Q&A with Miguel Ferrer

Miguel Ferrer is an entrepreneur and executive who has developed and executed breakthrough media projects in the U.S. and Latin America across digital, social, television, print and music.

Q. Do you feel that one culture (American or Latina) has a stronger day-to-day influence on the content- and commerce-related choices that Latinas make in their lives?

As with so many things, the answer to this question comes down to the individual. For many Latinas, one culture or the other may be clearly dominant and thus more influential. For many others, the real influence comes from the ways in which mainstream American culture has integrated into US Hispanic lives. We can start with recognizing the powerful force that is American culture. It has swept the world over for many decades, and Latinas growing up in the US are not immune to that. But — and it's a cool but — American culture has historically been wonderfully enhanced by its appropriation of the trends and customs of subgroups in the culture (think Valley speak, skater graphics, motorcycle jackets, popping and locking, eating salsa, etc.) and taking those mainstream. Today's American culture is more explicitly diverse than ever before and, specifically, we can pinpoint aspects of today's culture that originated with or were enhanced by Hispanics. Look around at the foods Americans love, the biggest celebrities, the styles in fashion, the biggest political and economic issues. . . . In each case, Hispanic influence is present and well ingrained. Think of Selena Gomez, a mainstream pop star whose music and style arises from a contemporary pop mindset that many young Americans can relate to and which on its surface does not present her Latina roots overtly. Her Latina fans are thus able to relate to her on both levels: she's one of them ethnically and Latina-culturally (made more evident when one learns her backstory), and she's a pop star whose music and style speaks to them generationally as well as American-culturally. So, while in the long run, American culture will have a stronger day-to-day influence on the content- and commerce-related choices made by Latinas (and pretty much every other group in the US), for many Latinas, it is the Hispanic root or angle within the mainstream culture that will be of greatest influence as it's the hook they can really relate to.

Q. Our research found that Latinas want to see more of themselves in the content that they consume. How can publishers develop a content strategy that develops relevant content for Latinas while also servicing the content needs of other audiences?

When people say they want to "see themselves" in content, we naturally think about visuals. That casting content with people who look like the targeted audience is what is being addressed. That's not what the research is really saying. Are you fully defined by your physical appearance? Do you only relate to other people who look like you? Of course not. What we, as humans, react to in other people when we encounter them — the first time and subsequently — is a mix of cues that is inclusive of, but not limited to, expressed values, vocal accents, shared experiences, common ethnic or historical backgrounds, opinions and positions on important issues, and yes, looks and physical traits. In short, there are a variety of things which can lead someone to find affinity with someone else. Looking like a long-lost relative is not necessarily the only way forward. Content creators will succeed in engaging Latinas when their content strategies focus on the issues, values, and/or cultural touchpoints that greatly resonate with Latinas. And they will succeed in meeting the content needs of other audiences as well when their content strategies are inclusive of issues, values, and/or cultural aspects that simultaneously resonate with these other audiences AND Latinas too. BuzzFeed presents a compelling example of how this can work. They have a decent number of Hispanic content creators. None of them are dedicated to stories that would ONLY be of interest to Latinos. Some of them are dedicated to producing content that is grounded in Hispanic experiences but always tries to be of interest to non-Hispanic audiences as well. And some of them are dedicated to content areas that are not specific to Latino audiences at all, meaning these Hispanic content creators are creating mainstream content as a rule, not an exception. And what is the outcome of all this? BuzzFeed is "being read, proportionally, more by Latinos than white Americans."

Q. Do Latina influencers have a responsibility to incorporate their culture into their area of expertise?

I personally would not place the burden of "responsibility" on Latina influencers per se, but I would certainly advocate for the importance of doing so and encourage it openly. Too often, cultural subgroups are marginalized, deprived of equitable opportunities and resources, treated as undeserving. . . . Latina influencers are influencers whether they recognize it or not, because statistically there are too few of them relative to the size of the Hispanic population. Thus, when a Latina achieves success, the community notices. The community feeds on it as proof that it is possible and can inspire young Latinas to persevere in their own path forward. If we, Latinas and Latinos, want to be influential in the mainstream culture, we have to do so explicitly. The voracious appetite of American culture that is always looking for the next big thing — and is often looking to Latinas for that — presents an opportunity we can seize for the good of our community. That is not to say that we fly the Latina flag above all others, but we definitely should always fly it proudly and alongside the other flags which represent our areas of expertise.