How are research and surveys important to understand your publics?

Written by: Paul Stallard


When you are putting together a PR campaign, one of the first things you need to do is ask yourself if you understand your publics. This sounds like a simple question, but it might not have a simple answer.

Firstly, how do you know who is likely to be interested in your issue? Common sense? Past experience? Gut feel? These are all valid ways of putting together a hypothesis about who may be interested but market research can help you to validate your instincts and bring a clearer definition to your target audience.  You may be working with a product, category or issue that has what appears to be a clearly defined target; if you are promoting nappies, for example, it is likely that your target audience is new parents. But how new is new? At what stage do parents start being interested in stories about nappies? It could be before conceiving, during pregnancy or when the baby has filled ten cloth nappies in half a day, at which point your story on eco-disposables suddenly becomes more salient.  And what about grandparents, nursery teachers and nurses – do they buy nappies, or influence parents in their decision making? Market research can help you put much more detail around what might have sounded like a very clear definition.

Once you have defined who your publics are, market research and surveys can also help you understand your target group in much more detail. For example, you can use research to explore the issues that are important to them, the language they use around the topic of interest, the assumptions and preconceptions that they have around your product or issue. It can also be used to pull apart the differences between all the sub-groups in that top level definition –younger parents vs. older parents, first time parents, adoptive parents, single parents, same sex parents. Sometimes, it is in the details that research can uncover that you find the insights that can drive your campaign forward.

What seems simple at first – understanding your publics – can actually be complex and nuanced, and market research and surveys can help you cut through the complexity and find value at every stage of the PR process.

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