“My friends tell me I’m crazy,” says Manny Ruiz, the founder and creative director of Hispanicize, a resource for Hispanic social media marketers and Latino bloggers. His crown jewel is his Hispanicize conference in Miami from April 9 to 13, now in its fourth year, which seeks to “marry culture, content creators and digital.” Those close to him think he might be biting off more than he can chew by creating an event for filmmakers, bloggers, advertisers, musicians, public relations and now journalists, but he says it’s only natural.
“We’re doing it because of all of these industries are colliding and converging in different ways,” he says, in his always-impassioned trademark way. “So they say I have to be pretty crazy to try this,” he adds, laughing.
Ruiz uses the South by Southwest Music Conference and Festival (SXSW) as his North Star, his guide, for what he wants Hispanicize to be. So this year he has added a journalist track, to make the conference more robust, but also because he says he believes it goes hand in hand with his mission.
“For journalists in these days of furloughs and layoffs, this is about helping them revamp their skill set and adapt to make it something they can thrive in,” he says. “I have friends sitting on trophies of awards, but they got laid off or got their three months notice. This is about making it worth it for them.”
The journalist showcase will feature Soledad O’Brien as well as talks from Hispanic journalists, in a TED-style, insightful way. There will also be social media, photography and video workshops as well as a State of Hispanic Journalism in 2013 session.
Inspired by the way creators bring their apps to SXSW and jockey for attention, Ruiz invited Andrew Quarrie to debut his new app for journalists, Jurnid, which he calls the world’s first social marketplace for journalism.
“It’s a social network aimed at journalists and news lovers,” Quarrie says. “It allows them to publish their content for free or to charge.”
Quarrie says the app will feature the now commonplace nuts and bolts of a profile page and tools for sharing to Facebook, Twitter and more, but will also allow journalists to mentor students in journalism school.
Quarrie says Hispanicize is a great place to debut his app because of the nation’s transforming demographics.
“The landscape of America is changing,” he says, adding that Latinos in journalism are a great audience for his app. Another reason is because he wants to put Miami on the map when it comes to innovation.
“Miami doesn’t get to shine,” Quarrie says. “People take their app to Silicon Valley or SXSW, but this has a chance to help the startup community down here.”
This is exactly what we’re after,” Ruiz says. “This is the Latino trends event. We want things to trend.”
But while a spotlight on journalists is what’s new, Ruiz says the main ingredient of his secret sauce has always been Latino bloggers and the sessions that connect them with brands.
“It’s about having all these influencers, putting them in the right setting and having them amplify their voices,” he says.
This chance for connecting with Latino influencers is why Procter & Gamble has come on as title sponsor and General Motors, Coca-Cola and Target are in as well. Pandora will fuel the music festival portion of the event.
Amid a sea of panels, Ruiz says a “Searching for Cesar Chavez” session, presented by the American Latino Museum, is one of his favorites. It will “look sincerely at why Latinos continue to fall short in major leadership positions and the implications for our culture.”
He believes more Latino leadership would stem the tide of the negative portrayal of Hispanics in the U.S. “People get away with trashing Latinos in a way that you would never see with other groups,” he says.
Ruiz is also extremely proud of a growing film showcase which will feature Mission Park and Filly Brown before its national premiere and includes actors Lou Diamond Phillips, Edward James Olmos, Gina Rodriguez, Vivica A. Fox and more. Part founder, part marketing machine, Ruiz says he also has a couple surprise “A-list” guests set to take part.
The event will also honor Latino social media pioneer Louis Pagan, who passed away suddenly in February at the age of 41, with the first ever Louis Pagan Positive Impact Award and an educational fund for his two children. While Ruiz doesn’t want to share the first recipient just yet, he says it will be someone who is a positive force in the Hispanic community and calls the individual a kind-hearted person more interested in giving than anything else.
Ruiz hopes the April Hispanicize showcase serves as yet another reminder to companies across the country that Latino consumers and creators are energized and expect to be taken seriously.
“The tipping point has been reached,” he says, picking up speed. “It is the time and the place for anyone with talent, for anybody who can produce content, to be their own outlet. Brands, organizations, individuals — if you put your time to use producing content with a coherent approach you will be able to make a living.”
Note: NBC Latino is a sponsor for Hispanicize 2013.