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The new diverse: multiracial and bicultural


August 31, 2012

We tend to categorize every ethnic community outside of  Whites as a minority or diverse population group, but there’s a gray area that we’re failing to pay close attention to: the bicultural and multiracial population. It was the fastest-growing youth group in the country in the last decade, increasing almost 50 percent to 4.2 million, according to Census 2010.

As our nation’s population becomes more diverse, the bicultural population will continue growing and the segregated communications approaches that have worked in the past will not work with this audience any longer. Use the guide below as an overview to understanding biculturalism and how you can think about it in an upcoming campaign.

A cultural tug of war

Being bicultural, multicultural or multiracial means that you have ties to different cultures. It can mean that you grew up in the United States with roots in another country or that you have parents from distinct ethnic backgrounds. Either way, there’s usually a sense of being pulled in two different directions while trying to maintain both or assimilate into another.  Why does this matter? Because someone who you thought was a Hispanic, Spanish-speaking person may not be receptive to messaging that speaks solely to Latinos.

Inglés or Spanish?

The language preference of bicultural individuals varies.  Younger populations who went to school in the United States tend to prefer English, while older populations will favor their native language.  There’s also the second-generation population who doesn’t prefer one or the other. The language you use will largely depend on the demographic.

What am I?

The degree to which individuals associate themselves with a given cultural background also varies. Just as there are those who believe in maintaining a sense of heritage, there are those who don’t want to stay in touch with their roots and prefer to assimilate into only one culture. This is why it’s important to stay away from explicit cultural messaging that would isolate or turn off the bicultural or multiracial population.

Univision or CNN?

Just because someone speaks Spanish doesn’t mean he or she watches Univision, the nation’s largest Spanish-language network. In fact, he or she will likely prefer to watch English-language TV. Still, on CNN, there is an opportunity to reach the bicultural population with messaging about the Hispanic or Asian population.

Fusion nation

Fusion cuisine is a perfect example of the adaptation and merging of two different cultures. You appreciate the base flavor of the dish, while adding in contemporary ingredients and spices for a blend that’s the best of both worlds. Don’t be afraid to also use this approach in your communications programs, using a mix of messages.

Contextual decision-making

How you communicate with a bicultural population will also depend on the message that you’re trying to convey. Different scenarios will call for the incorporation of cultural messaging, while other times, this might seem forced. But what is certain is that early awareness and the ability to use it wisely will reap the rewards of a genuine connection.

Carolina Madrid Carolina Madrid is Diversity Chair for the PRSA New Professionals Section. She works at San Francisco-based agency Améredia. She is a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.



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