PR isn't the field of dreams

Building a great PR campaign doesn't mean your audience will come, writes GolinHarris' Margaret Shubny.

Margaret Shubny, GolinHarris
Margaret Shubny, GolinHarris

You have a great public relations campaign — it achieves your business objectives and provides compelling information to your target audience.

It seems like a given that your audience will be immediately drawn to your campaign and will respond to your call-to-action: buy your product, ask their doctor about your treatment, or write lawmakers about your issue. But then they don’t.

Today’s PR world isn’t a field of dreams and building a great campaign doesn’t mean your audience will come. In fact, people who are affected by an issue and motivated to take action on it often don’t do so. The reasons are varied but it could be because the campaign hasn’t truly reached them.

This may seem unlikely in an era when we have more access to data than ever before, but even the greatest campaign may fall short of reaching its intended audience. Too often we, as PR practitioners, scour the research and then focus on one or two mediums — completely missing the forest for the trees. The challenge is that people consume information from an array of channels and absorb or retain that information to different degrees. As a result, we need to think about how we insert our messages organically into their consumption habits. It’s time to stop building the field of dreams and start reaching our target audience on their turf. 

Consider these four effective ways to directly reach your audience for a successful campaign:

  1. Learn from your analytics. Don’t just review the analytics; understand how your target engages with your product or service so you can tailor your messages and content in a way that connects with them.
  2. Rethink traditional media. Traditional media may not be a vital part of reaching your target. Pitching USA Today isn’t going to work if your audience spends most of its free time scanning hyper-local news outlets. Pitch strategically and think about other ways to reach your target audience.
  3. Go directly to your audience with social media. Once you understand where to reach your audience, and what motivates them, then go talk to them and listen. Often brands are too skittish to join the conversation. Speak to your audience through honest and transparent communication, from Facebook posts to Tweetchats to relevant video posts that add value to what they’re discussing. If you identify the right conversations and provide meaningful content, you’ll be impressed by the affect it can have on your campaign.
  4. Engage with advocates. Identify mutual interests with third-party groups and engage them. Similar to a social media approach, understand their needs and answer them by providing meaningful content and an ongoing, mutually-beneficial relationship.

We can’t guarantee that if we build the PR campaign they will come, but when we bring the campaign to our target we might be pleased with the results.

Margaret Shubny is an executive director in the GolinHarris healthcare practice.

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