2pac-6One of 2Pac’s most popular songs as a recording artist came in 1996 when he collaborated with singing duo K-Ci & JoJo to release, “How Do U Want It?”  It’s the same question public relations professionals have to ask when crafting messages to their “publics,” also known as stakeholders.  This was discussed last night in professor Bill Jasso’s weekly PRL600 course, when he provided methods to distinguish publics.

When we as PR professionals plan to communicate with certain publics, they become a priority public, or the focal point for our efforts. However, what may work for one group of priority publics may not work for other. That’s why, Jasso said, we can segment our priority publics through three layers:

  1. Nominative – At this level, publics are segmented based on the titles they hold. For an organization, these segments likely include stockholders, community residents and employees. For 2Pac and his record label, his nominative publics were his producers, label mates and listeners of his music.
  2. Demographics – From the nominative level, publics are then segmented based on traits like race, gender and education. For example, there are immediate differences between a 35-year-old black community resident, and a 65-year-old Caucasian community resident. As an artist, 2Pac intended to make his music for people who shared his same demographic background – black people in the United States of almost all ages with little-to-no education.
  3. Psychographics – This is where PR professionals make their living: in their ability to understand their priority publics’ interests, attitudes, beliefs and behavior. Using the same example, if you now have two age 35 black community residents, you probably wouldn’t communicate the same message to one with a six-figure income as you would to another earning minimum wage. In this case, the communications professional has to be able to come up with messages that speak to both of these community residents. In the case of 2Pac, however, his music impacted listeners because they were able to relate to him on an attitudinal and behavioral level.

In a perfect world, PR professionals would be able to communicate the same message to multiple priority publics and be appreciated for their work like 2Pac was. Unfortunately, that’s not the case and we have to put in the extra work for our message to be understood. It’s a challenge that seems daunting, but can also be rewarding at the same time.

The other day I was talking with my players as we were getting ready for a game. Well aware that I wouldn’t be able to stay for the full season this year they asked me a few questions about my future plans. A question about grad school came up and it went something like this:

Player: “So coach, you already have your Bachelors?”
Me: “Yep.”
Player: “So what are you getting your Master’s in?”
Me: “Public relations.”

 *Assistant coach busts out in laughter*

Player: “What is that?”
Me: “I’m basically learning how to make people look good.”
Player: “You mean like makeup?”

Obviously this wasn’t what I wanted my players to think I was leaving them for. So I had to ramble off a few different analogies to better explain myself. Granted, these are 11- and 12-year-olds that I coach from the inner-city, so rattling off textbook definitions wasn’t going to work here. And while I eventually settled on a definition that they could understand, the question really had me thinking on a different topic.

How would you define PR in 12-year-old terms?