I don’t go on vacation to think about work, but sometimes it’s unavoidable.
Though my primary mission for the seven-day juggernaut was to escape the trappings of corporate life, I was bemused with the many crossovers between “the real world” and my real world as a PR practitioner.
I thought it might be fun to share those similarities with you, so here goes…
Real world: Kids want to play where the games are.
I can try to entertain my kids in the cabin all week long, but when the sun is shining and birds are chirping, they absolutely, positively need to be in that lake. If I try to play with them on more comfortable turf for me, I will lose them. If I join them in the lake for some frivolity, I can keep their attention all day long.
PR world: Play where others are playing.
If you think your key audiences are sitting in front of their computers, waiting for you to update your website with the next nugget of wisdom or valuable piece of content to act on, think again. Where they are playing, so to speak, are the environments in which they have fun, get smarter, or seek value. For some, it’s social networks, such as LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook; for others, it’s enthusiast websites and online forums; for a great many, it’s not even online (so don’t assume it is). Reach those people wherever they spend their time, and you can pull them back into your playground. And you can’t do that if you, yourself, are not equally active in those spaces.
Real world: One kid likes trucks, the other kid likes sports.
It was pretty obvious early on in the week that we weren’t all going to agree on how we should be whiling away the hours each day. Each child had their own preferences and agendas (and wasn’t afraid to share them). Rather than forcing the swimmers to be climbers and the runners to be boaters, we divided and conquered. Dad went swimming; mom went boating; grandpa went hiking.
PR world: Audience segmentation is paramount to effective marketing.
Think of your audience base. Are they all the same? Are they in the same industry? Do they have the same wants, needs and pain points? Are they identical demographically, geographically and psychographically? Likely not. Be sure to take the time to identify them accurately and honestly, and to the best of your ability, put them into manageable “buckets.” Then, speak to each with the appropriate voice, in the appropriate context, with the appropriate message, and via the appropriate vehicle that is specific to each group. Don’t treat your entire database of constituents as one homogeneous, anonymous “mailing list.”
Real world: Three-year-olds never stop asking, “Why?”
“Why is the sky blue?” “Why CAN’T we have fudge for breakfast?” “Why won’t it stop raining?” “Why do I have to take a nap?” “Why can’t I have a turn with yellow ball?” It seems like the why is all these kids care about. And even when you answer the question intelligently, the next response you inevitably receive is another “Why?” It all begins and ends with why.
PR world: If you haven’t answered the why, you can’t possibly know the what or how.
It is human nature to want to act. We see a problem, we want to fix it. We see an opportunity, we want to take it. But too often, at least in the marketing world, we jump in feet first without ever asking—and answering—the most important question: Why?
“Our company needs a Facebook page!”
“We want to be in the Wall Street Journal!”
“We need to be sending out e-mails to all of our prospects!”
“We need this or that on our website!”
People start with the how or the what, when that should come last. Start by defining the who: Who is your audience? And define them completely and accurately. Segment where appropriate. Then ask the where: Where do these audiences live, work and play? Where will we reach them? Are they online? Are they reading magazines? Are they joining real-world networking groups? Then examine the what: What are you hoping to change with this audience group? What do you want to say to them? What will actually be heard? And what will an interaction with them do to improve their lives or businesses?
Then comes the important part: the why. Are you being strategic, or reactive? What does success look like to you? Define it, in concrete terms. Why are you reaching out to this audience, in this arena, and with this message. Why embark on this campaign, program or mission in the first place? If you don’t define your metrics for success, how will you ever know if you’ve succeeded?
Lastly, move onto how. If you’ve committed yourself to significant due diligence as outlined above, the how will reveal itself. And the why will be clearly defined and easily measured against.
Thus ends my essay, How I Spent My Summer Vacation. I hope to receive an A, or at very least a solid B+, but I heard the new teacher is a drag.
What about you, what have you learned this summer, and how will you apply it in your career?