Imagine you’re at a business networking event. Scanning the room, you see the MD of a company you’ve been hoping for weeks to get an introduction to.
The simplest way to bring yourself to his or her attention would be to pick the right moment, introduce yourself, engage them in conversation, and at the end of the chat suggest you swap cards and get in touch.
However, imagine instead that you merely left your business cards dotted around the room, on the off chance that person saw your name, realised you were there and came to introduce himself or herself to you.
I think we’d all use the first option. Yet time and again, organisations use inappropriate and ineffective communication channels to target their key messages at audiences.
The reasons for this are numerous, but it often comes down to a failure to step back and consider the audience in terms of type, size, location, interests and so on.
Our audiences are nearly always easier to identify and target than we think. Take, for example, a cheese producer looking to get a new organic product into the major supermarkets. The boss of the company tasks the marketing agency with getting coverage for the product in a national newspaper.
The marketing team go away and devise a clever PR stunt which gets coverage in The Sun and Daily Mail, giving a few million readers the opportunity to read about the product. This may even create some demand for the product among some of those readers. However, on this particular day, the 10 people with responsibility for new product buying for the major supermarkets, the only people who can help the company with its objective, didn’t read The Sun or the Daily Mail.
With a small target audience it’s almost always better to try and communicate directly. With a little research, what the cheese company boss could have done was send samples of his product to the 10 purchasers along with a covering letter and information about the new product.
The following month he or she could then have showcased the product at a national food exhibition, which he or she knew would be attended by the 10 purchasers.
After striking up this initial relationship, the company could have followed up on the exhibition by sending the 10 purchasers the company’s monthly e-bulletin which includes updates on other new products and innovations. The company could also have targeted those 10 purchasers through social media, for example, using a targeted Twitter campaign to keep them updated about the product.
Of course, positive media coverage is a huge advantage to any brand, but the communication has to be targeted, relevant and worthwhile. In the above instance, one story about the product in a magazine like The Grocer, would likely have been more valuable than coverage in all of the nationals put together.
Yes, the media is certainly a major aspect of any successful public relations campaign. However, it’s also just one in a wide range of communication channels and, like the networking meeting, there will be times when direct communication is far more effective.