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Public Communication: Definitions & Techniques

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  • 0:00 Reaching the Public(s)
  • 0:55 Public or Publics
  • 2:04 Public Relations
  • 2:45 Communication Techniques
  • 4:25 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Whether you're communicating with the public or your public, understanding the difference is imperative to structuring your message and disseminating it. In this lesson, you'll learn more about the different types of public communications.

Reaching The Public(s)

If you want to convey a message to a group of Girl Scouts, would you start at a Boy Scouts meeting? If you want to spread the word to church attendees, would you do so at a Friday night karaoke event at a local nightclub? Of course not!

Understanding what group of people you are trying to reach is paramount to conveying your message as well as figuring out the best way to reach them. This brings up the issue of public communication.

Public communication is the tool or method we use to disperse our thoughts and ideas to a particular group. You're familiar with a lot of these approaches: a newspaper article, a billboard you spot driving down the freeway, even a public speaking event before a large group of people. But, are you familiar with the difference between the term 'public' and the word 'publics?' One tiny letter can change the entire meaning of the word, as well as the way you disseminate your message. Let's explore each.

Public or Publics

For most of us, we're familiar with the term public, or the general collection of all people to whom we can address a message. Coca-Cola, for example, addresses its marketing and messaging campaigns to the general public because they are promoting a well-known and widely-used product applicable to all people.

On the flip side, you may be unfamiliar with the term 'publics' as it relates to communicating a message. Publics refers to a particular group of people who are the intended audience of a message, a distinction from the general public. They may be grouped as a public because they are presented with a similar situation or have mutual concerns. They are identifiable as a unit, alike in some way, or grouped based on certain characteristics.

For example, the American Diabetes Association may identify their public as individuals afflicted with that illness, or, more specifically, they may categorize their publics separately: individuals with type 1 diabetes versus individuals with type 2 diabetes. The American Diabetes Association recognizes that their messaging is not intended for the general public at large; rather, it is targeted toward a defined group of individual people.

Public Relations

For public relations practitioners, who bear the word 'public' right in their name, understanding the distinction between the public and their publics is an important one. A message built for the general public will not be presented nor delivered in the same way it may be approached with a particular public.

Public relations is 'a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics,' according to the Public Relations Society of America. There are many publics, as well as the general public, that businesses small and large alike might want to reach: customers, suppliers, employees, investors and community members, to name a few.

Communication Techniques

Depending on the type of information release and the audience, there are myriad choices for reaching either the general public or a very specific audience with your message. Let's examine some of the choices.

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