-by Alison Rodden, Hispanic Communications Network


I have fond memories of one my first projects working at Hispanic Communications Network (HCN) with farmworker champion Shelley Davis. Just a few years earlier I graduated from university, where I ran the college radio station WXJM – the first station to broadcast a weekly Spanish-language show in the state of Virginia. So, my love affair with radio was already well underway.

Shelley was adamant about using radio. To paraphrase her, “our promotoras were struggling with farmworkers being hesitant to open up to them. It wasn’t until we ran the radio PSAs that farmworkers welcomed promotoras, saying sí, ya les conozco, porque les esuché en la radio!”


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Source: Nielsen Total Audience Report, April 2017.


When naming radio as a key health marketing strategy, I typically get all sorts of reactions. Some of my favorites are: “isn’t radio like – so dinosaur era?” Or . . . . . . (blank stares).


If I were reaching millennials in general market media, I may be in the same boat. But when reaching Spanish-preferring farmworkers, radio is tried and true as one of our most effective strategies.


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Map of HCN’s national radio affiliate network of 120+ stations, including rural and agricultural markets. Source: Hispanic Communications Network.



Through my position at HCN, I’ve been fortunate to work with groups such as AFOP, Farmworker Justice and EPA to develop and deliver multiple Spanish-language health and safety initiatives on national, regional, state and local levels. Most recently, we collaborated with AFOP in March on a radio PSA campaign promoting health and safety messages during National Farmworker Awareness Week.


Health and Safety Radio Campaign Results Performance
Affiliate Radio Stations 142
Mini-Programs Integrations on HCN Radio Network 10
Individual Program Integrations 1,240
Estimated Impressions 3,789,000


I’m pleased to share with you our findings via 5 reasons radio is the most effective way to reach agricultural communities:


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Top 3 radio formats for US Hispanics. Source: Nielsen Audio Today Report, April 2018.

Radio delivers directly to farmworkers. When it comes to reaching farmworkers where they are – in the fields, vehicles, and in their homes – radio is a constant source of information and entertainment. This is also true of Spanish-speaking workers in construction and services industries. According to Nielsen, Hispanics are avid listeners of radio, with an average of 13 listening hours weekly. At HCN, we work with over 120 commercial music and news radio stations who carry our six daily educational and informational 1-minute radio programs. While farmworkers are working to the beats of norteño, banda, bachata or reggaetón, they’re receiving reminders to remove their clothes and showering before picking up their children after working in the fields or hydrating and wearing protective gear to safeguard themselves from heat stress.


Radio is cost-effective. You don’t have to break the project’s bank to use radio. The cost of reaching farmworkers with health and safety PSA-style messages on HCN’s radio network is $0.001 per person (yes, one-hundredth of a penny). Alternatively, TV requires more funding, and it’s increasingly difficult to track down where target audiences are between national network TV, cable and on-demand viewing. Radio is also low-cost for farmworkers who listen via portable, battery-powered radios to wind-up radios and vehicle radios. Even those who have a smartphone with a data plan have high rates of tuning in to their local radio station.


Radio is intimate. Whether tuning in to their local DJ, a trusted personality or a favorite musical artist, listeners feel a real connection to the messenger. For our health and safety campaigns, HCN’s focus groups have found that using these types of influencers – as well as human interest stories and testimonials for real-life farmworkers – are most effective to increase visibility, credibility and interest among farmworkers when featuring a call to action with the goal of encouraging behavior change. However, key to this intimacy is ensuring all messages are not translated, but rather are original, in-language, in-culture and genuinely delivered.


Radio is trusted. Contrary to current sentiments among the general public towards media, there is a higher sense of trust towards media among Spanish-preferring consumers. This is due to a number of factors, including lower levels of educational attainment (average 8th grade), English proficiency, and acculturation. Farmworkers tend to experience an even greater sense of isolation, which can lead to dependency on media as a trusted and frequently consumed resource when making health and behavioral decisions.


Radio opens doors on the ground. Shelley Davis’ findings ring true today: from health and safety trainers to promotoras de salud, the majority of our partners have found that radio campaign promotions over the air open doors on the ground. Considering the current climate, where farmworkers are living more and more in the shadows, media serves as an increasingly important window to reach sensitive communities so they understand the work we’re doing, and that our trainers and promotoras are genuine in our intentions to help improve their quality of life.



Reach and impact is important especially if promoting critical information.  Our mission to inspire, connect and empower Latino communities is strengthened by partnership with advocates like AFOP and many more who share our vision to provide information and resources to improve quality of life.


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Alison Rodden is the CEO of Hispanic Communications Network, the largest producer and syndicator of culturally driven educational and informational Spanish-language media content in the US. Their consumer-facing website is LaRedHispana.org.