Trap Shooting and the Art of Communication

While ostensibly “tidying up” my hard drive over the weekend, I came across an article I wrote for CEO Excellence magazine last year on trap shooting as an analogy for international public relations.

Essentially, I suggested that PR was similar to trap (clay pigeon or skeet) shooting in that the tools of PR and corporate communications break down into three main categories – the message, the target and the medium or message delivery vehicle – which equate in my shooting analogy to the shotgun cartridge, the clay and the shotgun.

This in turn leads to five basic rules of international communications for Korean multinationals.

  1. Know your audience – You wouldn’t try to shoot a skeet in the same way that you would shoot a paper target. You need to know what the target is and how it behaves before you decide how you are going to shoot it. Likewise in corporate communications you need to research your audience before you start developing messages or media strategies. PR practitioners who are not tied in with the marketing department are going to find it more difficult to develop compelling communications than those that have a lot of information about the people they are trying to reach.
  2. Use the right message for the audience – You don’t do very well in trap shooting if you use a .22 caliber rifle. You’ll be even less successful if try and load a rifle round into a shotgun, or a shotgun cartridge into a rifle. Yet many companies, when they begin communicating with overseas audiences, are trying to do something similar. You should be selecting a message that is suited to your audience. In international communications this is especially important – Korean messages will not necessarily resonate with an American audience any more than American messages will resonate with a Korean one. Translating is not enough – you need to tailor the message.
  3. Define your desired outcome – If your aim is to punch a single hole in a paper target to register a score, then a shotgun cartridge – no matter how accurate your shooting – is not going to get the job done. It is important to understand what you are trying to achieve before you select the tool for the job. In communications we may have any number of objectives – increased revenue, access to new market segments, membership of influential thought leadership panels – anything that has a positive impact on the business. You need to understand what you are aiming to do before you start deciding how you are going to do it.
  4. Understand your media – In the world of shooting there are many different guns you can use – different caliber, different action, different manufacturer – each with its own characteristics. Likewise in communications you have a number of delivery vehicles you might choose – not all of them media-based. You might be targeting trade media via feature article placements, news wires via press releases, individual opinion leaders via face-to-face meetings or, more likely, a combination of these. At all times the important question to ask is “Is this the optimal way to deliver my message to my target audience and get the result I want?” Otherwise you are effectively physically throwing rifle rounds at the clay – wrong message, wrong medium and highly unlikely to even strike the target, let alone have any effect.
  5. Set measurable goals and measure them – Use research to gauge the impact your communications is having on your audience, correlate your communications to business results and be prepared to alter your approach if you are not getting the results you require. Don’t confuse media clips with success. Amassing a pile of newspaper clippings is rather like collecting buckets full of shot – the result of your efforts is very heavy but ultimately meaningless in terms of achieving your goal. Shot is only useful if it has been delivered to and destroyed a clay. Media clips are only valuable if they have been delivered to and had an impact on a target audience.

The article was originally written for Korean companies communicating outside Korea, but it holds equally true for international companies communicating in Korea. We very often find ourselves falling into the “Fire, Ready, Aim!” approach to communicating rather than thinking about how we are going deliver a clearly defined message to a clearly defined audience via the most effective medium.

At the end of the day, it’s all about getting lead – or ink – on target. Planning and preparation to make that happen are going to win results every time over indiscriminately firing out volume releases.

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2 Responses to Trap Shooting and the Art of Communication

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