PR Planning: Knowing your publics

21 Nov

I find that I don’t actually follow the ‘traditional’ methods of PR planning.  By traditional I mean the processes and methods I learnt 10 years ago – mainly because what I learnt then is pretty much out of date today, with the advances in social media and communication.  But one of the important first steps in successful PR planning – in fact, before you even start planning – is to know your publics.

Also referred to as the ‘Target Market’ in marketing, and the ‘Target Audience’ in  advertising, the ‘publics’ are those individuals or organisations, internally or externally, which whom an organisation communicates with.

The Chartered Institute of Public Relations defines ‘publics’ as:

…audiences that are important to the organisation. They include customers – existing and potential; employees and management; investors; media; government; suppliers; opinion-formers

Identifying your publics will help you to plan your PR or communications strategy, help you set your PR priorities and enable you to set budgets and identify communication techniques.

So who are your publics?

Well, each organisation is unique and will have a variety of different audiences, but generally speaking there are eight types of publics with whom an organisation will typically need to communicate with:

1.  Suppliers

These could be the organisations that supply essentials such as water or electricity to your premises, or they could be suppliers of raw materials.

2.  Distributers

These are the organisations or individuals who handle your goods in bulk between you and the customer.  How large an organisation you are will obviously have an impact on how many distributers you have.  A distributer could be a wholesaler, a supermarket, stokebroker, vending machines, importers / exporters, discount stores etc etc

3.  Consumers / End Users

These are the people buying and using your end products.  The ‘consumer’ is the individual who literally buys your product.  The ‘end user’ is the person who actually uses the product.  Of course, this could be the same person as the ‘consumer’, but it could also be someone else – for example someone (the consumer) buys a birthday gift of chocolates for his mother (the end user)

4.  The Financial Community

The financial community are organisations such as banks, insurance brokers, fund managers, stoke brokers and funders.  Be clear about your trading, and your organisation’s background – if anything is unclear or looks ‘risky’ a trader won’t buy shares in your organisation, and a bank won’t lend you money.

5.  Local Community

Good PR starts on your doorstep, so make sure you have a good neighbourhood policy!   How to define your local community, and how you communicate with that community, really depends on what sort of organisation you are.  For example, if you are local bed & breakfast your local community could be your local town, but if you are a national distribution company you may have several communities to communicate with.

6.  Potential Employees

This is the group of people that may one day work for your organisation.  They could be college students or individuals who already work a competitor.  Whoever they are, they won’t want to work for you if they don’t like what your organisation stands for – in fact, they may well go and work for the competition.  Make sure you make your organisation attractive to potential employees – make sure that it is viewed as a good organisation to work for, and make sure its clear what your organisation does.

7.  Opinion Leaders & Formers

An opinion leader is usually an individual that is much respected or holds sway over public opinion.  This could be a spokesperson, a political leader, a military leader, a celebrity or someone else who is able to change / form public opinion.  These are important people to have on your side!

Opinion formers are usually the media or the press.  These mediums are able to form public opinion – for example, you may find a newspaper may have a particular political allegiance, and can change the opinion of voters.

8.  Employees

There are typically many employees in an organisation, from factory staff to drivers to office staff.  You must always consider the demographics such as salary differences, gender, geographic location, age etc when communicating.

Others publics you might want to consider

As stated above – each organisation will have different audiences which whom they communicate.  Other publics you may wish to consider are:

  • Local Government
  • Regional Government
  • National Government
  • International Government
  • Competitors

One Response to “PR Planning: Knowing your publics”


  1. A quick introduction to Social Media Strategy for Charities « blog. - July 4, 2011

    […] you need your audience to be definable and your goal to be reachable.  (See my previous post on Knowing your Publics for further […]

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