Developing an Effective PR Plan: Identifying and Understanding Your Audiences

One of the most important aspects of a public relations plan is a clear delineation of who you want to reach, what motivates them, their level of interest/comprehension and the best ways to reach them.

Whether the PR plan is designed to stand alone or be incorporated into a broader marketing plan, identifying and understanding your audiences is critical to success.

Customers have different informational needs than employees, and a regulator will ask much different questions than a supplier. Likewise, a local reporter will be especially interested in the local angle of a story and what it means to the community, while trade and national media will focus on the “big picture” aspect of the same story. Even then, trade media will have different informational needs than national consumer media.

Some audiences are obvious, while others may be more challenging to identify. Depending on a number of factors, a PR plan may address a relatively small, targeted audience or more diverse, fragmented groups.

Whatever audiences end up in your plan, you’ll need specific strategies, tactics and messaging to effectively reach each segment.

When creating a public relations plan, it’s helpful to find a method for categorizing audiences to you make sure you don’t miss one. The following is a method I’ve used to segment audiences based on their links to an organization:

Enabling links – publics that set policies or goals and may control assets.

  • Board of directors
  • Government regulators
  • Congress

Functional links – audiences with a direct link between the services the organization performs and the product(s) it produces.

  • Employees
  • Suppliers
  • Users of products/services

Diffused links – individual members of a public who do not belong to a formal organization but share a common interest.

  • Community residents
  • Minorities
  • News Media
  • Environmentalists
  • Voters

Normative links – publics that share the organization’s goals and values.

  • Religious associations
  • Professional societies
  • Competitors

Always keep in mind that diffused links can quickly fuse by organizing to take action (over a common problem or opportunity) and can cause major headaches for you and your organization.  Unions, coalitions and environmental groups are prime examples.

Don Beehler provides public relations consulting services to advertising agencies and businesses.

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