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How can Texas schools effectively reach, engage Hispanic audiences?


Is your audience getting the right message? Hispanic Texans are projected to outnumber whites by 2020 and organizations are working to reach them where they are. But, is what you are doing working? What’s really the best way to engage the community?

Candice Castillo, who runs Strategic Communications for Houston ISD’s Family and Community Engagement (FACE) Department and Edgar Veliz, media relations specialist for the Houston Dynamo, shared their insights and experiences with Hispanic audiences at our recent Drive West Communications Intensive.

Both agreed, authenticity is key to reaching the Hispanic community.

“Building trust and a relationship is very important,” Castillo said. “Your parent is more likely to go to a school function and volunteer if they have relationships. You have to find a way to build that relationship with them.”

“It’s not just about pointing out that they have a disadvantage because they can’t speak the language it’s about making them feel part of the community,” Veliz said. “Make an effort not to see it as ‘I have to do it’ but ‘I really want to empower everyone.’”

Be Consistent

Castillo says HISD tries to mirror communications across languages. HISD has two Facebook accounts, one in English and one in Spanish. They also tweet in both languages.

“You want to build a one-to-one with the school and community and that translates to social media. That’s a huge component for us,” Castillo said. “When we are putting out a message – for example, the recent [weather-related] delay in school – we communicate that in all languages. We give parents the option to get the message by text, call or email so we can reach them directly in the message they prefer.”

Castillo says sometimes more explanation is needed.

“For example, our bilingual audience may have just gotten here so we have to explain it more, give a little more background,” Castillo said. “There are times we want to make sure they are empowered to understand the system, so we might put out content that the English one isn’t putting out, like what’s the function of the board members, how does that impact the community. It really depends on the need and what we know could be of interest and could have an impact on that community.”

Community Outreach

Veliz recommends having family-friendly events that specifically target the Hispanic community.

“We often partner with school districts and the medical community and go out to events with our mascot or players,” Veliz said. “Many people in the Hispanic community love soccer, so it’s a good way to connect with them.”

“Have a resource fair that impacts them,” Castillo suggested. “You can pass out immigration information they can benefit from, health service information and things like this.”

A real translator is key

Castillo recommends finding a real person to translate messages. She says literal translations from an automated service, for example, don’t always work. Have someone on staff who can help translate materials as needed. You can also have communication on standby for when you need it.

“Have typical scenarios for every situation already translated,” Castillo said. “For example, if you need to close ‘XYZ’ for weather related reasons, you have it ready to go. Or if a teacher is leaving, they found a gun, something like that. Have templates ready to go so you can send it out like that.”

“In communications, you want to be genuine, so you want the translation to be good,” Veliz said.

If you don’t have a dedicated person on staff, both Castillo and Veliz recommend recruiting someone else in the office who may speak the language. Drive West Communications offers translation services. If we can help, please contact us at info@drivewest.com.

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