Saturday, January 21, 2012

Crisis Management Case Study: Importance of Identifying the Ultimate Target Audience in Your Message

Panerai Boutique's Ex-Manager Allegedly Absconds with $109k of Client's Money

The Straits Times reported on 19 January 2012 that a former manager of a luxury watch boutique  has gone missing with at least $109,000.  The amount is believed to be payment for watches that have up to now not been delivered.  In the article, Panerai South-East Asia responded that they “intended to honour their commitment to their customers” and that their “key priority is to take care of affected customers to ensure that their client's rights and benefits are well preserved and protected at all times.”  

As a crisis communicator, I am impressed with Panerai South-East Asia's response.  This is because Panerai South-East Asia could have easily shirked responsibility and claimed that as the transactions did not take place in its premises, or that the cheque was not made out to Panerai then it was a private matter.

Panerai's response is an indication of their understanding that there are generally 4 target audiences in any message and the importance of selecting the correct one.  (For a detailed explanation, please go to my earlier blog posting).

In this instance, the apparent target audience are purchasers of Panerai watches i.e. the end-consumer.  However, if you look a bit deeper, you will realize that end-consumers are unlikely to buy directly from the Panerai South-East Asia but more likely from one of many authorized dealers.  Hence, for the end-consumer, it is rare that payment will be made without delivery of goods.  Thus, in this instance, Panerai South-East Asia's message, is not meant for the end-consumer (the apparent target audience), but their authorized dealers who are in effect the Ultimate Target Audience.  In this instance, there are no intermediate or unintended target audience.  

I highlight this as a case study because I strongly believe that themes and messages delivered in a crisis must target the ultimate target audience to be effective.  In this scenario, if Panerai South-East Asia had wrongly identified the ultimate target audience as the end-consumer, then a very different message would likely have been developed and used.  In the situation where the end-consumer was identified as the ultimate target audience, Panerai South-East Asia might have developed messages to reassure end-consumer of the measures in place to safe-guard their buying experience.  Such a message delivered, would be ineffective in addressing the issues/ concerns of the key stakeholder – the authorized dealers.

In summary, in a crisis, the PR professional must clearly define who the Ultimate Target Audience is.  Only then can an effective crisis response strategy be developed and implemented.

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