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Best Practices for a Modern PR Campaign: Know Your Audience

February 02, 2023 (5 min read)
Conduct research to know the audience

If you’re writing a novel, you need to know the audience you’re writing for. Your story and tone will be different if you’re writing a fantasy novel for pre-teens versus a historical drama for fans of Downton Abbey.

The same is true for your PR campaign—you must know your audience and cater to them. 

Some brands have one target audience, while most have several. These can be external (e.g., shoppers) or internal (e.g., employees or investors), each with its own motivations. PR pros should understand each of these audiences inside and out, and a modern campaign requires targeted, bespoke plans that reach each audience member where they live.

Like knowing the brand (which we covered in our first blog in this series), knowing your audience requires good research. As experts in media intelligence and research, we’ve put together the questions to get you started on your customer research so you can spend more time crushing your campaign.

Who is the audience?

Your audience doesn’t just mean people who buy your product. When you’re creating your PR campaign, consider everyone who is going to see your content and think about the messaging for them.

Consider a hot, up-and-coming tech start-up, for example. It may have three target audiences:

  • Customers (the consumers who are likely to use the company’s product)
  • Investors (attracting new investors and imbuing faith in existing ones is a key part of success for any start-up)
  • Potential employees (the tech industry is locked in a never-ending battle for top talent!)

For each of the above audiences, you’ll need a different target message because you want them to act in different ways.

MORE: 6 Must-Haves for an Effective Press Release

What motivates your audience and what are their habits? 

Once you know who your audiences are, you’ll need to consider each of their motivations and habits.

For example:

  • Customers will be interested in how new product features make their lives easier and are most likely to be reached via consumer-facing tech publications or via social media
  • Investors will want to learn about fundraising\ progress and growth trusted business resources like The Economist or internal white papers
  • Potential employees might be best attracted via positive stories about the brand’s culture, benefits and testimonials from existing talent on social media or niche forums

To get these different stories across, you’ll need different content. That’s three different media lists, three different set of tactics and three different goals.

For our purposes, we’re going to focus on the customer. Let’s dive into how to tailor your research to make sure you’re creating your campaign for your key targets.

Questions to ask about the customer

To know who your customers are, you must first spend time with them. This means finding out who they are, what they do, how they think and what drives them.

This may seem like a tall order, but there are tools to help. Some of this research needs to be done by spending time with your customers—this means conducting interviews and getting out in the world to learn about your ideal audience.

For other questions, media intelligence solutions can help you find a starting place. These tools do more than shine a light on how your brand is perceived in the news and online. They provide insight into how people interact with companies and each other, what topics and trends they’re passionate about and what media and personalities they follow.

These are the questions you should be thinking about–no matter what kind of research you’re doing.

What are their demographics?

Start by considering the average age, sex, background, marital status, education, employment and income of your ideal customer. Who is that person?

Once you know that, you can start to cater your research to them. This may mean going to places where your audience is (like conventions or trade shows) or showing up in the online spaces they frequent (like monitoring online sentiment through a media intelligence tool). By knowing your key demographic, you can narrow your focus and home in on getting to know one persona, and then tailor your message to them.

How do they spend their time?

To know what’s important to your customers, you’ll want to know what they do in their free time. Do they follow certain social influencers on Twitch, TikTok, Facebook, etc.? Are their media personalities they love (or, even, love to hate)? What publications and articles are garnering a lot of attention from your audience?

Knowing the answers to these questions will help you know how to talk to your customers—or it will allow you to find potential partners for campaigns, like a key influencer or media personality. It will also guide you to where you should run most of your campaign.

What motivates them?

Motivation is the driving force behind taking an action. But passion and belief are the driving forces behind motivation—and a person always consumes and discusses content they’re passionate about.

The deeper your understanding of an audience’s passions and beliefs, the more knowledgeable you are on what compels them to take certain actions.

Many times, audiences even announce online the actions they plan to take in response to a news story or social media post, such as whether they plan to see a movie once its trailer is released, buy a certain product or support a brand. Keep listening online (again, using media intelligence tools!) to help round out your research.  

What do you hope your PR campaign will get them to do?

Once you understand your audience’s motivation, you can then think through how to develop messaging that taps into that motivation and compels the audience to take a desired action. Of course, just make sure you have a clear call to action.

What next step or steps do you want an audience to take after reading, watching or otherwise interacting with your campaign and its messaging? The answer to the question should be an action that:

  • Appeals to your audience’s demographic
  • Is informed by your audience’s interests and hobbies
  • Is aligned to your audience’s motivators

MORE: 5 Steps to Building a Proactive Crisis Communications Strategy

How to conduct audience research

You might start your customer research by doing market research--conducting customer interviews or going to conferences and events that your target audience might be at. But at some point, you’ll need to go deeper.

Media intelligence tools such as the Nexis Newsdesk™ media monitoring platform can help you quickly uncover actionable insights about your primary audience. PR, marketing and communications professionals use Newsdesk to monitor brand-related topics across 10,000+ global news sources, 150 million websites and 2.5 million social media feeds, 24/7. This kind of expansive and continuous media monitoring helps you create PR campaigns based on:

  • How your audience responds to certain news and current events
  • What media your target audience consumes
  • What your audience currently thinks of your brand (and your brand’s competitors)

You can also use Newsdesk to identify media personalities who can become brand ambassadors and appeal to the audience you’re targeting on your behalf. And with a Newsdesk add-on, you gain access to the background and contact information of over one million journalists, bloggers and social influencers, and industry analysts you can use to enlist outside support for your campaigns. Want to see for yourself? Try Newsdesk with a free trial today.