Orchestrating successful public relations campaigns is a topic we’ve written a lot about, which should come as no surprise — it’s a core part of what we do at TEAM LEWIS. Whether it’s achieving a successful media relations strategy, engaging with influencers or leveraging the best PR tools, we’ve covered the “How To’s” of a PR campaign from many angles. However, even with the right tools, strategies and tactics in place, there’s one major difference between mediocre public relations campaigns and ones that brings killer results: the right targeting.
You may have heard the old saying, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” We can debate the merits of that sentiment another time, but when it comes to good public relations some publicity is certainly better than others. The fact is, if your PR activity isn’t geared towards the right target audience, it’s going to be much less effective. This spans all mediums and methods as well. Across earned media, paid media, influencers and every facet of your marketing strategy, nothing you do really matters if you’re not targeting the right audience with the right message at the right time.
Why Targeted Public Relations Campaigns?
It’s simple — the heart of what we do as public relations professionals is to inspire people to take a desired action, whether that be purchasing a product, attending an event, interacting with a social media post or simply becoming aware of an idea. This fundamental purpose spans across every PR and marketing campaign, no matter if it’s consumer or B2B-focused and regardless of the industry. However, if your communication is not geared at the correct people then they may never take the desired action.
Think about this simple example. Imagine you’re coming up with objectives for a PR plan for a new campaign for a dog food company. You’re brainstorming creative pitch ideas, engaging social media posts, advertising components and maybe even planning an event to get in front of media and potential customers. What’s the one essential step that, if you fail to consider, will derail the entire operation? Making sure that you’re actually reaching dog owners and influencing their decision-making.
Without this crucial step, the rest of your PR efforts could be for nothing. You could spend a lot of time and resources garnering smaller and less essential results that don’t move the needle on bigger business goals, like increasing customer awareness and moving people down the marketing funnel to ultimately sell more dog food. So even if you score media coverage featuring the brand and tick off a coverage KPI (key performance indicator), it won’t matter for the business as a whole if the publication isn’t read by dog owners. A social media post such as Facebook, X, and Instagram could have thousands of views and interactions, but it won’t be very effective if those viewers aren’t people who actually have a need to buy dog food. You could argue that you’re still raising brand awareness, but what’s the point if it’s not with the specific audience that will actually be interested in your brand?
Understanding why targeted campaigns are important is just the first step. Putting the principle into practice is another. There are three key components that PR practitioners must consider when developing targeted strategic communication strategies — knowing who to target, where to reach them and what drives their decision-making.
Who Are Your Customers?
The first major step to a successful targeted PR campaign is determining the key customer personas. In other words, who are your current and potential customers? For the example above, it may seem simple: dog owners. However, it needs to be more detailed than this to be effective. Perhaps your dog food is organic and sustainably sourced, so your target customer would be a dog owner that is environmentally conscious and willing to spend more for a better-quality product. Another target customer could be someone that owns a dog with dietary needs that your brand’s special ingredient mix fulfills.
Knowing who your customer is lets you tailor the entire campaign to them. Your effective PR campaign tactic and messaging can be targeted towards their wants, needs and impulses, leading to a more effective strategy that will drive results toward a business goal. Luckily, customer persona development is something that many marketing teams have already completed the legwork on, so the public relations team can easily leverage them in their campaigns.
Where Can You Find Them?
Next is figuring out where your customers are. I’m not just talking about physical location – although, determining a regional focus area is important too. More specifically, think about what media outlets, journalists and influencers the target audience follows. Figure out what online communities they tend to be involved in, including forums, Facebook groups, subreddits, etc.
If you want to reach your target audience effectively, you need to meet them where they already are. Focus your media relations strategy on the various publications they read. Work with influencers and journalists they follow and trust. Remember to work with influencers and journalists that are relevant to your audience. Do not immediately work with influencers and journalists that have big followings, but aren’t experts on your brand. Instead, do research and look into influencers and journalists who enjoy the services you provide. For our sustainable dog food company, this might mean teaming up with top dog-fluencers that have a proven following and pitching for a feature in an issue of the popular magazine, Modern Dog.
A good way to find out more about your audience is to come up with demographics made up of your target audience. There are many ways that this can be done from online surveys to various online databases and tools. Keep in mind that not all of these options are free, and you will want to talk to other people at your organization to not overspend as you continue to get a deeper understanding of your audience. You can always experiment with creating messages for specific groups in your target audiences, including moms, young adults, and middle-aged pet owners.
What Do You Say To Them?
So, you’ve figured out who your target customer is and where to reach them. What’s next for this type of successful PR campaign? Developing relevant and targeted messages tailored to what drives their decision-making.
This is perhaps the most challenging part of developing any successful targeted public relations strategy as a PR professional, but if done well will lead to real, measurable results. For messaging to be effective, it must speak to the customers’ needs, struggles and wants. If the messages don’t resonate with the target audience, they won’t have a strong impact that will drive people towards the goal action.
Think back to our dog food brand. You followed all the steps above for an effective PR campaign, and landed an opportunity with Modern Dog, but the article is going to be focused on why dogs love the taste of your brand. Sure, you might raise awareness among dog owners, but you won’t necessarily resonate with the ones willing to pay a premium-price for your sustainably sourced food that meets Fido’s dietary needs.
That’s not to say you won’t influence some readers that ultimately turn into loyal customers — you’ve already followed the first two steps after all, so you’re at least talking to the right people in the right place. The bigger issue is you’re missing the opportunity to hammer on your brand’s key value proposition that will build customer loyalty among people that really value what makes your brand unique to the market. When it comes to the most successful targeted PR campaigns, achieving this last step of message resonation is what really sets them apart. As you work on the last step, it is very helpful to include strong calls to action (CTAs) to persuade readers into buying your product. This includes featuring CTAs with action verbs including “read more,” “lean more,” and “find out more about our company.”
Putting the Plan Into Action
Once you complete all the legwork above to develop a strategy that ensures your PR plan is effective, you can finally delve into the actual PR tactics. Ultimately, there’s no single best way to execute a public relations program and you should make sure that everyone at your company is in agreement with all the elements required for your program. What matters most for a successful PR campaign is that it’s reaching the right people with a message that speaks to them in the places they’re already consuming information.