INTERVIEW

Dr. Juan-Carlos Molleda, a Hispanic practitioner and professor at UF.

Dr. Juan Carlos Molleda

What is your ethnic background?

Dr. Molleda: Venezuelan.

Why did you decide to work in the public relations field?

Dr. Molleda :Well, I was working for a bank at the same time I was going to the university. My major was social communications as an undergraduate. And because the only unit of the bank related to my field was public relations, I requested to transfer to that department. At that time, I started to work mainly in employee communication, and little by little I became interested and more aware of the uses and importance of communication in the organization.

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Mention the elements PR practitioners need to focus when they target the Hispanic community?

Dr. Molleda: I think that one of the things is definitely the language use because there are different type of Hispanics or Latinos. There are different generations. The old generation is different from the recent immigrants. The new people would prefer to be addressed in Spanish. The youngest the individual , the more likely the adaptation process to the English language will be easier. While older individuals are more attached to the Spanish language.

It is also important to know that we have different type of Hispanics according to nationality and cultural background. We know that in this country the most important groups I would say would be Mexican, Puerto Ricans, and Cubans. And even from certain areas in Southern America such as El Salvador and Honduras, those who went through difficult civil wars in the 1980s.

So, you need to identify who they are , where they are located, how they are similar, and how they are different. And for example, some things would be more important for Puerto Ricans, and others for Colombians.

Also the issues that these communities face in different geographic areas would be slightly different. For instance, we know that in South Florida, Hispanics are not a minority, but a majority. So the condition of being a minority or majority in different parts of the nation are also other considerations that you need to take into account.

The type of media used also needs to be considered. In certain communities, Hispanic media will be better developed, such as in Los Angeles which has an excellent array of alternatives. Even though the Hispanic population is moving North, there are less alternatives to communicate with them in the north than in the south.

Education is another issue. You will have different levels of education within the Hispanic community. Not everyone is going to pay attention to the same music and cheesy promotions. I think there is an important segment of this population which is highly educated, which has the same needs as any other middle or upper class family in this country. Not every person is going to identify himself or herself with flashy colors and spicy food.

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As a Hispanic practitioner what advantages and disadvantages do you have other practitioners reaching this minority group?

Dr. Molleda: I think the advantage is the language. Also understanding how different we are , and also how similar at the same time. I can also identifiy Hispanics and the issues their community faces.

But having said that, without proper historical knowledge and knowledge of the issues faced by this community, even though you are Hispanic you will not be great help. A person from Chicago, completely Caucasian, no latin roots in his or her blood,, but with a great command of the language and a great understanding of the background and issues it is going to be as helpful as any Hispanic in the same conditions.

A Hispanic without the proper knowledge of both languages English and Spanish would be of no help either. One of the main limitations for those working in the public relations, advertising and communication industries is trying to target Hispanic community. Managers cannot find a large number of graduates whose command of both language is excellent. And we are talking about written language and spoken language. Because again, some groups in the Hispanic community would prefer to be communicated in English, some others in Spanish, and sometimes it would be covenient to have both languages in the same piece.

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Do you prefer to be called Hispanic or Latino?

Dr. Molleda: I really don't care. Because Hispanics for me has the connotation that I speak Spanish, but Latino has the connotation that I am from Latin America and not from Spain. At the beginning I prefered to be called Venezuelan, because we don't have that concept of Hispanic or Latino in my country. You are Venezuelan or Cuban or Colombian. But again I don't mind to be identified as Hispanic or Latino.

But if you use Hispanic to identify everyone in the continent that is an issue, a problem. Because we have people from Haiti who don't speak Spanish. In this case is better to say Latino.

And also Latino is a prefered term rather than Hispanic-American because a percentage of this population is illegal, residents or American citizens. But Latino as a terminology you are including everyone, legal or not. As an organization, if you are selling a product, you are not very interested on their legal status. Of course, for employment this situation would affect the organization, but to work with the community, it does not matter.

I think an excellent knowledge of the region of the country you are focusing on is very important. To understand the demographics, you need to to focus on region. And pick distinctive aspects in the decision you make to establish strong relationship with the public. I think localization works really well.

Right now there is a story about a former Gator student who is going to play the main role in a Bachelor TV show. But as he was a football player and a student at UF, this story has relevance for the Gainesville community. It is not any bachelor, it is the Gator bachelor. This is key for PR, identify specific features and characteristics of the community. Beyond that the organization needs to show that it cares about the individual not just the group.

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Click here for in-depth interview with a PR Hispanic student.