In the days when media relations was the primary proxy used to get messages in front of audiences, brands would often resort to broad-brush media to soak up those niche groups that had few specific publications targeting them directly.
But with media fragmented and comms-planning now far more integrated, the days of making excuses about how to communicate with those hard-to-reach groups are surely numbered.
Traditionally, software developers have been far removed from the reach of PR. There have been few media written specifically for them, while some developers have taken a typically cynical attitude toward the efforts made by brands to communicate with them.
Yet today, these are the people who make the services, tools, games and all underlying infrastructure that we use to live our lives every day. Developers are among the most important and influential people to reach in the technology sector, so surely they have to be a joined-up part of PR planning?
There are clear parallels with other sectors here: healthcare professionals that need direct communication because no media is effective at getting specific messages in front of them, or people in the automotive supply chain who rely largely on word of mouth.The list goes on.
Of course, the political world has called for a direct approach to building influence, but even that needs a more integrated approach if brands are to communicate more effectively.
Those who are hardest to reach can be those who have the highest value to brands, because of their influence. We need to acknowledge this and work out how best to make a real difference in making those people central to our planning – and not a bolt-on audience.
To engage people who’ve conventionally been well off the radar, brands need to be able to listen more. Not just to chatter online, customer forums or what their social communities are telling them, but to niche influencers who actively want their voices to be heard and whose ears are often open.
The industry’s approach to planning has to evolve to make them front and centre. Broad brushes have had their day, so there really are no excuses.
Laura Spence is an account director at 3 Monkeys | Zeno