Demographics: why you need to know who you are talking to.

It sounds obvious but sometimes I wonder if people actually think about who they are trying to talk to when they put out a message or campaign. Not only is it very annoying being targeted by something completely irrelevant to you, but it’s also a costly mistake to make.

One of the first things I learnt on my PR course was about publics and identifying your audience. So it seems bizarre that people would get something so basic so wrong. With online advertising becoming big business we are inundated with often irrelevant advertising that most of the time just annoys us. Public Relations thankfully has a more sophisticated approach to segmenting their target audience to ensure that the messages they are trying to get across, reach the right people. That’s not to say that PR can’t make some questionable audience decisions too.

With the internet making Global communications as easy as nipping down to the local newsagents, audience identification is important now more than ever. It’s all to easy nowadays to advertise your company on Facebook using the demographics tools they have in place, segmenting your audience by age, gender, marital status etc. but I have a problem with this. Being female, and engaged I am the perfect ‘target’ for wedding adverts advertising venues in Scotland and photographers in Cornwall (to put it into context I live in Cheltenham) Facebook even uses this scenario as a case study. My problem with this is they have used this tool to narrow down who they think would be interested in these products (no real problem so far) but 1. I don’t live in Scotland or Cornwall 2. I already have my venue and photographer 3. why only target engaged females, what about grooms organising their weddings or gay couples! It may sound like I’m nit picking here but when you’re paying out for an advert or campaign why not take a bit more time to work out exactly who you want to communicate your message with to get the best value for money.

Much like Facebook’s demographic advertising their are tools out there that can help you decide who you want to target:                                                                                            Geoplan offer a paid for service where you can identify demographics by using information from the 2011 census to target different variables (the more variables the more you have to pay) they also offer a customer profiling service where they use GIS mapping software to enhance customer databases.                                                             Experian offer Mosaic UK described as a “unique consumer classification based on in-depth demographic data” Mosaic uses trends within the UK to form it’s tailored demographics. They have 155 ‘Mosaic types’ in 67 ‘household types’ and 15 groups that create a 3 tier classification.                                                                                                  Adobe also have their own social media demographics tool Adobe SocialAnalytics. SocialAnalytics is part of the Adobe Marketing suite powered by Ominture. It uses customer insights to develop targeting strategies for new customers across hundreds of digital channels.

These are just 3 examples of the types of software available to help you identify your audiences. It’s important to remember that with any software like this, it’s likely that you will still miss out certain members of your potential target audience, like the earlier Facebook example. It’s beneficial to have degree of knowledge of the types of people that you think you need to communicate your message or product with before using one of these tools so that you can cross examine the results, a bit of a belt and braces method.

I’ll be honest the mention of socio-economic demographics doesn’t instantly inspire me to write a post, but audience identification is essential not just for a successful PR campaign but for a successful PR professional. If you can’t work out who you should be targeting your message to then your in the wrong profession! Although the tools out there can take most of the leg work out of segmenting your publics, it is always a good idea to check through the results and make sure that you have covered all of the publics you want to communicate your message with.