One of the fundamental principles of PR is to choose your audience wisely. Above the line marketing is all well and good if you have the budget for it and your product or service demands such an approach, but most companies need to target a specific audience to get the best returns. For this, you must plan – identify who your audience is and how they consume media, the content they will respond to and the channels they use.
Take, for example, this week’s grouse debate. Shooting won a notable victory over the issue, as it did with lead shot, and anyone who took the time to understand the points involved will know that the argument was won by fact. The rhetoric and lies of the antis were largely, and sensibly, ignored.
The debate was forced by more than 120,000 members of the public signing an online petition, but, despite such a significant number, very little of the PR campaign was dedicated to convincing the public to change their views of the issue.
This might appear odd at first glance, counter intuitive even, but there was a definite strategy underpinning it. Yes, the public do put pressure on politicians to reflect their views in Westminster – to represent the views of their constituents in Parliament is a major part of an MP’s role – but grouse shooting will never be an election-defining issue. As much as it is the job of a democratically elected government to carry out the will of the majority, it is also their job to protect the interests of minority groups, particularly those misunderstood and misrepresented by their opponents.
So sensibly, the pro-shooting communications efforts focused on the politicians who would be present at the debate, giving them the facts they needed to discuss the issue properly via campaigns such as BASC’s No More Myths because essentially, in recent weeks, that debate was the only show in town. It had to take priority. If it had a public component at all, it was in educating the shooting fraternity – those most likely to watch the videos and read the campaign literature – so they could evangelise to friends and acquaintances about the conservation benefits of the sport.
Clearly the campaign had the desired effect with the government rejecting all calls for a ban on grouse shooting. Of course, there are those who will say the result is a down to Tory MPs protecting their interests, and there is a modicum of truth in this, but all politicians do that. It just comes down what their particular interests are.
So, where next? If there is one thing we can be sure of, it is that the antis won’t quit. In the wake of the result, Mark Avery stated on his blog that grouse shooting is a ‘doomed hobby’. They will no doubt regroup and plan their next assault. Opposition to all country sports will never go away and with social media and general antipathy to the countryside and field sports from mainstream news broadcasters, the antis have the means to be more vociferous than ever and spread their deceit further.
So perhaps now is the time to turn the campaign’s attentions more towards the public as well as our elected representatives. Although few will be converted into exponents of the shooting, most people (I hope) still believe in the liberty of individuals to do what makes them happy. And that, coupled with the fact that the activity is carried out to produce food for the table, should resonate with many. Perhaps enough so that MPs come under less pressure to consider a ban in the future.
In the wake of the debate there is a much harder, longer job ahead – to secure the long-term future of grouse shooting and all other types of shooting, whether the opposition comes from animal rights extremists or the anti-gun lobby. That is the responsibility of everyone involved in the sport and must be fought on all fronts.
But for now, shooting can take comfort in having achieved a great victory by selecting the right audience to target in the right way at the right time. It is by following these principles that businesses of all types can derive best value from their PR too.