Written By: April Wood
Several guiding principles exist in the world of public relations. One message impressed upon students by professors and mentors in the industry that I strive to carry with me at all times is the statement, “Get the right message to the right audience at the right time and on the right platform.” Following this foundational statement can help you ensure that your efforts in executing tactics are not wasted. Let’s break it down together.
The Right Audience
I know this is not the first segment of the phrase, but I’m covering this segment first intentionally. Knowing your audience is of paramount importance. You cannot hope to know the right message, the right time, or the right platform without knowing to whom you are speaking. You must know your audience intimately, and this is not something that a public relations professional can afford to forget. Familiarize yourself with their beliefs, values, and interests. Learn who they are by building personas that can help you envision exactly to whom you are speaking. Furthermore, knowing your audience closely will give you nearly everything you need to know to reach them.
The Right Message
If you know who your audience is, you know what they care about. If you can tap into this information, you can glean how to make them care about what you are saying. Craft your message with your audience in mind. Do not write something that sounds great to you, a city-dwelling millennial, when you are speaking to rural members of Generation X. Take the information you need to get across and translate it into terms that your audience can understand. A skilled communicator and writer can do this. A message that is not properly crafted is a message that will be ignored.
The Right Time
People are busy. You are a busy person too, I presume. People are full-time workers, or homemakers, or a combination of the two, or fill a million other roles. This is to say that your audience is not always listening. An enormous library of research has been conducted in order to discover when audiences are most reachable. It varies, of course, for each audience. Personally, I consume messages most devotedly at about 10 p.m. The same can not be said of my parents, who are most usually asleep by 9. Don’t waste your efforts by starting a conversation when no one is there to reply.
The Right Place
Let’s talk about my family again for a second. I am on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. I do not watch cable (except when the Chiefs are playing). My parents, on the other hand, have no social media. They watch the news in the morning and evening. My dad listens to talk radio at work. This simple anecdote proves that not everyone collects their information from the same source. You cannot hope to reach your audience if you do not have a sense of where they engage. Just like research can inform you of “when” to reach your audience, research can also inform you of “where” to reach your audience. Familiarize yourself with the research surrounding your audience, or conduct your own if necessary.
Putting it Together
Everything I’ve covered ties directly back to one thing. I have relentlessly pounded this messaged in during the few hundred words preceding this: it all ties back to research. You cannot know anything about your audience if you do not take the time to learn about them. Nothing in public relations should be done thoughtlessly. Know your audience, know what they will listen to, know when they are listening, and know where they are listening and align this information and use it to communicate with them.