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PR 101: Know your audience

AudienceI remember once being with a group of my brother’s friends and making an off the cuff quip that did not go down very well at all – the resulting feeling was embarrassment and confusion, why had it gone so wrong? Afterwards, my brother turned to me (with a slightly despairing chuckle) and told me simply that I really should know my audience; a lesson that is equally, if not more, important in the world of PR.

PR is all about audiences: what kind of companies are your clients trying to connect to? Who within those companies are the key stakeholders? What are the key issues facing these people? Who, in an ideal world, do your clients want to be speaking to that they are not today? These questions should really sit at the heart of a PR programme – all tactics should be designed to helping clients to connect to these audiences in the most appropriate way, whether that involves educating them on a new issue that will impact them, or offering advice on a best practice approach to an age-old problem, or even just entertaining.

Journalists act as ambassadors for their readers, helping to siphon out the dross and ensure that their readers do get content that is of interest to them. Therefore, one of the key audiences that we as PR professionals need to consider is the journalists that we are pitching to. You need to get to know what they normally write about, who they write for, what type of stories they post. For too long the industry has been plagued with bad practice; badgering journalists with irrelevant content will not only rub people up the wrong way. In fact, a 2014 survey from DW Publishing – What do journalists think of PR people – found that that ‘Lack of understanding of your publication and subject area’ was journalists’ biggest frustration when dealing with PR people.

This is PR 101, but it is surprising how often PRs still spend time throwing muck against the wall and hoping it will stick. Less is more – instead of running through the phone book, PRs should spend more time to know their audience better and understand what makes their journalists tick. Not only will this help to improve conversion rates and save time, it will also ensure there is a level of mutual respect; providing you with the confidence that your story should be of genuine interest to the person on the other end of the phone.

Creating engaging and relevant content that is relevant for the audience is vital in this context. All content – whether it’s a pitch, press release or article – needs to have a purpose; it needs to be written with a reader in mind, it can’t be a pure vehicle to promote a certain set of products or services. Good content, therefore, speaks to your client’s potential customer and the journalist’s intended reader. Consider the issues facing the audience – what is keeping them awake at night, how is this information going to make their lives easier? Why should they care about what you have to say? Again, providing timely and relevant content came top of the list in terms of what journalists want from PRs in the DW Pub survey.

So to sum up: KNOW YOUR AUDIENCES! By understanding your client’s sales targets and customers, as well as what these customers are likely to be reading about, you can find the right journalist and analysts and deliver more targeted PR. Fail to do so and you are likely to end up feeling like I did in the pub that day!

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Coverage Cup round up

 

Coverage cupIt’s a bumper Coverage Cup  round up and security topped the list with Verizon securing coverage in the Financial Times with Managing Principal, Laurance Dine warning that professional services companies are one of the most targeted groups and need to take extra precautions. Following on the security theme, Bit9 + Carbon Black Chief Security Strategist, Ben Johnson was featured in SC Magazine speaking about the variety and scope of ransomware threats that businesses are facing. Next up, the iPass team secured a number of pieces of coverage off the back of its Business Traveller Connectivity Index which highlighted that business travellers were overspending £855 million on connectivity charges. This included coverage on CBR and TechWeek Europe amongst others. Finally, Dynatrace’s Michael Allen’s bylined article digital transformation was successfully placed on Information Age.

 

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How to avoid a stormy brainstorm

BrainstormWith PR campaigns I think it’s fair to say that most of the time what we do is fairly prescriptive, we receive news from a client about an upcoming product, service or event they’d like us to promote, we choose the best medium to convey the message and then target the most important influencers to ensure great coverage. The thing is that every so often we are briefed to come up with a more creative campaign. One of the main reasons we get asked to do so is to engage people in a different way, so the company stands out even more.

There can be real benefits, for instance, smaller companies can sometimes struggle to capture the attention of top national journalists. Targeting them in a different way can be hugely effective and help to ‘win over’ otherwise tricky journalists. Alternative style campaigns can also increase the impact of a major announcement, helping to raise the profile of a company even further. 

The actual process of coming up with such a campaign can, however, be quite tricky. Once you’ve got the brief from the client – which can be quite vague – especially when it comes to creative briefs – it’s time to put together some ideas. But putting together a good brainstorm isn’t just about sitting down with a group of people and talking about the brief.

It’s all too easy for teams to sit down without any real initial talk about goals and aims for the campaign. Having this conversation first will ensure that ideas that are put forward are more likely to be useable rather than just aspirational (though there’s nothing wrong with coming up with ‘crazy’ ideas that can be re-worked into something more realistic).

There is also value in a structured approach to brainstorms rather than just sitting in a room and debating ideas. Starting off with key aims is good, but think about other key elements that will be valuable to the client that you can focus on – such as re-usable video content.

All this being said, you’ll still need your client to approve your idea so it’s always worth keeping that in mind after the initial stages. Having the best idea in the world is no good if it’s too controversial or risky for your client to implement. It’s always worth fighting the corner of a good idea if it’s on the fringes of what a client will do – after all if it is likely to get some fantastic coverage, your client is sure to be thankful at the end of the campaign.

As such we’ve put together some short key tips on running a great brainstorming session:

  • Always have a goal in mind – It doesn’t matter what the brainstorm is for, always have a basis for the meeting and make sure it’s circulated in advance
  • Have a leader for the session – Someone should be put in charge of the session to take down ideas and run the brainstorm 
  • Bring in outsiders – Sometimes it takes someone with an outside view to come up with a new idea or approach, so make sure other people are involved
  • Split the meeting – Sometimes you need time to think things over, coming back to a brainstorm after a few hours following an initial 30 -45 minute session can give people time to develop their ideas or those that others had in the session
  • Consider a virtual brainstorm – Sometimes it can be difficult for people to find the time to brainstorm together, so why not create a Google doc that anyone can edit and ask everyone to put down 3 ideas by the end of the day – then discuss the results with the core team when possible – it can be a great way to get the creative process moving
  • Make sure it’s an open environment – Brainstorms are pointless if people shoot down ideas for being ‘stupid’ or not totally thought through. In order to produce the best ideas it needs to be a relaxed atmosphere which means that everyone in the session should be open to more ‘wacky’ ideas without laughing at them

Although there’s no absolute formula to success when it comes to brainstorms, adopting a structured approach and creating the right environment will contribute towards the overall creative process.

If you’ve got any other great tips, why not share them in the comments section below and we will create an updated blog showcasing the best tips in the future?

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