10 Things Never to Say to Latino Executives (or any Latino)

April 24, 2008

Diversity Inc., a leading publication that covers diversity issues and their impact on U.S. business and society, just provided a list of ten phrases to avoid when interacting with Hispanic professionals:

1. “Don’t worry you’ll get the promotion, you’re Latina.”
2. “When did you arrive in this country?”
3. “¡Hola! ¿Habla inglés?”
4. “Do you live with your parents?”
5. “You’re not like them.”
6. “Can you show me your knife?”
7. “Why don’t all you Latinos stop doing that?”
8. “You’re not white.”
9. Butchering a Latino’s last name.
10. “Do you speak Spanish?”

Read more.


MySpace Latino: Lost in Translation

April 13, 2008

On Friday, April 11, MySpace oficially launched MySpace Latino, the Spanish-language U.S Hispanic version of the social networking site. Unfortunately, MySpace didn’t get it right: they did a poor job on the translation/adaptation process of their site into Spanish. 

According to the company’s news release, the site was created as a way of:

“responding to the needs of our growing Hispanic membership, MySpace Latino offers content that is culturally relevant to Latinos in the U.S.,said VP and Managing Director of MySpace Latino, Victor Kong.

I highlighted culturally relevant because after visiting the site, I was shocked (in a bad way). The site’s copy contains many grammatical mistakes as well as the usage of words that are not common, or even understandable by their target audience.  If MySpace’s goal is to target an ever-expanding Spanish-speaking audience, then the site ought to be more respectful of them. This blunder could illustrate a lack of knowledge of – or interest in – those whom MySpace is trying to reach, or, even worse, a sign of disrespect to Spanish speakers.

The home page shows the word Entérate without an orthographic accent over the second ‘e’; in most Latin American countries this a significant grammar mistake. The only exception is Argentina, where the word is pronounced with an emphasis on the second-to-last syllable. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the total number of Argentians living in the U.S. is of around 175,000, or 0.4% of the total U.S Hispanic population. This means that MySpace’s usage of the word Entérate without an orthographic accent is wrong to 99.6% of the site’s target audience. (For a broader explanation of Spanish-language orthographic accents click here.)

 Also, after signing up, I received a confirmation e-mail containing the following phrase:

Esperamos que te lo pases pipa explorando el sitio. ¿Ya te has paseado por estas zonas?

The expression “que te lo pases pipa” (to have a good time) is also a regional Argentinian phrase. For Hispanics from Mexican origin, who represent 64.1% of the population, these words mean nothing.

The following problems were also found on the home page of MySpace Latino: a) The word video is used with and without an orthographic accent (both forms are correct, but the spelling of the word should be consistent throughout the same document – though I must say that for most Latin American countries, the word video without an orthographic accent is preferred); and b) the word Inscríbete appears in the sign-in menu without an orthographic accent when it ought to have one.

Spelling and punctuation mistakes were rampant throughout the Web site. For example, one page had the word “ciudad” mispelled as “cuidad,” and on another, the word “que” did not have an orthographic accent when it should have had one. Also, a phrase that ended with an exclamation mark (!) did not have a corresponding opening mark (¡) – a bad punctuation mistake.

Such punctuation mistakes might be minor when drafting the Web site’s copy. The problem comes when these mistakes were not caught in the review process. My Space Latino’s PR firm, Edelman ( Multicultural practice group), should have caught these errors before letting their client “go live” without carefully reviewing the site. Call me a purist, but grammatical mistakes are unacceptable in a project like this because they hint at a carelessness that can be equated with lack of respect for the target audience.  After all, do you think that repeated grammar mistakes in the English-language version of MySpace would be tolerated? I don’t think so.

If it truly is MySpace Latino, then it should speak my language.


Pitching to Hispanic Media

March 4, 2008


A couple of days ago, I helped prepare Natalia, a colleague, for her Hispanic media pitching debut. After a brief chat, I drafted the following email:

 As we discussed, the following are some personal recommendations when pitching to Hispanic media outlets.

1.-Double-check the name and info of the journalist before sending a release. Do some research through Vocus (and Bacon’s) or by visiting the publication’s Web site, to make sure that you are sending the information to the right person and if possible read what he/she has published in the past. Look for topics, style, tone and interests, this will help you “sell” your story better.

2.-Send a personalized e-mail that briefly explains the press release and copy the text of the release in your message. Some journalists wouldn’t open a message from an unknown source if it contains attachments.

3.-Always include your contact number, Hispanic journalists always want to have a real and reachable person to answer questions.

4.-Use a catchy subject line that both grabs the journalist attention and provides him/her an idea of the content of the message. Avoid using simple or generic subject lines like: “Comunicado de Prensa” (Press Release) “Informacion importante de….” (Important information), you risk your message to be lost in the clutter, or confused as spam.

5.-Make a follow-up call.

-If you are fortunate enough to talk to the journalist, keep in mind that you will have between 30 to 60 seconds to catch his/her attention. Consider that a press release may not be a hot topic, so try to find angles for a possible story.-If you leave a Voice Message (VM) you will have to communicate everything in 30 seconds, let him or her know that you have sent an email with the information. For a VM, I would recommend using phrases like “This information would be of great interest to you readers” or “You can provide a valuable service to you readers”. Leave your phone an email at the end of the message (repeat it at least once)

-If you were able to talk to the journalist, send a follow-up mail thanking him/her for their time and letting them know that you can be available for questions or help while writing the story. This way you will have a contact you can rely on for future efforts.

6.-For some smaller publications, be prepared to talk for a long time. Some editors and journalist are real talkers, and will want to chat with you about topics that matter to Hispanics.

7.-Always smile while talking over the phone…and try to have fun!

Two hours later, Natalia had nailed down her first placement in Miniondas, a weekly newspaper in the Los Angeles DMA with a weekly circultation of 45,000 copies.