Whether you’re communicating with the public or your public, understanding the difference is imperative to structuring your message and disseminating it. In this lesson, you’ll learn more about the different types of public communications.
Reaching The Public(s)
If you want to convey a message to a group of Girl Scouts, would you start at a Boy Scouts meeting? If you want to spread the word to church attendees, would you do so at a Friday night karaoke event at a local nightclub? Of course not!Understanding what group of people you are trying to reach is paramount to conveying your message as well as figuring out the best way to reach them. This brings up the issue of public communication.Public communication is the tool or method we use to disperse our thoughts and ideas to a particular group.
You’re familiar with a lot of these approaches: a newspaper article, a billboard you spot driving down the freeway, even a public speaking event before a large group of people. But, are you familiar with the difference between the term ‘public’ and the word ‘publics?’ One tiny letter can change the entire meaning of the word, as well as the way you disseminate your message. Let’s explore each.
Public or Publics
For most of us, we’re familiar with the term public, or the general collection of all people to whom we can address a message. Coca-Cola, for example, addresses its marketing and messaging campaigns to the general public because they are promoting a well-known and widely-used product applicable to all people.On the flip side, you may be unfamiliar with the term ‘publics’ as it relates to communicating a message. Publics refers to a particular group of people who are the intended audience of a message, a distinction from the general public. They may be grouped as a public because they are presented with a similar situation or have mutual concerns.
They are identifiable as a unit, alike in some way, or grouped based on certain characteristics.For example, the American Diabetes Association may identify their public as individuals afflicted with that illness, or, more specifically, they may categorize their publics separately: individuals with type 1 diabetes versus individuals with type 2 diabetes. The American Diabetes Association recognizes that their messaging is not intended for the general public at large; rather, it is targeted toward a defined group of individual people.
For public relations practitioners, who bear the word ‘public’ right in their name, understanding the distinction between the public and their publics is an important one.
A message built for the general public will not be presented nor delivered in the same way it may be approached with a particular public.Public relations is ‘a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics,’ according to the Public Relations Society of America. There are many publics, as well as the general public, that businesses small and large alike might want to reach: customers, suppliers, employees, investors and community members, to name a few.
Depending on the type of information release and the audience, there are myriad choices for reaching either the general public or a very specific audience with your message. Let’s examine some of the choices.
- First we have newspapers and magazines. These print publications are a great way to tell your story, raise awareness, introduce a new service or offering, and get your brand or organization in the public eye.
You can submit a press release, request a story, respond to an interview request, or write an opinion piece.
- Television and radio is another option. Radio and television stations can also operate on the use of press releases from organizations, but also present opportunities for live interviews, 2-way conversations, and quick dissemination of information in the event of an emergency crisis.
- You can also deliver your message through speaking engagements. Whether it’s in front of 10 people or 100, speaking before a group of important publics can convey your message effectively.
Some options to consider include civic and community groups, local business events, conferences, and meetings.
- Social media is another option. Social media platforms are a quick way to distribute a message to your fans and followers and have two-way conversations. It’s also a good place to monitor conversations being had so a public relations team can step in and help respond to both positive and negative comments.
- Another choice involves internal communications. Having a way to communicate important information with employees is essential.
This can include company news and new ventures, as well as fun things that can boost employee morale and enhance the work culture.
In this lesson, we talked about public communication as the tool that public relations practitioners and others use to distribute valuable information to a group of people. We identified the difference between the public – that is, a collection of many different types of people sometimes called the ‘general’ public – and the publics, or a collection of people grouped due to similarities or intended messaging.Communicating with either or both will require a focus on the type of audience you’re trying to reach and the message you’re hoping to convey, but there are many tools that can do the job: television, radio, newspaper, magazine, social media and internal communications.