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Is Your Strategy "Built Tough"?

Posted At: September 19, 2012 2:33 P.M.
by Becca Bryant

Tuscaloosa Saturdays, built Ford tough.”

If you have had time to sit down to watch TV anytime within the last few years you have heard these familiar words from the University of Alabama head coach, Nick Saban. You may have also heard something extremely similar from Auburn coach, Gene Chizik or Georgia coach, Mark Richt.

I was watching the local news one night when Saban came on the screen promoting Ford. I heard the message and secretly thought, “Roll Tide to that.” Immediately after, Gene Chizik appeared reverberating the exact slogan catered to Auburn. I sat back, puzzled, and my PR mind began reeling.

As PR students, we learn the process of RPIE (research, planning, implementation, evaluation), which lays the groundwork for all strategies. A major foundation for the research portion is knowing your audience. You must understand your audience in order to tailor the specific message or idea to appeal to them in the most effective way. Did Ford take this into consideration?

Its main target was football fans, specifically in the SEC. Mission accomplished, but trying to reach them collectively may have caused issues. College football runs the South and rivalry is key. Regardless of the team you support, seeing your rival coach promote the same message as yours has potential to desensitize the message as a whole. Was this approach careless or strategic?

The majority of Southerners probably know the slogan well, despite which coach we heard it from. The overall goal is to make the idea or message memorable and Ford did just that. Football fans may know the slogan, but their attitude toward the message could make it insignificant. PR pros know that your target audience holds the power and can make or break the outcome of any strategy.

NYC PR Girls shared a blog, appropriately titled “PR 101: Knowing Your Audience.” In this article, they reveal the importance of discovering your target audience’s perspective. When practicing PR you must essentially become the consumer to understand how to best frame the message. Did Ford immerse itself in order to understand its target audience?

We can see Ford understood its primary audience enough to use the fans’ favorite people, the coaches. Understanding a Southern college football fan means understanding the immense impact of rivalry. What if Ford had represented all the coaches in the same commercial rather than segmenting them? This would have sent a unifying message rather than a contradictory one that fuels the rivalry.

Ford can teach us a fundamental PR lesson. Audience is crucial. You must understand their thoughts, attitudes, perspectives and actions. You have to know who you are centering your strategy around. Once you fully comprehend the needs and wants of the target, your message or idea can be “built tough.”

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