One of the main points taught to me repeatedly during my time at university is that there is no such thing as a general public. Yet this term continues to be used today to describe a large population of average people.
The term general public implies that we can lump a colossal group of people into a single category. From a communications point of view, if everyone is part of one big group, it should be easy to reach them all with our messaging. Sadly this isn’t the case.
Any credible PR firm or marketing agency will tell you that the general public is nonexistent. The concept falls apart if we look at this idea from a strategic thinking perspective.
In today’s media-saturated landscape, people get their news from a wide variety of sources, forming niches within the types of media and platforms with which they engage. Canadians, for example, still prefer to get their news from mainstream sources, but the effectiveness of each single mass media source is declining. Younger Canadians aged 18-34 prefer to get their information from official news pages on social media, such as Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, while older Canadians aged 55 and older prefer to get their news from a television broadcast. Therefore, two strategies are needed to communicate with these two different age demographics through the media.
Statistics Canada estimates that social media is frequently used by roughly 9 in 10 Canadians aged 15 to 34, 8 in 10 aged 35 to 49, and 6 in 10 aged 50 to 64. However, not all Canadians use the same platforms, meaning you won’t be able to reach everyone on a single social media app. Mass communication has become more complex than ever, thanks to the rise of the internet and the amount of choice we have in gathering information from news outlets on many different platforms.
At Focus Communications, we believe it is crucial to define your target market before engaging in any communications tactics. If you pause and reflect on whom you want to communicate with, you’ll realize there isn’t a single communication channel that reaches everyone.
Different audiences have preferences for various communication methods. Suppose you think of your audiences from a strategic marketing perspective, thinking about the other communication methods that exist and the likes of a population. In that case, the idea of a general public seems like a fairy tale.