Knowing a second language is about to pay off—literally. Rep. Michael Honda (D.—Calif.) proposed the “One America, Many Voices Act” which supports a five percent pay increase for federal employees who hold jobs that require a second (or more) language.
Honda stresses that this legislation, also known as the Bilingual Pay Bill, will rightfully recognize the necessity and value of those who are proficient in Chinese, Arabic, Urdu, Russian and Hindi—languages that are critical to our national security.
“To improve both our nation’s ability to provide language-appropriate intelligence and security, and America’s capacity to effectively and efficiently deliver government services, we must be able to retain a federal workforce that is capable of communicating with an increasingly diverse constituency, both within our borders and without,” Honda said.
With America’s population only growing more and more diverse, so too will the need for effective communication and business in various languages. Increased pay will undoubtedly entice these recruits, but even more so, the recruits will be driven to such jobs because they will feel wanted, appreciated and included by the government and their country.
The idea of a pay raise for bi- and multi-lingual employees is not just for the government sector and is not a new idea. In the corporate world, labor agreements have already been made between Verizon Wireless and the Communications Workers of America and between Kaiser Permanente and the Service Employees International Union to give workers with more than one language a higher income.
Honda published his own article on the matter and said, “Many voices make us more versatile in a globalized economy, more able to deal with national security concerns and more effective in delivering government services. It is high time we recognize this in Congress.”
Federal jobs, especially those in national security, handle sensitive topics here and abroad; an optimal way for our nation to interact internally and internationally is to have the cultural and linguistic knowledge in-house. Americans love their English, but as Honda stated, it’s high time to open your ears to the sounds of different languages that better the workforce of this country.
As many have heard, this past Saturday, April 10, 2010, Polish President Lech Kaczynski, along with many other dignitaries of Poland, died in a tragic plane crash. The 96 victims, comprising military, religious and government officials, were on their way to Katyn, Russia to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the massacre of Polish officers by Soviet forces.
In an article by Sophia Tareen of the Associated Press, Blanche Weigand, whose mother immigrated from Poland to Chicago in 1950 said, “It was like losing a family member. I’m from Chicago, but my heart is in Poland.”
This tragedy had a global reach, touching not only those in Poland and Russia, but immigrants worldwide who remained strongly tied to their homeland. I personally have seen the accident’s affect firsthand through my work with Polish American media vendors.
To be aware of critical current affairs and significant historical events allows you to connect closer with people. In marketing, it helps with business relations, recruitment messaging, and overall communication efforts. Having this perspective and understanding is critical in making a true connection to a community, whether it be Polish Americans or another ethnic group.
Yet again, real-world examples pop up on the importance and value of ethnic recruitment efforts. Slowly but surely, more attention is being paid to specialized markets, but many times, multicultural outreach gets placed on the backburner and its need only gets recognized in reaction to a crisis or with remaining budgets.
I came across an article a little over a week ago about a specific U.S. Army program, Mavni (Military Accessions Vital to National Interest), that enlists immigrants here on temporary visas. Those who are promising recruits can become citizens in as short as a month—extremely favorable compared to the potential decade-or-more wait the old fashioned way.
Mavni recruits are desired for their language and medical skills. The language component especially is extremely critical for those regions in which you can find the U.S. forces. That means immigrants skilled in Arabic, Urdu and Pashto are a hot commodity.
Naomi Verdugo, an Army recruiting official, spoke about the “extraordinarily high” proficiency of these immigrants recruited for their language skills. “We send people to language school, but it is tough to get a non-native speaker to the level of these folks,” she said.
Many immigrants, even those who already have their U.S. citizenship, have this level of proficiency. Even immigrants who have been here for years do not lose the language knowledge they brought from overseas. Their heritage, culture, and speech make up an identity rarely lost to acclimation; and these groups value when outreach efforts acknowledge that.
The Mavni program, although wildly successful, is on hold for a required Pentagon review. With all the positive feedback, I’m sure this review is a matter of formality and the program will be up and running again shortly. However, the article alludes to the fact that this block may have been “slowed by the top-to-bottom examination of security procedures after the shooting rampage in November at Fort Hood, Texas, in which an Army psychiatrist, Maj. Nidal M. Hasan, has been charged.”
Such reasoning for blocking this program may offend or confuse the audience they actually intend to attract. It brings up the point that cultural awareness, sensitivity and savvy are critical for intra-government workings as well as outside efforts.
The Mavni program’s immigrant recruitment should be recognized across all government sectors. These recruits clearly have language expertise and, in light of continuing events post 9/11, their cultural understanding is needed and cherished. And if citizenship is a hiring criteria, (which is the case for most government jobs) second or third generation ethnic groups similarly perform at this high level. And whether they’re immigrants or children of immigrants, most have an innate sense of civic duty and a unique appreciation for the U.S.—this goes for immigrants all over the globe.
The take-away is this: Just as we learn that such recruits are so valuable, the government should learn that efforts are advantageous. Multicultural and ethnic outreach should stop being reactive and instead be proactive—having the correct workforce now will eliminate the scramble if problems arise.
So now that the Census campaign is out there, the real discussions have begun. Many people, organizations, and media companies have critical eyes on the Census advertising campaign, its advertisers, & the even the process in which the data is collected. But one topic that has and will probably always dominate “water cooler” conversations about the Census, simply put, is ethnicity—the labeling system that the federal government currently has in place to differentiate people from different ethnic backgrounds.
Recently, I’ve been following the Society of Professional Journalists Blog Network. They have an eclectic selection of topical pieces & they usually have some pretty interesting stuff. A couple days ago, they posted a new blog called Writing “Hispanic” vs “Latino” in the Who’s News Diversity Every Day section. The author talked about how the government has placed a title onto an ethnic group that didn’t resonate well within the community. Though the piece focused on the Latino community; the sentiment that the government lacks cultural understanding towards ethnic groups is not exclusive to Latinos.
Now I know almost everyone in this country answers the question “what is your heritage?” with “I’m part this and part that, and a little bit of this”, but I, myself am multicultural. My mother is Panamanian and I’ve spent much time with my family in Panama. I’ve been exposed & submersed in the culture enough that I truly see myself as part of the ethnic community. I’ve also come across enough people in Panama to know that most Panamanians see themselves as Latinos, not Hispanic, no matter their heritable connections to Spain. That as it may be, I, an American with a cultural connection to Panama, views myself as Hispanic.
While the piece mentioned above focuses on the Latino community, we should take this concept of lack of cultural understanding and apply it to another ethnic group. Take the Middle Eastern communities for example. At Allied Media Corp, one of our primary audiences is the Middle Eastern markets. This is how we describe it in short to our clients, though in reality, to describe this ethnic group one would need to be much more precise. If you were to attempt to convince a person from Egypt, an Arab nation-state, that they should be ethnically categorized with a person from Iran, a Persian nation-state, you would be unsuccessful. There are distinct differences in language & culture between the many cultural groups that comprise the Middle Eastern and to officially categorize them as one group would be considered incorrect by their standards. Though these communities share this common view, attempts have been made to solve the problem of the lack of ethnic representation in federal surveys by grouping them under one collective group.
Now we can argue until we’re blue in the face as to how to identify the many different ethnic groups, but we’ll leave that for another time. Right now, we should focus on finding an immediate solution to the query at hand. True, the largest federal survey in the United States is about to take place & true, there are issues/limitations on how to identify ourselves in this survey. My suggestion, let’s not argue about what should have been done & let’s focus on what needs to be done. When filling out a federal survey, think about your ethnic roots. If you don’t clearly see yourself in any of the listed categories, mark yourself as “other” and write out your heritage. This way you are able to clearly distinguish yourself from any group that you don’t fully relate with & you can properly represent your community.
It’s January 14th, 2010, three days from the official launch of the 2010 Census paid advertising campaign. To christen this campaign, we had an official media launch event today at the Ronald Reagan building in Washington DC. Jack Morton, the events partner agency put on a party which included over 500 members of the media, 3 key note speakers, one of which was the Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke (via video conference), 2 TV personality people, an MTV executive, oh & did I forget to mention, over 400 pieces of TV, print, radio, digital and out-of-home creative by 9 different agencies….. get all that?
So it all started at 9:00am this morning with the host our show, as well as the host of NFL on CBS, Mr. James Brown. We went through a list of speakers included Secretary of Commerce Locke, Census Director Dr. Groves, and more. Once we finished listening to the last speaker, James Brown came back on to introduce a collection of selected TV commercials that covered each of the three phases of the Census media campaign.
After the main presentation, everyone dispersed to the language/ ethnic audience specific breakout rooms. When our team reached our room, no one was in sight. This was a good thing though, because it gave us time to set up. Soon after, we had a full house. From district office representatives, to members of the ethnic & mainstream media, to even representatives of local, state, & federal government offices, all came by to see the emerging audiences’ creative work.
Two of the guests that came to the event were from the Governor’s office of the state of Illinois. We spoke about the different phases in the advertising campaign, the different types of partnership materials, and the many different ethnic communities that reside within the Chicago area alone. They were particularly interested in the Polish, Arabic, and Farsi audiences, all of which are covered by the emerging audiences’ media & partnership plan.
Since the media launch, the 2010 Census campaign has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Ad Week Online, & more. The main focus of these articles is the efforts made by the Census Bureau to create a truly multicultural advertising campaign in 28 different languages.
December means the holiday season for many different cultures and religions in the US. During this time, the media is filled with advertisements that promote products through Christmas jingles and holiday specials. “Happy Holiday’s” has emerged as the phrase for advertisers to use, thought to be inoffensive and all inclusive. This makes sense-the last thing advertisers want to do is limit their customer base. As Michael Jordan famously put it when avoiding political siding, “Republicans buy shoes too!”
Still, even “Happy Holidays” appears unacceptable to some, Bill O’Reilly has made public that there is a “War on Christmas” and some Christian Groups agree. Then of course, there is the fact that for some religions and cultures, December is not the holiday season. CNN’s For Many, December’s a Dilema highlights a Baha’is family as their children worked on a school assignment that required the creation of a poster illustrating how their family celebrates the holidays. For Baha’is’s, gift giving and charity takes place during Ayyam-i-Ha in February. The children of the family worked together to create a poster that represented Ayyam-i-Ha, and found it to be well received by classmates.
Many families also take December to learn and celebrate cultures that are not their own. Some Sikh’s for example, buy Christmas trees, attend Christmas parties, and create family traditions involving Santa, elves, and gifts. Still these families do consider themselves Sikhs and not of the Christian faith.
In this way, December can be used not only as a time of one’s own traditional celebrations, but as a time to consider and learn about those of others. Advertisers of course, will consider every December how to best mention the holiday season to a multicultural America.
By: Jameson Strotman, Allied Media Corp
The 2009 ANA Masters of Marketing Conference took place in early November in Phoenix, Arizona, and was headlined with the theme “Growth—Defying the Recession.” Marketers from around the nation gathered to discuss, brainstorm and debate marketing tactics to bring success to their companies and the industry as a whole.
Neil Golden, CMO for McDonald’s, offered his perspective on the future of the business using the over-arching idea of “Leading with Ethnic Insights.” Golden stated that the most effective universal campaigns represented a cross-cultural approach—by combining marketing ideas specific for the African American, Asian American and Hispanic markets, a fusion was created to resonate across all cultures.
Golden even went as far to remark that these minorities groups are the trend setters, and their preferences set the tone of the general marketplace campaigns.
Rochelle Newman-Carrasco wrote an article commending Golden. Though I find Newman-Carrasco’s points valid, she fails to address the point that we still have a ways to go in terms of the ethnic market perspective and efforts. For example, the growing number of Arab Americans in the metropolitan areas or the large amount of dollars accrued by Russian Americans.
Some government agencies, such as the U.S. Army and the FBI, have begun a broader outreach because of staffing language requirements. Even fewer corporate companies are acknowledging such ethnic groups by using advertising dollars.
Golden’s speech is definitely a step in the right direction, but more steps must be taken to recognize the rest of those contributing and residing in the U.S. Branching out to these new waters can advance a brand or company and be part of the boost the industry needs to “defy the recession.”
With the publication of Peter Francese’s white paper, there has been much talk about the 2010 Census and its results affecting the marketing world. Studies indicate that this changing face will morph from “Consumer Joe” to one that is impossible to define as a general market.
Francese’s findings indicate that in the nation’s 10 largest cities, “no racial or ethnic category describes a majority of the population.”
With no majority to pitch a centralized, mainstream campaign to, communications efforts must switch from reaching White America to a more multicultural marketing campaign.
Currently, campaigns establish the general market approach and overlay it with a smaller multicultural twist to satisfy consumer diversity. But what Francese is implying and what the Census 2010 numbers will reflect is that the general market approach will soon become obsolete.
Another point of Francese’s to substantiate this statement is how diversity varies greatly by age, “with the younger population substantially more diverse than the old.” These young, diverse consumers will only gain buying power with time, making it critical to recognize investment in specialized campaigns now.
The question remains exactly how existing agencies will act. There will still be a need for an overarching campaign to encompass all that would be placed on the big channels like NBC, ABC and CBS, but a lot more cultural thought will need to be put into this campaign. The specialized ethnic agencies will need a bigger seat at the table to get such messaging right.
An answer we do know is that ethnic media is on the up and will continue to grow with this growth of a diverse population. Thus, vendors should begin to accept this new age and approach the American audience through targeted in-language and culturally relevant campaigns.
The Obama administration recognizes the need now, and acted on it by investing millions of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding specifically into the 2010 Census hard-to-reach markets such as Arabic, Russian, Polish, Farsi, Ukrainian and Armenian speakers.
Diversity is here to stay, demographics are the future, and we as communicators must embrace it.
Team Lead – Diversity and Outreach