Commentary

Telling Positive Stories: Q&A With Michele Ruiz, Author and Entrepreneur

For the fourth part of my series for Hispanic Heritage Month, I was delighted to sit down with Michele Ruiz, a communications specialist and best-selling author who has been outspoken about her experience as a Latina entrepreneur. We spoke about the importance of entrepreneurship in the Hispanic community, her work as a broadcast journalist, and how to build trust among Hispanic audiences.

How does your background as a broadcast journalist inform your work as an advocate for Hispanics?

As a TV news anchor and reporter, I understood the importance of telling stories about people who are disenfranchised and often marginalized, and Hispanics often fell into that category. Conversely, I also recognized the need for telling positive stories of success, and the power of relating the meaningful contributions of Latinos, especially as it helped to raise awareness of the importance of Latinos in every aspect of our lives.

In particular, these stories help to combat stereotypes of Hispanics, and dispel the notion that Hispanics are poor and uneducated. Statistically, we know this is not true, given the increasing numbers of acculturated and U.S.-born Latinos. My focus today is to continue to raise awareness of the needs of Latinos, and to shine the spotlight on as many exemplary Latinos as possible.

As a businessperson, what does being Latina mean to you?

With regard to being a businessperson, I don't usually focus on being Latina -- except when my communications agency, Ruiz Strategies, is developing and executing multicultural strategies geared to Latinos. Having said that, my story is not unlike many others'. Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups of entrepreneurs -- and of course, I'm part of that.

Starting a business is one way that allows us to build wealth, thus positively impacting the future of our families for generations. Studies show that this is an area where Hispanics are not yet on par with other demographics -- but it’s growing, and that is encouraging.

How should brands be using social media to reach Hispanic audiences?

As we've seen historically, Hispanics are early adopters of technology, and heavy users of social media. We use social media to communicate, to stay in touch with family and friends, to ask each other for advice, and much more. It’s been shown that our smartphone usage is higher than other demographics, which makes social media an important point of contact between brands and Hispanics.

So, given how powerful a tool social media can be for Hispanic audiences, brands that don’t yet recognize this are missing vital opportunities to engage and build relationships with this loyal group.

Is it important for brands to use both English and Spanish when reaching out to U.S. Hispanics?

It depends. The level of acculturation is a big factor, as it plays a role in determining what language Hispanics want to engage in. You also have bilingual Hispanics who consume content in multiple languages, which means it's possible to build powerful brand loyalty in both English and Spanish.

But equally important is the idea of "in-culture.” Regardless of language, demonstrating that you as a brand understand what is important from a culture and values perspective can build trust and lead to successful campaigns. Get it wrong, and you've impacted the ability to build trust with your brand.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my conversations this Hispanic Heritage Month with Rochelle Newman-Carrasco, Martha de la Torre, Antonio Tijerino, and now Michele Ruiz. It’s been fascinating to explore the world of Hispanic marketing through their eyes, and each one has brought up interesting points about what it means to be Hispanic, as well as the nuances of Hispanic culture and marketing. 

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