Considering Publics in Your Public Relations

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August 3, 2015
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I was excited to see that Sam Ford of Peppercomm was on the agenda as a keynote speaker at the #PRSASunshine District conference a couple weeks ago.  He and I had made a connection about a year ago as a result of his work on the role of PR professionals and Wikipedia and I welcomed the chance to meet him in person.

His talk centered on the idea that most of us create campaigns with an “audience” in mind. He thinks we should focus on the “public.” So what’s the difference? His theory is an audience is created in response to a message or action.   But a public will exist with or without the message or action.  And that’s really what, as PR practitioners, we should be more concerned with.

We need to have a more holistic view of who we are trying to reach, how do we engage on their terms and really understand that engagement and participation.  Why do people participate or engage with a brand?  Sam says we do it to increase our individual notoriety, strengthen our social ties and to further define ourselves.  Think about that next time you are reading posts on Twitter and make a decision to RT something – I bet part of the reason you will is one of those three reasons.

As people crafting these messages and actions for our clients and organizations, he reminds us to remember these cornerstones:

  • Transparency
  • Disclosure
  • Honesty
  • Authenticity
  • Privacy
  • Respect of labor – this was the one I hadn’t given much thought to. We need to realize what we expect our publics to do for us and honor that action on our behalf.

An interesting side note, Sam went off topic and mentioned that he had edited The Survival of Soap Opera, a book on soap operas.  I about jumped out of my chair - my master’s paper was on soap operas! Another reason to like him!


Abbie S. Fink
Abbie S. Fink
Vice President/General Manager Abbie has been doing public relations her whole life…from organizing a picket line in 6th grade to organizing client communications today. She’s passionate about a lot of things, you’ll see. Check out Abbie's full bio

1 Comment

  1. Martha Gaston says:

    Thanks for this recap! I’m the one who first sought out Sam Ford and invited him to our conference. Alas, I had to move away for work and didn’t get the opportunity to hear him speak! I’m sure it was great, and I appreciate the glimpse into his presentation.

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