One of the first lessons PR professionals learn is that to deliver real results for our clients (and their bottom lines), they need to remove themselves from the equation.
The second lesson is how to convince clients to do the same thing. In most cases, neither PR pros nor clients are representative of the audience.
It’s a challenging proposition. Business owners are rightfully passionate about their companies. Employing people who are passionate about what they do and the organization for which they work is one of the greatest strengths. But these same qualities can create a harmful environment when it comes to creating compelling communications.
The good news is that effective communicators always keep the target audience top of mind when crafting their work. Here are four questions I always ask when evaluating whether a pitch, press release, or even a tweet is hitting its mark:
Who is the target audience?
Yes, this seems obvious, but you can’t ask this question enough. Stepping back from the work in which we’re so entrenched and reminding ourselves of the audience we need to reach must be the first step every time.
Am I talking in language they will easily understand?
I don’t mean English, Spanish, or French. Rather, is the language jammed with buzzwords—packed with lingo and terminology that’s “inside baseball” for the average reader? There are no extra points for grammatically complex sentences filled with technical jargon—unless your audience is well-versed in the intricacies of what you do and how you do it. For most businesses and organizations, those details are not germane to the desired action and may cause your audience to tune out. Short, clear, crisp, and commonly-used language is almost always the best option.
Are my personal preferences getting in the way?
This is a tough one. As a customer, you want to like the product or service for which you’re forking over cash. That’s understandable. But if you as a PR professional prefer green, but you know from research that your audience loves orange, then orange is the way to go. The message must appeal to your audience first. You’ll learn to love orange—when it’s helping meet your business goals.
What’s in it for them?
People are busy. They are also inundated with marketing messages everywhere they turn. The only way to get their attention is to deliver a message that caters to their needs.
The bottom line is this: effective communications are those that work. To drive sales, change behavior, or diffuse a crisis, messages must first reach their target. When we remember to take ourselves out of the equation—and see things from the perspective of our audience—we stand a greater chance of success.
Candace McCaffery is the chief strategy officer and director of
interactive and social media marketing services at Cookerly Public Relations. Follow
Candace on Twitter @candacemcc.
A version of this story first appeared on the Cookerly PR blog.