Helping Hands for Immigrants
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report

Helping Hands for Immigrants

Western Union, under its Helping Hands community relations program, partnered with the Embassy of El Salvador to create an awareness campaign throughout the United States on TPS and other immigration issues.

Paul Holmes

Imagine being in a foreign country with different language, culture, laws and way of living. This is the case for hundreds of thousands of Hispanic immigrants in the U.S. Many are searching for tips to survive and looking for answers and ways to improve their stay in this country. For many Hispanic immigrants, opportunities arose after the devastating earthquake that shook El Salvador on January 25, 2001. President Bush granted an extension to the Salvadorans through Temporary Protection Status (TPS) in the U.S. This extension was to have an effect on 150,000 Salvadorans that resided in the United States. TPS was later expanded to Honduras and Nicaraguans helping approximately 105,000 Hondurans and 5,300 Nicaraguans in the United States.
As a result of this extension and many other changes in immigration laws, applications, procedures, requirements and eligibility guidelines were not clear. Confusion was widespread in the Hispanic community and unscrupulous individuals were claiming to be immigration experts and processors. Bromley/MS&L recommended Western Union, under its Helping Hands community relations program, partner with the Embassy of El Salvador and other reputable entities to create an awareness campaign throughout the United States on TPS and other pressing immigration issues.
Bromley/MS&L conducted an ongoing review of issues affecting the Latin American immigrant across the country, which pointed to the need for clear, simple-to-understand information. Many immigrants were being misinformed and swindled by non-certified lawyers, small businesses and disreputable entrepreneurs. Through market tours and community visits, Western Union learned that many immigrants couldn’t get information from their local consulates (due to low staffing levels), the INS was feared, many misunderstood immigration  terminology and couldn’t fill out the immigration forms properly.
Meanwhile, a review of Tomas Rivera Policy Institute remittance studies indicated that recent immigrants were the largest and most loyal senders of money transfers. Therefore, it was essential for Western Union to develop a plan to reach our bull's eye target, and to build trust and long-term ties with these consumers. Focus group studies indicated that senders were willing to pay premium prices for companies who exhibited commitment to the community.

        Position Western Union as the “owner” of the Immigration platform.

  • Create a national educational campaign through collateral, grassroots, relationship building and media relations.
  • Infiltrate Hispanic communities with heavy Central American populations that are key Western Union markets.

Measurable Objectives

  • Reach 50 percent of Salvadoran, Honduran and Nicaraguan communities in the US via media efforts
  • Boost Central American Money Transfer (CAMT) transactions in key corridors (US/El Salvador, US/Nicaragua, US/Honduras) through goodwill efforts
  • Build emotional ties among all Western Union Spanish-speaking senders, and among their influencers

Target Audience
Central American recent immigrants, Hispanic community influencers and Spanish-language media, all in the major Central American U.S. markets, identified through Western Union usage and tracking studies
The Western Union Helping Hands program was unveiled at a Press Conference in Washington, D.C., home to thousands of Salvadorans. TPS Guides, produced in partnership with the Embassy of El Salvador, and Town Hall Forums in New York, Houston, San Francisco and Los Angeles, with the Ambassador of El Salvador were announced.
A series of seven Town Hall Forums were developed and transmitted, live in each city, through Radio Unica, the country’s only Spanish radio network. Immigration Law experts, Western Union spokespersons and Salvadoran, Nicaraguan and Honduran Consulates participated as panelists. An open mic enabled audience members to ask questions about immigration. The TPS informational guides as well as other collateral (see below) were distributed at all the forums. A series of Spanish information brochures and guidelines were developed by the agency for Western Union and distributed at each event, through media partners, community based organizations, consulates, migrant clubs and Western Union agent locations.
I Am New in America a 14-page guide contains thorough information on the U.S. way of life as well as a list of non-profit organizations in each state, consulates and embassies.
Passport to the U.S. is a 140-page magazine, produced with a nonprofit organization, that provides referrals and details on topics such as money management, education, government, immigration, labor, health, services, transportation and housing.
TPS and La Ley Nacara are two step by step brochures for Salvadorans to learn about immigration laws specifically for Central Americans.
Helping Hands informational brochures discuss five subject matters such as health, education, labor rights, money matters and immigration included referrals, with Q&As and a glossary of terms.
Aggressive media relations activities were conducted in each identified market. PSA’s, pitch letters, flyers, press releases, and media alerts were tailored for each of the seven forums in each city. Media Market Tours in conjunction with the Salvadoran Consulate were designed in Atlanta and Raleigh, burgeoning Hispanic communities without Consular offices, in order to gain the support of the Hispanic community, the media, and issue a call to action among the Central American residents.
San Francisco government officials were attempting to ban profits on all money transfers to Mexico and Central America. Through community relations contacts, we learned beforehand about the commissioners’ decisions and proactively communicated with the officials to discuss the rulings and as a result, Western Union was able to minimize the impact.

Reach 50 percent of Salvadoran and Nicaraguan communities in-country and in the US via strategic media efforts
Initial launch coverage reached seven million targeted impressions throughout the United States, nine times greater than the combined Salvadoran and Nicaraguan US populations of  810,000.
Town Hall Forum Tours with the Salvadoran Embassy were conducted in Houston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York, home to 67% of US Salvadorans.
The INS had estimated 150,000 applications from Salvadorans to be submitted to extend their protection status, a total of 240,708 applications were received by the INS surpassing their expectations by 60%.
President Flores of El Salvador, during a press conference in Miami, commended Western Union for helping the Salvadoran Embassy produce successful results
Western Union’s Helping Hands program was mentioned in all print placements.
461 spots ran to pre-promote all of the Town Hall Forums.
Total media impressions reached more than 25 million.
Boost CAMT transactions in key corridors (US/El Salvador, US/Nicaragua, US/Honduras) through goodwill efforts
Transactions from Washington D.C. to El Salvador increased more than 100% with 70% average estimated growth in transactions from New York, Los Angeles, and Houston to El Salvador.
Despite operational difficulties in San Francisco with government officials, San Francisco was able to increase its transactions to El Salvador by more than 75%.
Transactions from the DMA’s to Honduras and Nicaragua went up double digits.
Build emotional ties among CAMT senders and receivers, and among their influencers
Meetings with consulates and community leaders from four Central American countries were conducted in Los Angeles, New York, Houston, San Francisco, Atlanta and Raleigh to introduce them to the Helping Hands programs; influencers were used as spokespeople.
An average of 300 Central Americans attended the Town Hall Forums, as well as immigration legal aid organizers, nonprofit organizations and media.
The program forged closer links to the Central American community in the US and in country (consulates, nonprofit organizations and immigration centers).
At a focus group, a Salvadoran consumer mentioned, “I send money through Western Union because I found out of the support Western Union is giving to my country. It is good to know that Western Union gives back to my community.”
At a press luncheon, one community leader said he had had negative perception about Western Union, but now, was in favor of the company.

View Style:

Load 3 More
comments powered by Disqus