Road Tripping in America

Image Credit: Joe Ramirez

My family loves road trips, the longer the better. Last summer’s excursion was a doozy – 6,000 miles in a minivan bursting with camping gear – from our home in Miami all the way to New Mexico, Colorado and back.

Our route took us through twelve states, including a big part of the Deep South, with many stops along the way for sightseeing. To limit screen time and relieve boredom for our two preteen boys, we decided to listen to an audio version of Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird. I worried the novel’s themes of racial prejudice, injustice and loss of innocence would be too heavy for a family road trip, but as we got into it, I was surprised to hear the boys clamoring for more of the story every time we piled back into the minivan after a stop.

It was not easy listening. One ugly word jumps out at you regularly from the book, more powerful in spoken form than written, casually used even by characters that the author otherwise portrays sympathetically. My wife and I felt the need to hit the pause button repeatedly to talk with the boys about what the word means and why they should never use it. By the time we got to Mississippi, we were spending more time talking about tough subjects than actually listening to the book.

Image Credit: Joe Ramirez

The United States of America is the most diverse country in the world, and it’s growing more so every year. There’s nothing like a long road trip to witness this ongoing process taking place in real time. We met Comanche Air Force veterans in a museum in Oklahoma, oilfield workers from Mexico in West Texas and stayed in budget hotels owned by recent immigrants from India. Later, in Dodge City, Kansas, we made friends with the daughter of Nigerian immigrants who waited on our table in a restaurant, and many of the gunfight reenactors we met were native Spanish speakers.

Diverse as they were, what tied everyone we met together was their desire to tell us about themselves. One or two questions and a smile were usually all that was needed to get them started. And they almost always asked about us, too. It’s like we are all on some huge quest to learn more about each other in this country.

We learn about people when we listen to their stories. At its most basic, public relations is about storytelling, and if you think about it, where we’ve been and where we’re going as a nation is the biggest story out there.

That’s why we are pleased to announce the launch of WyeCommunity, our cross-cultural communications offering.

We are experienced communications people who have worked in cross-cultural practices at some of the best-known public relations firms in the country. At our previous agencies, we frequently felt like lone voices advocating for a sharper focus on Hispanic, African American, Asian American and other important but frequently overlooked constituencies.

We don’t feel that way at WyeCommunity.

Throughout years of working with major brands and government organizations attempting to reach out to cross-cultural audiences, we learned what worked and what didn’t. Above all we learned the underappreciated skill of listening to clients and the audiences they wanted to reach. Our mission is to put that hard-won knowledge at the service of our clients.

The truth is that racial and ethnic groups once considered niche are today’s mainstream.

  • The buying power of U.S. Hispanics, who make up one in six Americans, is greater than the GDP of Mexico.
  • African American buying power will grow to $1.5 trillion by 2021.
  • Multicultural groups overall are by far making the fastest gains in disposable income.

The current rate of demographic change is only going to accelerate.

  • During the 2014-15 school year, the number of students of color enrolled in public schools surpassed that of non-Hispanic whites for the first time.
  • According to a recent report from Nielsen, 42 percent of the 75 million millennials (ages 18-34) in the United States today are African American, Asian American and Hispanic.
  • In 2015, one in three babies born in the U.S. was Hispanic.

But those are just numbers. What’s more interesting to us are the people and the stories behind the numbers. Our family road trip last summer reminded me that the journey is always more interesting than any destination, and you could say the same thing about the changes taking place in the United States. Our team at WyeCommunity looks forward to exploring those changes with you.

Joe Ramirez has spent more than 20 years advising companies on Hispanic communications and diverse community engagement issues. He can be contacted at