Emphasising the reality that Public Relations (PR) is all about influence can never be too much. When we say influence, let me tell you like it is. Influence – not tricks, bullying, lies or distortions. Not spins.
The indispensable question is, “why would a brand or client pay good money to communicate if they are not expecting some return on investment in the form of influence, empathy or buy-in?” Organisations do not communicate because they are charity. They do because they want something in return…from their publics.
Worth reiterating is that what they want depends on the various audience categories. They want consumers to buy their products or use their services. They want activists to leave them alone. They want host communities to support the construction of a new plant in their backyard, for instance, etc.
Apparently, it translates that PR effort should not result to the production of only one kind of messaging to cater for all members of the audience. Still, PR in Nigeria is about generating one kind of communication to accommodate all audiences. The hackneyed practice is about developing a press release and blasting it out to every publication, whether it is a trade publication, general interest newspapers, specialized newspapers, news or entertainment magazines etc. Just one press release! Whereas these are different audiences, each, with unique information need.
We may query the reason for the conservative practice. But the dominating answer is simple. Cost! The cost of producing multiple versions of one release can be staggering. So what we do is keep the per-unit cost of press releases as low as possible. Clients might not be ready to pay for the cost, anyway. Of course, they might wish not to understand why they should pay even if explanation came from a renowned teacher. Another challenge could be laziness on the part of the agency or PR manager. They consider it a drudgery to write differently for different audience and media. But, it is sad. It is unprofessional too.
The industry has to recognise that the world is different now. Life is now media-centric – beyond media saturation – everyone feels they deserve to be marketed to as an individual, not group. They hunger for customised messages. The one-size-fits-all practice is indeed clichéd. Each individual expects to get exactly the information he needs – information that answers his specific question.
The internet has not changed everything. No! It has not, for instance, changed customer service. People still expect to be treated like individuals that they are. They expect to be taken care of in their quest to investing their loyalty to brands so expect customisation. They call the shots. To facilitate the desired action, tailored messaging and tailored media are the answer. Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) never changed people’s specific need for custom-made messages. Let us look at this hands-on example – a publicity plan to announce BSN Doctor of Business Administration. This story line: “Business School Netherlands targets senior executives for doctorate in business admin” can be leveraged in ALL platforms (print, broadcast, digital media). But a message from same campaign with the intent of speaking to the business community alone could read: “Nigeria corporate executives to research business practices in BSN doctorate programme.” Business Day, Thisday would be great platforms. Another message, “BSN Nigeria to enhance youth employability with CSR programme “could be leveraged in The Sun, The Punch, Vanguard and soft sells.
Gradually and truly, customising messages is the key to market share in this age of stiff competition and varieties. To resonate, therefore, messaging must be tailored according to the various classes of audience want.
Clients and agencies, please work this out.