Twitter has been ablaze with confusion as to why Simon Binns, editor of LADbible, was invited to participate in the daily Downing Street press briefings on the coronavirus pandemic. But rather than joining the chorus of confusion, Mobas’ Commercial Director and Fellow of the Chartered Institute of PR, Adam Tuckwell, explains why the decision is actually a communications masterclass.
It’s a bank holiday Monday and, while my children run amok in the garden, my phone continues to ping with activity. It’s not unusual for the Government’s daily press briefing to be the focus of conversation, but today the speaking point isn’t the sad number of fatalities or the availability (or lack thereof) of personal protection equipment for frontline health workers. No, instead social media is awash with questions as to why a journalist from LADbible was allowed through the door.
As I reflect on this as a communications professional, the answer is a simple one. The Government needs to communicate effectively to key groups in society. One of the most dominant, especially when encouraging the public to observe lockdown, is young adults, and young men in particular. This demographic has been identified by Government communications teams as the group most likely to flout the social distancing rules. These are one of the most highly connected groups in society, yet they are equally among the least likely to engage with traditional media outlets. So rather than questioning their attendance, we should praise the communications practitioners who had the foresight to get Simon Binns on the invitation list.
The first exercise we conduct at Mobas with any new clients is an audience mapping workshop. This exercise allows us to identify a business’s or brand’s target audience which, in turn, will shape the messaging, tactics and target publications we will communicate with throughout our campaigns. It’s best practice and allows us to focus our efforts on activity which is most likely to make a difference. If we want to get people to change their behaviour, act in a certain way, buy a particular product or service, we need to speak to them direct. We can only do this if we engage with the media and channels those audiences themselves engage with.
As I look back on over a decade of work in the PR and Communications industry, I can recall so many examples of times when people I meet have wrongly placed significant value on their personal media preferences over the readership habits of their target audiences. This isn’t a criticism of them, merely an acknowledgement of how deep-rooted our personal media preferences and bias can be. We expect that people will act just like we do. They will read and watch the same things as we do and respond to what they see and hear just as we would too. But the fact of the matter is they don't.
This is why it’s so important to take time to analyse and segment your audience to ensure you aren’t wasting your time and effort speaking to an audience that simply isn’t there. Countless CEOs and MDs I’ve met longed to feature in the FT or The Times but when challenged as to why, the response typically echoes that these are simply the publications they themselves admire and trust.
In the case of the daily Government briefing, if you’ve been tasked with reaching a young adult audience, relying solely on the likes of Sky News, The Guardian and even the BBC is unlikely to cut through. Know your audience, take time to understand what they read, the language they speak and the messages that will actually make it through – then focus your efforts relentlessly on these.
It’s not rocket science, but at a time of crisis, it should be hailed as a masterstroke by those PR folk working tirelessly behind the scenes to keep people safe. If your communications activity isn’t breaking through and you’d benefit from an audience-mapping exercise, feel free to get in touch with the Mobas PR team to start a transformation in the way you engage with your target audiences.