VICE Media’s, Paola Ramos, on Why Everyday People are the True Influencers

About This Episode

Today’s episode is brought to you from the 2019 Hispanics in Philanthropy conference in Washington D.C. We were excited to record our first interview live on location. Vanessa is chatting with Paola Ramos, a change-maker who uses media and digital outlets, both English and Spanish language, to spotlight the voices of young Latinos, to break down stereotypes and mobilize the community towards civic engagement.

In this dialogue, Paola shares interesting insights that contribute to our conversations this season about celebrity and influencers. She asserts that the true influencers are everyday people. This perspective helps us consider where the opportunity is for nonprofits to create an essential emotional connection with their audience, one by one, in order to propel change. We usually don’t think of the individual supporter as an influencer and what that looks like for the collective. How can organizations tell their stories in a way that highlights how much power there is in the individual, to help accelerate progress? What would that outcome look like?

About Paola Ramos

Paola is the host of VICE’s “Latin-X”, a weekly contributor for a Telemundo and an Emerson Collective Fellow. She was recently on the road as part of the Inside Out/Vote Project, an initiative that crisscrossed the country with a photo booth truck and used art to mobilize people to the polls. She was the former Deputy Director of Hispanic Media for Hillary Clinton and a political appointee during the Obama administration, serving in Vice President Biden’s office, as well as in President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign. Paola received her masters in public policy from the Harvard Kennedy School and her BA from Barnard College/Columbia University.

In her words

“I was so jaded from my time in politics. I had spent so many years here in DC, in the Obama Administration and during the Hillary campaign. It was amazing work, but the one thing we weren’t doing well is really communicating with the communities that mattered and thinking outside of the box of what strategies and stories we were not thinking about. That was my number one reason to go into this field.”

“Another big point for me is rethinking what it means to be a celebrity and an influencer. it’s not the type of people that we traditionally think of. It’s not necessarily the folks in Hollywood, not necessarily the super elite. It’s the most ordinary people. Those are the real influencers. If people want to create change, we need to identify those young, more hidden influencers. That’s a lot of the work that I’m trying to do.”

“I always try to find different people and different voices that are outside of the box, who are breaking down stereotypes. Then there are the issues. It’s not just about immigration. Immigration is an incredibly important issue, but what are young Latinos thinking about everyday when they wake up? The other day I did a story on young teenage Latinas. The suicide rates within that demographic of teenagers is extremely high. So what’s going on in their minds? They are the influencers. There are people, young Latinas, that are doing research on that. They have the answer.”

“I don’t know how many private companies right now are willing to take risks, but I think that’s a question a lot of industry, media, private sector, public sector- everyone is trying to figure out ‘Do we have a responsibility to take a stance or not?’ A lot of people are trying to figure out what that answer is.”

“I use my social media as arm and as a weapon to get answers and  sound bites- to get a really good pulse of what people are thinking about. For those who are in the intersection of social justice and media, who use social media to really take advantage of what folks are seeing online and bring them into the conversation as they’re putting together policy proposals, or campaigns. I always find that it’s very useful to tap into the followers who aren’t ever in those rooms and conversations. People are hungry to be part of this.”