the time and resources needed to understand and connect with your audience.
    If you want to engage with Asians, then make sure that there is someone on your team who comprehends Asian- American culture.  This will help you brainstorm concepts internally and guide you on research initiatives.
  4. Beware of the language dilemma. It’s not just about language translations. It’s about creating culturally relevant messaging that resonates with your audience, whether it’s English, Spanish or something in between.

    For example, a 28-year-old Hispanic female will likely be touched by “Spanglish” messaging that speaks to the duality of  her life — as she may be speaking English with her boss one moment and talking on the phone in Spanish with her mom a few moments later.  The language that you use to communicate with your audience will vary among age groups.
  5. Recognize generational differences. You wouldn’t communicate to millennials in the same way that you would to baby boomers, right?

    Minorities outpace their counterparts with social media but this doesn’t mean that you’ll reach a 65-year-old Filipino on Twitter. Meet your audience where they already are. Nielsen offers scores of data on multicultural media consumption.


Carolina Madrid
Carolina Madrid is Diversity Chair for the PRSA New Professionals Section. She works at San Francisco-based agency Améredia. She is a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


Jean Toman says:

Love this article! Thanks so much. Teaching business communication course at Wilmington University and we were just discussing these very issues this week. Will be sharing this info with the class. Great points for us all to remember!

March 13, 2014

Anne Thundercloud says:

Don't forget about Native Americans. We are often overlooked and misunderstood. Thank you for the great article!

April 7, 2014

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