Finding (and Knowing) Your Audience

No matter what strategy or tactic you’re pursuing in PR, it’s essential to first know your audience. The best collateral materials or social campaign in the world won’t be effective unless you’re able to get it front of your audience, with messages relevant to them.

When planning, ask yourself questions like:

  • Who do we need to reach with this and why?
  • What action do we want them to take?
  • Where does this audience currently get their information? What channels do they already frequent? A busy executive, for example, likely isn’t engaging in the same way or in the same places as moms or college students.
  • What does this audience want most? What could make our message cool and relevant to them?
  • What other likes or interests does this audience have that could relate to our message and boost attention?
  • Gather data on what’s worked or hasn’t worked for this same audience in the past.

This can be trickier than it seems. Popular e-commerce sites like Amazon and Netflix do a great job of understanding their audiences’ tastes via gargantuan amounts of data. They recommend additional products accordingly, but there’s a line between pure audience data and turning it into actionable intelligence. Netflix got a lesson in that recently with its Marco Polo launch. Though the show seemingly hit on all the audience hot buttons, according to data—action, romance, exotic settings, etc.—it by-and-large failed to bring those together in a way that appealed.

Smart PR pros recognize that to “know” an audience is to go beyond simple numbers or demographics.

You also want to make sure your messaging and tactics match your audience. We worked for a client who had developed wonderful messaging for referring providers…only to realize their target audience should actually be patient families, who desired a very different set of messages.

Knowing your audience not only requires up front research and thoughtful planning, but also a commitment to remain connected to and invested in that audience so you’re able to track with changing wants and demands. While challenging, it’s one of the most important aspects of PR, and once you truly connect with an audience, their loyalty makes all the difference.

Relationship Marketing 101

It all starts with trust.

Building a relationship marketing program begins with two lists: a list of people you know and a list of people with whom you want to get to know to establish and maintain a mutual relationship. Relationships are built on identifying needs and fulfilling them. It takes ongoing listening and communication skills, and trust, to turn the relationship into a long-lasting partnership.

As a practice, relationship marketing differs from other forms of marketing in that it recognizes the long-term value of relationships and extends communication beyond sales messages. It’s most often focused on building allies, getting to know key influencers and decision-makers, and educating about your organization, service or product. When you engage with prospects without an “ask” in mind, they’re more likely to remember you when they’re ready to take action—make a purchase, develop a partnership or write a check.

The key to success is to be sure you’re targeting the right people, otherwise you’re wasting your efforts and marketing dollars. A good place to start is with the contacts you already have. As you meet with prospects and influencers, your targets will begin to define themselves, and you can build out your list based on those referrals.

In relationship marketing, customer information and a history of contacts are maintained in a relationship management database, and a point person is assigned to update and maintain the relationship contacts. The idea is to stay organized, track meeting results and identify trends.

And don’t forget to send a hand-written thank-you note!

We’ve developed the following process and use it to explain what relationship marketing is and to keep our clients on track.

RM tool

The Importance of Research – Personal Interviews

With our last blog post focusing on surveys and focus groups, we thought we’d add one more research approach to the list: personal interviews.

Face-to-face interviews can deeply probe how key stakeholders view your organization’s brand and culture. It’s an opportunity to listen carefully and capture nuanced ideas. The people you chose to interview and the questions you ask will change depending on your research goals. However, personal interviews are typically used for internal leadership (executives and board members) and sometimes customers or community leaders.


  • Interviewees can think about their responses, especially if the questions were provided ahead of time. Trust is key. If respondents feel confident in the process, they’re likely to fully engage with honest and insightful responses.
  • The interviewer can ask unplanned, on-the-fly follow up questions to better understand a response.
  • Face-to-face interviews provide an opportunity to observe respondents’ attitudes and behaviors, and to capture the actual language they use about your brand or product or organization.


  • Personal interviews are typically more expensive and time-consuming than other research methods.
  • Scheduling a time where both the interviewee and interviewer can meet can be difficult due to busy schedules or distance.
  • Analyzing longer answers to open-ended questions is more challenging than analyzing purely quantitative data, especially if you have many interviews. Depending on the goals of your project, 15-20 interviews is often ample.

Knowing the pros and cons of various research options is the first step to understanding how people feel, what they think and how they act towards your brand. Your next step is picking the research method, or a combination, that’s best suited for your needs and executing on it!