Is the audience listening? The compounding value of market research and targeted PR.

Last year I began managing the public relations for a new client in the retail franchising sector. Following our first meeting I received an email from the client with their ‘brand strategy kit’ of about 30 pages attached.

Contained in the kit were results of market research, which had allowed the client to glean to following facts about their customer base, among others:

 • Young, suburban, singles couples and families

 • Almost 2 in 3 under 40 years of age

• Children under 12 years of age

• Very regular take away eaters

From this research our client had further categorized their customer demographics into three general categories with specific characteristics assigned to each. I was also provided with research on the current market perception of their brand, a map of their key competitors and a copy of their brand values statement.

After examining the kit, I was struck by how ‘ready’ the company was for PR. They were ready because, as a business, they were able to confidently answer one question:

Who do you want to talk to and why?

In my experience, unsuccessful PR, from an ROI point of view, is often engaged and executed too early, too late, or too broad.

Too early might occur when a business is only semi operational or in start up phase. The business owner may be desperate to get some exposure but isn’t quite sure who the market for the product actually is. In the long term, this kind of ‘ready, fire, aim’ approach to marketing and PR can do a brand more harm than good.

Too late is often either when a product is bad and this has affected sales, or when a brand’s reputation is damaged. Damaged reputations can sometimes be mended over time with the help of PR, bad products, however, almost always remain bad products.

Too broad arises when clients don’t think strategically about their communication goals (and do not listen to the advice from their PR agency). Let’s say a client has a new product. It is a niche piece of medical equipment to be sold into hospitals. The client may want a spot on the 6pm news, but is this really the best place for the product to appear? How many of these viewers are potential buyers of the product? Probably less than one percent. The right location for editorial on such a product is respected medical journals, online and print industry media, targeted TV and radio segments and the medical sections of the major papers.

Avoiding the aforementioned pitfalls is made much easier with a strong customer profile to fall back on when in doubt. So before you jump into bed with your marketing or PR agency, consider how much you really know about your customers? If the answer is ‘not much’ spend the time and money to properly determine your target market (or least listen to your current PR agency if they advise this step and let them help you reach the right market).

Joseph Keller, Account Manager