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Finding publics (as opposed to target groups)

“My biggest challenge is to find my target group. I know who I want to reach, but where do I find them digitally — and how do I stand out from the crowd in that channel?”
– Eva-Lena, Sweden

I love this question, but it’s a tough one to answer since it focuses on the core challenge of all marketing; how to find and reach the right people with the right message.

Paid / Earned / Owned

There are many ways to view the online landscape. One perspective way is to look at it through a lens of paid, earned and owned. Because in terms of finding and activating people, what makes you successful when it comes to paid, for instance, won’t make you successful in earned or owned. And vice versa.

A useful model.

So, from a paid, earned and owned perspective, let’s take a look at how to find and activate people online.

How to Find Publics (Paid)

Today, there’s so many smart ways to use various social networks (including search engines) to target specific people, not only based on demographics like age, location or gender but more increasingly also on actual behaviours and advanced lookalike modelling techniques.

Before you even begin to look at advertising as a way of reaching people, you need to ask yourself what content you’ll be putting in front of people?

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How Do I Compete in Paid Channels?

Your competitive edge in paid channels are:

  • Message/market fit.

It’s popular to talk about achieving product/market fit and when it comes to advertising online, it’s your message that needs to fit the market. If you show people an ad and they like it, your cost per view or cost per click will be cheaper, your reach will be greater and your ad will be better received.

So the key is to see how you can segment people in Facebook for instance and based on that data, create content that fits their interests — as well as yours, of course. having a better message/market fit is how you beat your competitors in this game.

[ctt title=”Advertising used to be all about being creative — now it’s all about research and psychology.” tweet=”Advertising used to be all about creativity — now it’s all about research and psychology: via @doktorspinn” coverup=”vn58D”]

How to Find Publics (Earned)

There are 2 basic strategies to locate and engage specific publics:

  • Find situations that activate them and piggyback.
  • Create situations that activate them and promote.

People are communicative beings. They want to take part in the conversation — and the online landscape makes this a possibility for most people:

Example 1: If I want to reach a specific public, I look at who’s engaging them today. Then I find a way to collaborate with that influencer to reach their audience.

Example 2: If I want to create a public, I manifest a cause that will engage them. Then, for momentum, I reach out to public leaders to get them onboard first.

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How Do I Compete in Earned Channels?

Your competitive edge in earned channels are:

  • Gift status.

The trick is to develop a message that people will want to share because it’s engaging to them and their peers. This sounds simple enough, but many companies struggle with inside-out thinking. They mistake their own engagement (“we now have new super cool new features to offer!”)  with the engagement of their publics.

So how to check if your message really has achieved gift status? First, ask yourself if you would share the message with your friends. Second — test it.

How to Find Publics (Owned)

Understanding who actively seeks you out online is often referred to as inbound marketing. Some would say that the cornerstone of inbound marketing is content marketing, other people would say it’s search marketing and others conversion. But they are all closely linked together.

Understanding what value your desired customer base actively is looking for is the first step and the second step is, of course, to offer that value to them. If your offer is more valuable than everyone else’s, your content will function as a magnet for online engagement.

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How Do I Compete in Owned Channels?

Your competitive edge in owned channels are:

  • Value offer.

Use a service like Buzzsumo to research what other online publishers are offering to a specific public. Then ask yourself — can you create content (or offer service) that will be more valuable than what others in that niche are currently offering?

Creative content and click-friendly headlines might help in some instances, but you should really aim for helping real people with real challenges.

Finding Publics Online

Message/market-fit, gift status and value offer will help you find publics online and stand out in a crowded and competitive channel. But how exactly do you execute these 3 strategies? Well, that have to be 3 separate blog posts!

What online PR tools are you using? Please share in the comments.

Photo by Amanda Dalbjörn on Unsplash.


Avatar of Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer, aka Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at KIX Communication Index and Spin Factory. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.

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