I 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!