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Archipelago Strategies specializes in cross-cultural marketing

Karen Morales
Archipelago Strategies specializes in cross-cultural marketing
Founder and CEO of Archipelago Strategies Josiane Martinez. (Photo: Photo: Courtesy Josiane Martinez)

Strength comes in groups of three for multicultural marketing group Archipelago Strategies Firm, headquartered on South Boston’s waterfront. It is a certified LGBT, minority and woman-owned enterprise, the city’s first. ASG’s specialized marketing strategy also operates on three levels: advertising, public relations and community engagement.

Founder and CEO of the firm Josiane Martinez was 25 years old when she moved from Puerto Rico to Boston in 2001. She graduated from the University of Puerto Rico with two Bachelor’s Degrees in Political Science and Communications, and had begun a career in political communication as press secretary for local elected officials.

Martinez arrived on her own in the middle of an unforgiving Boston winter with hopes of doing her graduate studies at one of the prestigious colleges. As a gay woman, she liked that Boston was a liberal city — at least more liberal than Puerto Rico back then, she said.

“I thought Boston was a place where I could be myself and continue my education,” said Martinez. “I couldn’t do that right away, I had to work really hard when I got here.”

With limited resources, Martinez worked multiple jobs from coffee shops to freelancing for local newspapers like El Planeta and El Mundo. She worked for several years with La Alianza Hispana, a nonprofit group that provides health and education programs to the Latino Community of Greater Boston.

“I’ve always been interested in political marketing,” said Martinez. She had the opportunity to return to the political realm when she was hired to work with Deval Patrick’s re-election campaign in 2010.

“My job was to handle multicultural media outlets and engage communities of color and I became an advisor of multicultural and immigration issues,” she said. The bilingual Martinez said she “launched the first multicultural campaign for a political candidate in Massachusetts” when she worked for Patrick.

Government work

While obtaining her MBA from Simmons College, Martinez was appointed executive director of the Massachusetts Office of Refugees and Immigrants, which she managed for three years. Then came a new challenge.

“I left the state agency to start this company, understanding that there’s a gap in how we communicate with multicultural communities across the state, region, and nation,” she said.

Using her own savings to start up the company, Martinez strongly believed in helping up-and-coming companies, organizations or politicians with shared values and commitment to social responsibility break into mainstream media. She wanted more visibility for minority groups and people of color and to provide work opportunities for multicultural talent at her own firm.

ASG’s six employees and 20 sub contractors and freelancers work to bridge cultural divides and target diverse audiences through innovative marketing campaigns utilizing social media, graphic design, web development, and of course advertising, public relations and community engagement. ASG has communicated with audiences in multiple languages including Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian Creole, Vietnamese and Chinese.

Martinez said that when she started the company as the sole employee and presented her strategy of combining advertising with public relations and community engagement, critics would say that she had to choose one. “But I continued to strongly believe the combination of these three disciplines are crucial in order to meaningfully engage communities of color,” she said. “You can’t do just one without the other.”

ASG proved this approach successful by providing service to 30 clients over three years and generating 300 percent growth in revenue in 2015. 2016 has seen 182% growth thus far.

Neighborhood engagement

One major campaign ASG worked on in 2015 was Boston Creates, the city’s initiative to create a 10-year vision for arts and culture. ASG was hired to help create a neighborhood engagement plan and ensure the cultural planning process reflected Boston’s diversity. ASG launched an application process for individuals interested in becoming members of 17 different neighborhood teams who collected feedback on what their community envisioned for the arts in Boston.

ASG also coordinated and facilitated 113 community conversation events, engaging close to 1,500 Bostonians. ASG ensured that these conversations were offered in multiple languages. In the end, the campaign collected close to 500 surveys from residents and saw participation and engagement at rates far higher than other planning processes in other U.S. cities, according to Martinez.

Due to the firm’s rapid growth, ASG hired a Vice President, Alec Loftus, in October to help lead the firm and take on major clients, like its new contract with Health Connector, which ASG won through the state’s competitive bidding process earlier this summer. In support of Massachusetts’s universal health care goals, ASG is conducting focus groups, creating a multilingual ad campaign and canvassing communities to reach uninsured populations.

“We’re a part of the fabric of this society,” said Martinez of the multicultural communities she plans to continue to represent and engage not just in the United States, but someday, internationally, too.