What Johnny Carson Taught Us About Public Relations

When Johnny Carson hosted the Tonight Show many years ago, he had a comedic routine where he played a divine mystic called Carnac the Magnificent, who has extraordinary mind powers. I’m hinting at my age here, but for me Carnac never failed to deliver side splitting laughter. No one can read minds. Right?

So what does Carnac have to do with public relations, you ask? First, no one can read other people’s minds. Second, knowing your audience and responding authentically is the key to a successful PR strategy. The success of the routine was in part the comedic brilliance of Carson but also his often hilarious responses to the audience when they display “negative” feedback of his jokes.

Quite simply, public relations is about relationships. You can’t have a relationship with a demographic. You need to start envisioning a person with whom you want to communicate about your product or service. The best way to do this is to picture your ideal customer.

Develop a Persona

A persona is a snapshot of an individual with whom you want to do business. A persona document includes demographic information such as age, education, career path, as well as family, hobbies, etc. Most important, a persona will show behavioral information, such as content consumption, path to purchase and pain points. These are the important factors that guide your strategy and how you will influence that person to decide or continue to do business with you.

Develop the Buyer Journey

Now that you have a solid picture of your target customer, you need to determine their path to purchase (or choice). This takes time, discussion and research. However, when you have a full understanding of emotive drivers, you know where your key opportunities are to build trust and loyalty.

Simply, you need to determine what steps your customer takes in their decision-making process. What do they do first? If it’s visiting your company’s website, then you need to spend time developing quality content that is purposeful and not just promotional. If your customer reads online reviews, then you need to ensure you are monitoring those reviews and taking the necessary steps to correct any customer service issues that arise.

Develop your Content Road Map

Once you have your audience persona and buyer’s journey documented, you have the tools necessary to start building a relationship with your audience. You do this by communicating with them in an authentic way that builds credibility for your company brand. This doesn’t mean you send email blasts with coupons or weekly promotions. In fact, a solid content strategy includes very little, if any, sales or promotional elements. The content you create needs to makes sense to that customer persona. It needs to answer questions, provide solutions and entertain and relate to that customer on a very real level. It also takes time. Trust and loyalty don’t grow overnight, so be prepared to commit to your content development for an extended period of time.

If you need more insight into audience engagement, you can simply search for Johnny Carson/Carnac skits. He was a master.