Beware the Professional Hispanic

Talent-Searching Beyond Ethnicity

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Alberto Ferrer Alberto J. Ferrer
In my previous post, I discussed the danger to clients of the mainstream agency's Hispanic-acquisition practice of "poach the junior talent at Hispanic shops by promoting them beyond their capabilities." Catchy, isn't it? The point was that the same individual who a client might not have invited to planning meetings, for example, the next day might be in charge of that very planning.

A related practice exists in the client ranks and it is equally dangerous and even more pervasive in the industry. The practice is that of the Professional Hispanic vs. the Hispanic Professional.

Professional Hispanics have been around for a long time in the Hispanic Marketing world, but are becoming more widespread with the growth in importance and prevalence of Hispanic Marketing in organizations.

Professional Hispanic Defined
Professional Hispanics are folks who are Hispanic and have chosen their ethnicity as their profession. They have no specific expertise in Hispanic Marketing (or even marketing per se, for that matter) but rather ride the ethnicity of their name to define and build their career.

They can come from all walks of life in a client organization and from all levels. However, they are usually from junior levels because (a) the organizations that choose these folks to lead their Hispanic Marketing are usually companies that don't value Hispanic that much and thus have these positions at relatively low levels in the organization, and (b) these same organizations are not those where Hispanics have reached high positions in the company.

Professional Hispanics usually see the market with very old-fashioned, traditional eyes (what they remember from growing up) rather than seeing it as the vibrant, ever-changing, dynamic, complex space it actually is. They tend to prefer things like street festivals and local radio. This is because they are not really marketers and thus do not continue learning about the market, changing with it, experimenting with it, etc. They continue using their personal experience as a filter, not realizing that their own selves 10 to 15 years ago are not the target.

Hispanic Professional Defined
Hispanic Professionals are good marketers who understand their target market, are experts in engaging with the target, exhibit savvy communications decision-making, etc. They just happen to be Hispanic and working in Hispanic Marketing at their organizations.

These folks have passion for what they do and believe in the potential of the Hispanic market. They usually come from marketing and communications backgrounds and have the experience and education of solid marketing professionals.

The key difference is that while Professional Hispanics ride their culture and ethnicity to career advancement, Hispanic Professionals leverage their efforts, experience and expertise. Do multicultural marketers have to belong to a particular ethnic group? That's for another post.

I would defer to my fellow bloggers on this issue, but I would not be surprised if this issue was the same in terms of marketing to Black and Asian-American targets.

Appointing Professional Hispanics to these marketing posts is a risky proposition for clients. They are in effect putting a key portion of their marketing in the hands of unqualified people. They will end up with bland, ineffective, uninspired me-too marketing to Hispanics.

We all know how difficult it is to find good Hispanic Professionals in this tight talent environment. However, I strongly recommend to client organizations that they look harder and deeper for the right people, design the positions at the appropriate levels of responsibility and compensation, and monitor their performance more closely.

At our agency, when evaluating potential client relationships, this is one of the factors we consider. The multicultural markets are just too important to most companies' bottom line to leave that up to folks whose only Hispanic expertise lies in their name or ethnicity. Invest in hiring the right people and enjoy the full benefits of the opportunity these markets have to offer.
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