Know Thy Audience

A woman giving a speech in front of an audienceStop me if you have heard this one before from a PR/communications colleague: “Our CEO/Board of Directors (BOD) really wants this hit/newsletter/sandwich/microsite/etc.”

Yeah, we’ve all heard this phrase from some of our PR and marketing peeps, and while that approach to external communications may have worked just splendidly in 1995, heading into 2010, this notion of “we must appease our CEO/BODs first!” is a recipe for a PR/marketing plan disaster, if you ask me. This thought’s been rocking through my mind for a few days now, so I’m just going to come out and say it:

KNOW THY AUDIENCE

Simple as that. And if I had to create a list of 10 commandments for PR and marketing (BTW: I hate lists of PR/marketing rules), this statement may be my No. 1 commandment, that’s how important I believe it is to our profession.

It’s such a simple idea—understanding exactly who your audience is and how they like to be communicated with—and yet, time and again, it gets pushed aside.

I’ve broached this subject before when I discussed how your audience is more than just one single unit, but I felt like it was worth bringing up again as I continue to see PR types—both on the agency and corporate comm. side—trying to appease their CEOs/BODs and other top execs while completely forgetting that as we move into 2010, the tide of reality that the public is quickly becoming all of our bosses is now fully knocking on pretty much all of our doors.

Simply put: Your CEO is no longer your audience. Nor is your BOD or any other exec. No matter if you’re doing PR at a hospital, pharmaceuticals, in consumer products or even in B2B, your audience is now the general public. Get used to it and embrace this fact. Passionately and with fervor.

The reality is that in today’s world of Twitter and Google Sidewiki, Yelp and many other consumer-first forms of communication, you simply cannot afford to neglect to view the general public as your No. 1 audience. Those that do risk being steamrolled by both their current and future competitors who do grasp this unbelieveably important concept.

From augmented reality now allowing geo-tagged Tweets from a restraurant or gasp! your company’s headquarters, to people eating at your restaurant now having the ability to snap a picture on their iPhone of your lasagna and via Yelp and augmented reality, pulling up a view on their smartphone of every review of that restaurant, to Google Sidewiki essentially allowing regular everyday Joe’s and Jane’s like you and me to comment on any company’s site, consumers and the general public now rule the land.

But here’s the difficult part of this: I can say “know thy audience” and “Your CEO/BOD isn’t your audience” until I’m blue in the face, but how do we actually reverse this trend and get companies to realize that consumers do in fact rule?

What do you think?

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