By Adolfo Pesquera-Express News.
César Martínez, a public affairs consultant who thrives on political campaigns, treats his company like a rubber band. When a political campaign starts, he expands staff. Once voting is done, he downsizes and takes on jobs related to issues such as illiteracy, trade or whatever else is of importance to the next client.
Martínez’s firm, MAS Consulting Group, is one of several in the San Antonio area that have made the city the destination for politicians in need of Hispanic marketing experts. “San Antonio has the opportunity of being the national public affairs headquarters for Hispanic communications,” Martínez said.Some firms, such as Guerra-DeBerry-Coody, prefer a diversified approach and harvest most of their earnings from commercial clients. Martínez and others like him consult on politics and public issues year-round.
Next week, Martínez travels to Houston with Fidel Herrera Beltrán, governor of the state of Veracruz, Mexico. Maintaining good relations with Texas oil companies is important to Herrera’s oil-producing state, and Martínez assists in managing the governor’s appearances. Martínez has produced television spots in the last three presidential campaigns — two with former President George W. Bush and most recently for Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. Over the years, Martínez’s reputation has attracted clients from the United States, Mexico and Spain.
The firm’s strengths are media production and media training. MAS Consulting coaches politicians and their staff on debating and in handling media interviews. In noncampaign periods, MAS Consulting is comprised of 12 people spread across the three nations where it does business.
“In 2008, we had annual billings of $500,000 between the U.S. and Mexico,” Martínez said. The modest revenues are commensurate with the firm’s size. Martínez said his Spain-based group does not disclose revenues. What works for Martínez, however, would not work for Frank Guerra, a principal in the San Antonio marketing firm GDC. In the McCain campaign, Martínez worked alongside GDC and Lionel Sosa, an independent consultant considered the father of political Hispanic marketing.
“Political work represents a very small part of our overall billings,” Guerra said. “Our orientation is we want to keep people and not downsize from one campaign to the next.” A multimillion-dollar, full-service communications agency, GDC’s political-related accounts might be less than 3 percent of total billings, Guerra estimated. GDC diversified into telecommunications, health care, finance and other fields. However, Guerra recognizes that San Antonio has been and remains the nexus of public issues and image consulting when politicians address Hispanics.
“There is a very small radius of guys doing Hispanic national marketing, and they’re all here in the San Antonio-Austin corridor,” Guerra said. Laura Barberena, a San Antonio-based self-employed political consultant, worked with Austin-based Message, Audience & Presentation during then-Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. “They acquired the ‘Obama for America’ Spanish-language media contract,” Barberena said, adding that while San Antonio-Austin has the center for Spanish-language and political Hispanic marketing, not all consultants stay in Texas.
“You have a group of people that, during noncampaign seasons, tend to be on the federal payroll,” Barberena said. Hispanic talent originating in the San Antonio-Austin region benefits by using Washington as a second base. Aside from employment on some politician’s staff, consultants in the national’s capital are in the headquarters for political marketing in English, Barberena said. This provides some overlap of services because the Washington firms are more diversified. “We specialize in the creative side,” Barberena said of the Texas firms. “We’re not as diverse. The Washington companies do things like polling, voter lists, phone banks, research and focus groups.”