Kirstie Kinrade blogs about how a recent train journey drove home the importance of knowing your audience in PR. 

Tuning in to other people’s conversations has always been one of my worst habits. It’s amazing what you hear while you’re out and about, especially on public transport.

It was on a recent train journey that the inspiration for this latest blog arrived. Sat on the 08:25 train from Sheffield to Leeds, I was speeding through the South Yorkshire countryside to the sound of two women in the seats behind detailing the highs and lows of working in a supermarket.

“I love it when you get a shoplifter,” one said. “I chase ‘em. I’ve run after one down the street and made him hand over two bottles of wine and a cake.”

“Ooh I turn a blind eye, me,” the other replied. “Turn a blind eye – it’s not worth the conflict.”

And it was where their conversation went that made me think. Perhaps sometimes the PR industry is guilty of turning a blind eye itself - towards what audiences really want.

The conversation continued.

Mrs A, as we’ll call her, turned to her friend and said: “Have you got one of those daft belt things?”

“No”, said Mrs B, perplexed.

“Some d***head has come up with this idea of presenting staff who’ve been doing well, with a championship belt like they get in the boxing. It’s ridiculous. It gets passed all around the bleedin’ country. I don’t know who they pay to come up with these ideas.”

I sniggered to myself, knowing all too well that somewhere, a proud communications team had devised the idea and probably created a whole internal communications plan around it. But was it what the audience wanted? Did they see receiving a championship belt as a valid reward? Did it make them feel more loyal towards their employer? No.

Yes, it got them talking, but believe me – they were not impressed.

It can be easy in communications – internal or external – to focus on the C word (creativity) rather than the A word – your audience.

Of course, creativity is key and innovative thinking helps campaigns stand out from the crowd, but if your tactics don’t appeal to your audience then what’s the point?

At Sidekick we run through our Sidekick SCIENCE process with all new clients, to ensure we thoroughly understand who we’re trying to target, why we’re targeting them, what we want to achieve, and then finally, how we’re going to do it.

Tactics are tailored to reach the audiences our clients’ want to reach, in the right way, with the aim of sparking outcomes that matter to our clients’ business objectives. It’s that strategic approach that means we get great results.

Now, where’s our championship belt?