That’s right, we said it. If you want to connect with multicultural media, you gotta commit to a long-term relationship.
If you work in communications, chances are you’ve been tasked with reaching a “more diverse audience.” You’ve probably also been given the helpful suggestion to “tap into multicultural media.” Simple, right? Not so much.
At The Vida Agency (TVA), we field daily requests to help companies connect with multicultural media (what used to be called “ethnic media”)—even from organizations that already do a good job communicating with diverse audiences. This makes sense when you consider the many reasons tapping into multicultural media outlets is challenging. From learning what stories are relevant to different audiences to who on your team can best connect and build trust with media partners, this work can be tricky.
Even if you were magically born knowing how to build rock-solid partnerships with anyone and everyone, the landscape is changing rapidly and growing exponentially alongside our nation’s shifting demographics. In short, what may have worked with “traditional” (aka, predominantly white) media outlets probably won’t work in this new landscape. You may need to un-learn some old habits and assumptions to be successful in today’s media ecosystem.
So where do you start? How can you reach out respectfully and not do harm? If you’re white, you’re probably imagining all the ways in which you could mess up and offend someone. If you’re a person of color, you’re probably worried about the exact same thing. Plus, you get the added stress of some people—maybe even yourself included—thinking you should already know.
Lucky for you, we’re here to break it down. Here are three steps to building a successful relationship with multicultural media partners.
First, get to know your partners and let them get to know you. We all want positive media coverage, but you can’t just assume you’ll get that from multicultural outlets. In an era of performative PR, marketing and advertising, media professionals who serve diverse audiences have good reason to turn an extra-critical eye on pitches to ensure there is a direct impact for community. It doesn’t serve their audience to support a story that is disingenuous and worse, it hurts their credibility. To avoid this pitfall, there is an easy solution: introduce yourself to media partners before you make an ask. Take the time to learn who they are, as people and professionals, and let them get to know you, too. You’ll find your company news is much better received by people with whom you have a relationship.
Second, put in the time and listen. Relationship building can’t be skipped or rushed. Not if you want results. You must invest in getting to know each outlet and the types of stories that are relevant to each community. What do people care about? What is affecting them? Who do they trust? At TVA, we’ve invested years in building longstanding relationships with trusted media partners. We’ve done way more listening than talking to ensure that we understand exactly what is needed and how we can help.
Our multicultural media partners deliver news in more than 15 languages to residents across the Pacific Northwest. Each community has its own unique perspectives, priorities, and cultures. One size doesn’t fit all. Without taking the time to get to know our partners and hear directly from them what their audience wants and needs, we wouldn’t know that. And we certainly wouldn’t know how to tailor our client’s stories to fit those unique qualities.
Third, be respectful of smaller outlets’ resources and time. Most of the time, you can safely assume traditional media outlets will run your story for free if they find it newsworthy. Multicultural media outlets, most of which are typically smaller shops with fewer resources, don’t have that luxury. Their small, highly competent teams can’t be everywhere at once, so they choose what they cover carefully.
And don’t fall into the trap of thinking money alone will suffice. “Hard-to-reach” communities trust multicultural media outlets because they are authentic. The outlets will not run stories unless they align with their values and are of interest to their communities. So, no matter how much money you offer, if your story or news doesn’t speak to the people you are working with and the communities they serve, its going to fall flat.
Be sure to come back next week to check out our follow up blog featuring our top five tips for becoming a multicultural media maven. In the meantime, if you would like our help building those relationships with multicultural media, let’s chat! Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.