Behind the Headlines with Yvonne Lorie

Yvonne Lorie.jpg

Yvonne Lorie, the founder of ReFresh PR and a recipient of the 2013 HPRA Premio PR Achievement Award, has been elected president of the Hispanic Public Relations Association (HPRA) national board for 2017. Lorie has been with the organization since 2014 and is thrilled to lead this group of the foremost Hispanic public relations practitioners in the U.S. HPRA provides year-round programs, professional development seminars and networking among other services. 

Lorie sat down with me to talk about her new position with HPRA, and the importance of relationships and influencers in the industry. 

Congratulations on being elected president of HPRA’s national board! What does this new role entail, what are you most excited for with it, and what do you hope to accomplish? 

As the only non-profit organization for U.S. Hispanic public relations professionals, I’m excited to work with this year’s diverse volunteer board representing corporate, agency, consultants, and media entities, to help cultivate our future leaders and propel our industry. It’s an exhilarating time for both the PR industry and Hispanic communications, as both areas continue to add significant value and return on overall marketing initiatives.

Through HPRA National and our local chapters in Los Angeles, New York, Miami and Chicago, we bring forth resources and expertise through thought leadership, networking and scholarship programs.  We also host our annual National ¡Bravo! Awards, providing a forum that reflects the innovative, creative, and cultural competence of Hispanic market campaigns across several categories. Award submission opens mid-June with new categories!

What are some of the key components of a successful strategic communication strategy?

When we look at the Hispanic public relations industry, the most important component is commitment. Success is not garnered with a two-month campaign.  It’s an ongoing build and evolution of consistent communications and content generation.

With a commitment in place, it’s critical that the audience and respective messaging be aligned. For example, in the food category, consider ethnic staple ingredients and multi-generational household habits. In the automotive category, highlight fuel efficiency and safety features while considering the extended family, as it truly is a family affair.

With the diversity we see in America and the cross-cultural impact of Hispanic America, most brands have the foundation of a product or service that appeals to Hispanics. Early in the planning process, Hispanic insights must be layered to then build out a strategic communications strategy for Hispanic audiences that is executed in tandem with the general market strategy. It is complex, yet simple.  It’s about certain details. For example, in earned media, although there may be a Spanish-language spokesperson, “what is the impact specific to Hispanics that makes it newsworthy?” And this is why it’s important to have a Hispanic public relations expert that can navigate the planning and execution.

How has the PR industry changed over the years? What are brands doing differently today? What has stayed the same? What do you think needs to continue changing?

In general, PR is having a more profound impact on overall marketing initiatives and has come of age, much like Hispanic consumers.  Brands are consistently identifying the need to incorporate Hispanic public relations to cost-efficiently improve their communications reach and impact their sales.  PR measurement and Hispanic consumer sentiment models have evolved and can be layered to quantify sales impact.  Brands that are not applying Hispanic public relations strategies will either plateau or decline — if not immediately, soon.

What is your secret to Public Relations and media relations success? If there was one thing you could have told yourself at the beginning of your career – what would it be?

The key ingredient is relationships. This is very important in mainstream PR and even more so for successful Hispanic media relations.  We are friendly and affectionate and want to discuss the family, personal goals and even what was had for dinner the night before! It’s important to always remember the relationship goes two ways. We want to deliver PR results, but we also need to provide a resource for our media contacts. I was lucky to be taught this two decades ago by a pioneer in the market. The concept of personal relationships and dialogue still holds true today, even in the digital age.

It is increasingly important to be able to strategically utilize paid, owned, and earned media. How do you leverage each differently? Do you find one holds more value than the others? What advice do you have for approaching these different types of media strategically?

While PR was traditionally earned, owned and paid media have helped bring brand messaging consistency and each has their unique role in executing the communications strategy. Earned media continues to bring validity and impact brand and product reputation, but we now have controlled, or rather semi-controlled, media vehicles to integrate and leverage.

In terms of approach, paid and owned allow us to better segment via social media and influencer relations. With Hispanic media consumption habits flipping between both the Spanish-language and English-language, it’s important to not only generate culturally relevant content but also consider language based on the media or the particular subject.  For example, bicultural Hispanics that may prefer English would likely choose Spanish-language when relating to certain topics such as financial services, depending of course on age and other variables.

Also, working with Hispanic influencers mimics working with Hispanic media. It’s all about nurturing and guiding the relationship versus simply contracting an influencer to tell the story.  By investing time with them and developing a two-way relationship, brands receive true authentic messaging that extends way beyond the black and white contract.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned throughout your career?

A key lesson is to always be prepared for the unexpected!  This is something PR practitioners know well through crisis communications but truly applies to all areas of public relations. It can be something as simple as delivering a client’s media analysis report on time to event planning for a significant fundraiser — always be prepared with a Plan B.

What advice do you have for those looking to begin a career in PR– specifically young women or minorities?

Nothing is out of your reach, but you need strategy, drive and commitment.  For those preparing to make the leap, it is important to write well, multitask, and be consumed with a variety of topics:  pop culture, politics, media trends, and beyond.  It is a very exhilarating and rewarding career that can take you many places!

Short Response:

1. When I was young I wanted to be …. After considering law, I was drawn into communications because of the various areas it touches.  Although my college education was geared towards advertising and then broadcast journalism, I ultimately gained my first real job opportunity in PR and it all went from there.

2. If I was going to sing karaoke, I would sing …. I like all kinds of music from classic rock to country, pop and of course Latin music.  But there’s something about being up on a stage singing to Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”!

3. If I could go back in time, I would travel to … northern Spain, Leon to experience the life of my grandparents and great grandparents.

4. The best gift I have ever received is … my name bracelet, it’s a Cuban tradition!

5. One thing I could not go a day without is … talking to my mom, we check in on each other daily.

6. If I was a superhero, my powers would be … having a tiny suitcase that held every possible tool or solution and my name would be …. Ninja Girl, inspired by one of my favorite colleagues.