Know Your Audience
Originally published: 11.01.19 by Pete Grasso
I haven’t always been an editor, though I’ve spent the majority of my career as one. In fact, my background is in public relations and I spent a good many years working at a couple of different advertising and public relations agencies.
Because of this, I still hold a special affinity for public relations, marketing and advertising (and I do my best to keep up to date with the latest trends).
I frequently correspond with my former PR colleagues and classmates to discuss where the practice of public relations is going. We always come to the same conclusion: While here are a good many solid practicioners out there, it’s also pretty sad that there are people who simply don’t understand public relations and continue to perpetuate the sad stereotype of the profession.
I won’t go so far as to proclaim that every company needs public relations, but I will say that bad public relations will hurt you more than no public relations at all.
I regularly return to my alma mater to provide guidance for the next generation of PR pros, and I’m always encouraged when I see and meet so many eager, smart “kids” who have chosen this noble profession.
As an editor — someone who is now firmly planted on the “other side of the fence” from PR pros — I’m able to offer these students a unique viewpoint.
One of the things I always preach to them is the importance of knowing your audience. In my opinion, the most valuable tool in public relations is your ability to build a relationship with your audience. To do that, you truly have to know them.
Every year, I give the class an assignment. They’re tasked with researching HVACR Business magazine and crafting a pitch that would be of interest to my readers. The most difficult part for many students is what comes next: they have to call me on the actual telephone and pitch their story idea to me.
For many Millennials, this is terrifying (who knew you could actually call someone on the phone and speak with them rather than send a text?).
When grading them, I’m not as tough when it comes to the phone call part of the assignment, because I know a) it’s terrifying to them because they’re not use to picking up the phone and speaking to someone they don’t know; and b) I’m more concerned with how well they researched this publication.
What I’m really trying to assess is how well they did their homework, so to speak. Sometimes it’s clear from the get-go that all they did was see “HVACR” in the magazine title and crafted their pitch based off some obscure air conditioning technology. The students who earn a better grade are the ones who actually bothered to spend some time reading the magazine or looking through our website.
I say this, because they’re the ones who often pitch me relevant, business management content that you, my reader, is interested in.
What seperates the good from the bad is something that seems so simple, but is often overlooked: knowing the audience.
The same can be said for your own advertising, marketing and public relations. Yes, it’s important to have a plan and execute, but you have to make sure you’re speaking to your audience.
You can have the best marketing in the world, but if it isn’t tailored to the right audience, it’s not doing you any good.
Think about how your business-marketing plan has changed in the last year, or five years or 10! Sure, there are the tried and true methods that have always worked, but I’ll bet you’ve also added some new techniques to your arsenal.
Jim Joseph, a contributor to Entrepreneur, believes you should follow the big brands, no matter how small your company may be. He writes: “All the big brands write an annual marketing plan to outline their goals for the year and how they plan to attain them., They map out their marketing priorities and how they plan to use their mixed media to build their business.”
This is excellent advice. I don’t care if you’re a one-person start-up or a multi-million dollar HVACR company with hundreds of technicians, you need to research WHO you want to reach, write down your marketing plan and stick to it. It can be tricky, sure, but there are plenty of resources available to help you.