Audiences and empathy.


This is an assignment I completed from PREL238. It is a reflective blog aimed at a professional audience. I enjoyed this assignment, it was fun tying my past experiences to the field of PR. The blog is also a showcase for proper search engine optimization.

Putting the Public in PR: reflections on what an audience is

One of the more interesting things about Public Relations is the way people fall into the profession. Like most members of the MacEwan PR diploma cohort, my educational background does not seem like a snug fit for professional communication. Before returning to university, I worked as a Social Worker. Every day was spent talking to people face to face and hearing their stories. At first, I did not think that this experience would apply to the realm of public relations (apparently, some think otherwise…). While taking PREL238, I began to understand that getting to know the audience that I am trying to communicate with deserves the same care and attention as someone you meet with face to face. The following blog is a summary of ways to provide the audience with the attention it deserves.

Who am I talking to: there’s a -graphic for that

In my old profession, we would learn about our clients using a tool called psychometrics. These are standardized questionnaires or semi-structured interviews administered by trained professionals who write a report summarizing the findings. Psychometrics measure many different things; they may look for personality disorders, cognitive functioning, or even levels of suicidal ideation. Public relations professionals also measure their public’s using tools like demographics, psychographics, geographic, benefit, and behaviour. The process of breaking down a larger public into smaller publics based on these measures is called segmentation. By applying these tools, we gain a stronger understanding of who our publics are and effective ways of communicating with them.

We are all impulsive: motivation influences our behaviour

My pre-public relations education was in psychology. One of the primary schools of thought is behaviourism. Behaviourism spends quite a bit of time trying to explain motivation and how our biological drives cause us to act in certain ways. It has been fascinating to learn about public relations take on different types of impulsiveness and how it drives motivation in social media. These impulses include affinity, which is driven by a desire for social capital, personal utility that asks, “what’s in it for me,” contact comfort,which creates a sense of belonging from being a part of a network, altruism that relies on people who want to do something good, curiosity which identifies some people seek new information, and validation, for those who want to be right.

Have Empathy: it’s not just for mental health professionals

One of the most important aspects of connecting with someone is being able to have empathy for their current situation. I was pleased to discover that the concept of empathy is used frequently in relations. Public relations professionals need to understand their publics on a deep level; they must understand what communication method will connect the audience to the message. If a public relations professional assumes that there is a “general public” that only requires a single platform/channel/message to communicate with, they are operating without empathy. We may not be able to understand our publics completely, but by putting in the effort and trying to understand their point of view, we will be able to communicate more effectively.

Don’t take my word for it: look around

Now that you are aware of the need to be empathetic towards your audiences, why not read about what I learned in Web Boot Camp?

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