Jose Vargas Inspires Us to “Define American”

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Posted: December 6, 2012 at 1:53 P.M.
by Shelby Calambokidis

Pulitzer-Prize Winner Jose Antonio Vargas should serve as an inspiration to every professional and student in the PR industry. In his efforts to introduce a national debate about the stigma against undocumented immigrants in the United States, Vargas has become a one-man show in his public relations efforts.

Vargas is a journalist and founder of the “Define American” campaign. As an undocumented immigrant himself, Vargas has put his life in the U.S. on the line in order to act as a figure for people to rally behind. However, Vargas has not only served as a face of undocumented immigrants everywhere, but he has also launched his own PR campaign.

Vargas’ campaign employs a few fundamental communications strategies that any of us in the PR world can benefit from. He uses social media, grassroots campaigning and article placements in national outlets in order to promote immigration awareness.

Social Media
Vargas uses Twitter to generate conversation and YouTube videos to put a face on undocumented immigrants living in the United States. Bringing a voice to an issue is imperative – statistics are never as strong as personal stories when trying to inspire an audience to identify or empathize with a cause.

Grassroots
Vargas visits college campuses across the country and hosts discussions as a part of his grassroots campaign. In October 2012, I attended one of his sessions. Vargas had one request: “Let’s talk.” This peaceful approach to fixing our broken immigration system made him popular across the board, among liberals and conservatives alike. I learned that being personable can break the ice and make an audience more receptive to new ideas, as well as engage and inspire them to share their own.

Article placement
Finally, Vargas has not only appeared on television and the radio, but he has also written articles for TIME and The New York Times. Vargas created a platform for himself and propelled his campaign because of his presence in national media outlets. Two of his most famous pieces were a personal essay in The New York Times and an article, “We Are Americans: Just Not Legally,” in TIME magazine. The first step of any campaign is awareness. Vargas’ presence in these popular national outlets has no doubt accelerated his cause of creating an environment in which open dialogue can occur.

Vargas is a perfect example of how, in a world of advancing technology and growing innovation, you don’t have to be a large corporation with an army of PR pros in order to launch an informative campaign or call a nation to action. One person can be the example of the issue, the face of the campaign and the strategic communicator.

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