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Hispanic PR Blog Interview

Michael Olguin, President

Formulatin: New York – Los Angeles – San Diego

HPRB: What was your childhood ambition?

MICHAEL: My love of basketball drove my desire to be a professional basketball player.  However, by 10th grade that desire got a serious reality check and then I figured I would get into sales since selling comes so natural to me.

HPRB: Tell us about three people you admire and why?

MICHAEL: My parents were an inspiration to me and to all of my brothers and sisters because they had very little, yet they lived their lives like they had everything.  They recognized the importance of family which ultimately is the reason why my brothers and sisters are so close; they placed a huge importance on education; they really loved each other; and most importantly, they were very proud of their heritage.

I also really admire my younger brother, John, who is not only one of the smartest people I’ve ever been around, but also my go-to resource when I need a gut-check on a major decision I need to make that is either personal or regarding business.  He is also in PR, so he really can provide insight that is accurate, thoughtful and contrarian.

The third person I admire is my brother-in-law, Dave, who is our business consultant.  He provides me with excellent business advice and insight, particularly when it comes to identifying what is necessary to make difficult decisions.

HPRB: What is your favorite life or business quote?

MICHAEL: “Plan your life like you’ll live forever and live your life like today is your last day.” – Author unknown

HPRB: Besides your firm, what are you really passionate about outside of work?

MICHAEL: My two primary passions outside of work are running (I’ve ran seven marathons) and mid-60s muscle cars (I have a 1965 convertible Chevy Malibu).  I spend a tremendous amount of time in both areas because running provides me peace-of-mind and the old cars remind me of family, as my dad and brothers also love old cars.

HPRB: Tell us about your educational background.

MICHAEL: I went to school at San Diego State University where I received my bachelor’s degree in Journalism, with an emphasis in Public Relations and a minor in Marketing.  I am one of the few seasoned PR pros that actually studied public relations.

HPRB: What is one of the best lessons your parents taught you about life?

MICHAEL: My mother used to always say, “we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” meaning don’t worry about something that you don’t have to yet.  This has served me very well because I try and take a calm, relaxed approach to challenges that I know are coming down the pike.  My father on the other hand would say “there are no short cuts; work hard and life will pay off.” Needless to say, this very simple advice has paid off many times over as I try and lead by example.

HPRB: What is the most important business habit you have?

MICHAEL: I treat everyone with respect, whether they are our interns or company presidents.  It is a very small world and you never know when that person you disrespected is going to come back to haunt you, or that person you respected is going to be your next client contact.

HPRB: What is the best book you’ve recently read and why?

MICHAEL: “Building Leaders the West Point Way.” By Maj. General Joseph P. Franklin.  It teaches you that taking a very simple, yet humanistic approach to communicating with your subordinates can create great leadership practices.

HPRB: How did you start your career in PR and where has that taken you?

MICHAEL: Prior to going to college I travelled in a performing group called Up with People (though I cannot sing or dance).  During my year on the road, I had the pleasure of doing advance PR for the cast, prior to them entering a particular city.  This opened my eyes to marketing and really set the stage for the opportunities associated with PR.  Thus my future was pretty well determined as that point.

HPRB: What advice would you have for young people exploring Hispanic or multicultural PR careers?

MICHAEL: First I would say study Spanish so that you are at least comfortable speaking it.  Secondly, be open to the various nuances of the Hispanic consumer; and thirdly I would say get some understanding of general market strategic public relations, so that you do not become only a “publicist.”  Which I believe is a stigma that undermines good public relations counsel.

HPRB: Tell us something about you that would surprise even many of your closest friends.

MICHAEL: I love movies, foreign films in particular.  I love the experience of going to the movies – the popcorn and soda, loud sound, movie previews, etc.  This takes me away from the challenges of my day and job.

HPRB: What do you believe differentiates your agency and how big is your Hispanic-focused PR team?

MICHAEL: What makes FORMULATIN unique is that each of our PR team members has general market background and expertise.  That means that they understand the importance of strategy, ROI, consumer marketing and message management and that it’s not solely about getting press.  Many firms launch programs that are solely Spanish versions of general market programs.  We believe that the Hispanic consumer is uniquely different and must be engaged by a brand in a different and unique way that allows them to flex their cultural values and mores.

HPRB: Describe the most effective Hispanic marketing campaign you’ve worked on and what made it special?

MICHAEL: Since 2007, we have supported Tecate’s boxing platform, which includes PPV events with champs like Manny Pacquiao and Oscar de la Hoya, and televised series like Telefutura’s Solo Boxeo Tecate. Tecate’s approach to boxing is unique in that every aspect of the brand’s 360 degree activation is focused on making the sport accessible to Hispanic fans, whether through PPV mail-in-rebate offers, or autograph sessions with the most talented boxers of the moment.

It’s rewarding to see how our PR efforts have helped Tecate establish itself as the most active sponsor of boxing – and that both media and consumers recognize the positive impact that the brand has had on the sport.

HPRB: What are some of your agency’s top Hispanic/multicultural PR clients and what is the most exciting campaign your team is presently working on?

MICHAEL: At FORMULATIN we work with a variety of brands, each of which has identified a very specific segment of the US Hispanic population as their target. Currently, we provide strategic counsel to brands like Behr and NAPA AUTO PARTS, who speak to Hispanic professionals in their respective fields through initiatives like mobile tours. Our work with Tecate focuses specifically on Hispanic men of carácter, while our campaigns in support of Tequila Herradura are designed to reach those with a discerning palate.

One of the most exciting programs we’re currently working on is the launch of Bohemia beer’s limited edition packaging featuring Frida Kahlo. In May, we executed an art contest where artists created original artwork inspired by the iconic Mexican painter, while incorporating key brand attributes. Many of the 50+ entries submitted were recently displayed at a VIP event held in the heart of Manhattan, where media and other influencers previewed the new bottles inside a recreation of Frida’s Casa Azul in Mexico City. We’re thrilled that the design has been received with much acclaim by sophisticated beer connoisseurs, art aficionados and media alike.

HPRB: What adjustments has your agency made to overcome some of the challenges of the current prolonged recession?

MICHAEL: Actually business has been quite good for FORMULATIN, and we believe it will only get better as more brands recognize the viability of the Hispanic marketplace.  However, one of the more unique things we are doing is training our own people, rather than recruiting from the marketplace.  We need our PR practitioners to understand our way of thinking and doing business, thus we have an aggressive junior account executive training program designed to educate and provide real-world public relations responsibilities so these individuals can learn quickly and allow us to make an educated decision on their potential.

HPRB: What’s in the works at your agency for continued growth and expansion?

MICHAEL: We have a very aggressive new business outreach program that is designed to raise the profile of FORMULATIN and to ensure that we are included in all of the RFPs that are issued throughout the country.  We believe that when you combine our strategy, creativity and account service, we are absolutely unbeatable in the Hispanic PR marketplace.

HPRB: What is the biggest Hispanic marketing cliché that you would love to see go away?

MICHAEL: That Hispanics don’t have money and are uneducated.  Purists realize that Hispanics are hard-working, loyal and the more acculturated they become the more educated they will be.  History has proven that education is the answer to recognition and success.

HPRB: What are the top dos and don’ts about marketing through Hispanic social media?

MICHAEL: We’re excited to see that many brands, including our clients, have recognized the power of social media when marketing to Hispanics. Many of the best practices are similar to those we employ with our general market clients, but there are certainly nuances to keep in mind.

Dos:

- Know that not every Hispanic likes soccer, and instead create a culturally relevant program that aligns your specific brand attributes to one of the common passion points among US Hispanics: family, food, beauty, music and sports

- Be in tune with what excites and bores your audience. If you don’t know, ask them and listen to what they have to say

Don’ts:

- Don’t launch a social media campaign just because “everyone else is doing it.” If it does make sense to your brand, ensure you’ll be able to give your followers engaging and interesting content on a continuous basis

- Don’t stress about every negative comment on your Facebook Wall or Twitter feed. By participating in these platforms, you’re giving consumers a forum to connect with your brand directly, and it’d be impossible to avoid all negativity. Just make sure that you address all concerns off-line in a timely manner, and you’ll be fine.

HPRB: What are your three favorite sources to find out what is going on in the US Hispanic world and what do you look for in these resources?

1. Hispanic Ad.com for their frequency in news and updates about the industry

2. Portada for their interviews with marketers, data analysis and events

3. Hispanic Market Weekly for its Hispanic Sports Business newsletter – this is particularly important given three of our clients (Tecate, NAPA, el Jimador) have sports platforms

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