Media Relations Rule 1: Know your audience

Aligning your messaging to the right target is essential

Sharing information has never been so easy. Just post it, right? Not so fast.

The receiver may not be the right person. With an online attention span per message of just six seconds, if they are not instantly engaged, they are gone. Have you looked at that last Facebook post?

Today, communications requires a strategy to create compelling content, identify your target audience, select the delivery channel and customize the content so receivers react positively to the message or a call to action. Understanding how each channel is used by your target audiences is critical when you are targeting your messaging to inform them and get them to take some form of action.

On more than one occasion we have had public relations clients ask us if we can get them into The Wall Street Journal. Our answer is, “Yes, if you would like to buy an ad.” While this might sound a bit flippant, the bottom line is that most news items are not going to receive national attention because the news does not necessarily appeal to a national audience. That attention needs to be garnered in other creative ways that could lead to greater engagement.

Part of our job is to use our experience to help clients understand what items are likely to pique the interest of the media (and which media), what content might be better suited for their Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter followers, for example, and what might work best for a blog post or other distribution. This may lead to bursting a few bubbles along the way, but that’s today’s reality.


Geography is another significant factor in media relations. If a company in Nashua is announcing that it is expanding, that piece is not going to run in the Portsmouth Herald or Concord Monitor. It’s not relevant to the readership and publications that focus specifically on their target area (i.e., Portsmouth or Concord). And with reporters receiving hundreds of press releases in their inbox daily and many now using Twitter for pitches, they don’t have the time to find a local angle if it is not obvious at first glance. Flooding a reporter’s inbox with media releases that don’t align with their market or beat is a sure way to help them tune out and possibly miss a release that could be better aligned.

One test we often use is the “would you read this?” test. If the piece was picked up in the media, would you take time to read it? If not, perhaps it is better suited for a different channel. This goes back to knowing your audience and the call to action you want the messaging to trigger, and aligning your content and delivery method to that audience to trigger the call to action.

If it is about a winter coat drive, for example, it might be best served on community calendars and on social media where you can tap your employees, your followers and community partners to help spread the word.


Today’s content lives online. It might be presented in print, but it is then repurposed through a media outlet’s digital service and then shared by the organization online through its website and social channels. In short, it has a digital life that can be perpetuated for some time. Take NH Business Review, for example, with their daily digital top stories and industry-related digital news feeds.

There are also ways to blend your distribution channels, extending the reach of a story and allowing your content to work for you.

For example, one client recently announced an expansion of its headquarters to help build out a space that was designed around creating a high-quality working environment for employees. This led to an article on the expansion, a secondary story on unique working environments, a web post on the plans, internal communications to employees, social media posts with links to the articles and messaging that could be used for the human resources department for recruiting. The core content was modified for the audience, and different delivery channels were used to expand its reach and trigger action. More people were reached and touched.

Solid, relevant content is the starting point. If you have good messaging that you believe people will care about, focus on connecting the dots with them and delivering it through customized messaging that gives them a true call to action beyond a view and a like.

Matt Cookson is president and CEO of Cookson Communications in Manchester.

Categories: Business Advice, Marketing & Advertising