I do love pop quizzes. Especially when I already know the answers.
So, pop quiz!
You’ve got a website, and a regularly updated blog, right? Of course
you do. And every once in a while, it reads like this
Imagínense que acaba de perder la electricidad en su vivienda, ya sea por un temblor, un tornado,la explosión de una fábrica, o una bomba. ¿Ahora que va a hacer? ¿Va a salir de su vivienda o quedarse en ella? ¿Tiene una linterna? ¿Velas? ¿Fósforos? ¿Una radio que funcione con baterías? ¿Tiene baterías? ¿Ud. o alguien en su familia toma medicamentos que necesitan refrigeración? ¿Si usa lentes, los tiene a la mano? ¿Tiene mascotas?
Let me guess your answer. No, right? And it’s isn’t a specific knock
against you, because just about nobody does. But why? More than 16%
of the US population is
I’ll bet there’s even some folks where you live that only speak
Spanish. So, why aren’t you—I mean, we—engaging with what is a
significant, and growing, portion of our population?
I know, I know, it’s difficult and expensive to get stuff translated.
But putting the preparedness message above aside for a minute and
focusing on emergency communications for a second, you’ll find we have
some leeway. If it’s an emergency, you can do things you wouldn’t
normally do, like find alternate ways to translate something. In fact,
I’ll even bet you probably have someone who speaks and writes and
translates Spanish in your office. They don’t even have to write the
copy, just translate it!
Now, you guys know I don’t like to talk about the work we do in my
office, but we did something very similar during H1N1. We developed
public messages and passed them to folks in our office who could
translate into Spanish and French. Within an hour, we could push
messages out to a much larger, more diverse population than we could
otherwise. That little trick is now a key component of our crisis
Need another reason to seriously plan and include? Beyond the obvious
and previously stated goal of pushing our life-saving messages to the
broadest possible audience, think of the positive PR you can get in
those traditionally undeserved communities. We’ve complained about
how nobody trusts government
so wouldn’t the first step in gaining that trust be actually talking
to people in their language? And once you get really good? Why not
integrate other languages into your every day communications? (And I
don’t mean having your Executive butcher another language on camera in
an effort to appear inclusive.) Take, for example, the great work done
by the Spanish language Twitter accounts for
FoodSafety.gov, and the
bilingual FEMA account.
Take another look at your crisis communication plan, heck, your whole
outreach plan, and see how much of it is focused on multilingual
support and outreach. I’m willing to bet it’s not as much as it should
Many, many thanks to Belen Moran
for helping with this post.