One of the first rules of public relations is that you tell your story because it’s yours to tell. Each of us has a story to share that speaks to the bigger picture. When we aren’t the storyteller, we look to those who authentically deliver a story that is representative of ourselves. Enter public relations professionals who guide the story that needs to be told, especially if it’s one that is reflective of unique cultural experiences.
Such is the case with sisters Geraldine Barrientos and Mariana Barrientos-Roig. The sisters formed their own advertising agency in 2014 after finding themselves frustrated by the gap in messaging within the Hispanic Community. The local DC area duo shared how they prepared themselves to launch their agency, ROIG Communications, by creating a business plan, networking, and monitoring their bottom line. Launching their agency propelled them to share and underscore the diverse voices of the Hispanic community. From advertising to marketing, the sisters make it clear: they don’t just translate, they present authentic stories.
Perhaps the sisters are following the path of PR pioneer David Garcia who, in the early 1980s, pulled together his communications colleagues to form the Hispanic Public Relations Association (HPRA). While there were public relations organizations that welcomed Hispanic PR professionals, Garcia felt support for Latino representation was missing.
Formed in 1984, HPRA was founded at a time when Latinos were taking on PR positions in the government, corporate, and non-profit sector, particularly in the Los Angeles region. Garcia’s vision for HPRA was to create a space for Hispanic PR professionals to not only serve as a voice for its members, but to be the supportive force that empowers its members.
Though the public relations industry continues to grow, people of color, especially Latinos, still remain underrepresented in the profession. According to a recent study, 83.6% of the public relations industry remains overwhelmingly White, with Latinos representing 15.9 %. As conversations continue around the importance of having a diverse pool of PR professionals, some have argued that the industry may not be keeping up with the country’s demographics. The Pew Research Center’s recent study finds the majority of the U.S. population growth will be linked to Asian and Latin America immigration. Prior to this forecast, other organizations such as the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and the National Hispanic Media Coalition have created ripples of change in their advocacy efforts around hiring practices in the newsrooms, in PR firms, and extending awareness into the entertainment industry. They have also paved the way when it comes to telling compelling stories from the Hispanic community.
As we conclude National Hispanic Heritage Month, it is important to note, while a pathway has been forged, the work of increasing diverse voices in the PR industry has not, and does not, stop. It is because of the work and advocacy efforts of these organizations that the Barrientos sisters and many other Latinos and Latinas are continuously breaking through barriers and providing a platform for Hispanics to see themselves, share their stories, and allow others to connect with Hispanic communities in an authentic way.