At the dawn of our new Obama Nation, the US is finally integrating into the "melting pot" we always described ourselves to be. It is predicted by the U.S. Census Bureau that by 2050 the nation's Hispanic and Asian populations will triple and non-Hispanic whites would, for the first time in our country's history, represent less than one-half of the total population.
Mainstream will no longer be the values and traditions of the white elite. We can no longer segment our communications efforts by separating them into "mainstream" media efforts and "niche/minority" publicity strategies. Multi-cultural communications cannot be turned on like a switch, mid-way through a major launch initiative or executed post-launch. As an industry, we need to evolve into one that integrates multi-ethnic issues and trends from the beginning of our brainstorms. In time, "ethnic majority" populations will transform our country into a multicultural nation and we, as communicators, need to make haste to become sensitive to this new vision of America now.
This past July, REVERBERATE! Marketing Communications attended and exhibited at UNITY 2008 on behalf of one of our clients. UNITY 2008 is considered to be the "Olympics" of journalists of color. It takes place every four years and close to 10,000 journalists attended. All the national TV news networks, newswires and news publications had a presence there. The convention is so impressive that even Obama made an appearance, along with news rock stars like Soledad O'Brian and Wolf Blitzer.
As is reflective of the trends in the general census, we noted that the majority of journalists that attended our luncheon panel represented "mainstream" media organizations. There were a few reporters from "niche minority" news outlets from the likes of BET, Jet, Ebony, and Telemundo, but the remainder (70%) generally represented mainstream media including The New York Times, ABC News, Reuters, Time and Newsweek, ESPN. One TV producer we spoke with said, "This is the direction we are going. We want multi-cultural faces on the air. Although behind the scenes it may not look that way now, this is the way we are moving."
In fact, the media is already working towards increasing diversity behind the scenes in their newsrooms. UNITY in conjunction with national news and journalism organizations has embarked on the "Ten by 2010"project. The objective of the program is to grow diversity in the media industry through increasing the number of senior managers of color across newsrooms in the US. The goal is to secure commitments from ten media companies by 2010. "Ten by 2010"has already received commitments from three top media companies including the New York Times, Gannett, and Schurz.
To reach multicultural journalists and multicultural audiences, we must consider not just targeting them through specific niche media outlets, but through major market and national media channels. We must move to be ahead of the game-- journalists of color and multicultural audiences are a large part of mainstream media, and will be ever more so in the future. Therefore, sensitivity around potential issues such as racism, sexism, socio-economics and health disparities, must be addressed in the design of any communications program. This will go a long way towards earning trust and respect from the media and multicultural audiences, increased receptivity to our news pitches, and greater penetration of our clients' messages.