Reaching Diverse Audiences

Public relations practitioners can reach diverse publics by researching their culture and dimensions of diversity.

Dean Mundy (2016) found examples of using strategic communication to reach diverse publics, based on his review of research on diversity in public relations over a 15-year period. Some of his findings included understanding the diverse needs of individuals, understanding the power of telling individual stories, using new tools and technologies to reach the under-represented and marginalized, and reaching and mobilizing diverse publics while giving priority to them.
The following recent examples show how public relations practitioners used these four strategies.

Understanding the diverse needs of individuals

First, Cafe’ Bustelo, a 90-year-old coffee brand, wanted to reach its Latino target audience and expand its reach to a mass audience, “culturally open millennials,” according to a Public Relations Society of America 2019 case study. During a time when immigration was a hot-button issue, the cafe unified these two diverse groups through Latin music, food, and art to forge “authentic, cross-culture connections” (p. 1). The coffee brand showed that it understood the needs of millennials who, according to research, valued diversity regardless of their background or ethnicity.

Understanding the power of telling individual stories

Then, HP, a technology company, wanted to raise awareness of unconscious bias and stereotyping in hiring practices. As part of its Reinvest Mindsets campaign, the company used some verbatim comments from focus groups with employees and diverse community leaders to create a series of short films, according to a Public Relations Society of America 2019 case study. One of the films, titled “Proud Portraits,” shows lesbian and gay parents of various ages, races, and ethnicities enjoying life and placing their family photos on their desks. “We all know what family means, but what it looks like is unique to each of us …. and no matter what  … we should all be able to proudly show who they are whether at home or at the office.” These are examples of understanding the power of telling stories that reach diverse stakeholders while educating others.

Also, P&G, which sells personal care and home cleaning products, wanted to address racial bias in the United States. As part of its “My Black is Beautiful” campaign, P&G created a video titled “The Talk,” which features conversations Black parents have with their children. Some of the talks included a mother explaining that being told you’re “pretty for a Black girl,” is not a compliment. Other mothers ensured that their male and female teenagers carried IDs while hanging out or being pulled over while driving. This is another example of understanding the power of telling stories that reach a target audience but also raises awareness among other publics

Watch Videos
Proud Portraits
The Talk

Discussion Questions

  1. What other examples of tools and technology can you provide that show how public relations has been used to reach certain diverse audiences?
  2. What other examples of campaigns can you provide that told individual stories to reach its target audience?

Using new tools and technologies to reach the under-represented and marginalized

Next, the Los Angeles LGBT Center wanted to reach gay/bisexual men of color and transgender women to increase the number taking PrEP, a once-a-day HIV prevention pill, according to a 2018 Public Relations Society of America case study. PrEP stands for Pre-exposure prophylaxis. The center considered intersectionality by targeting men of color. As part of the campaign, “F*ck w/out Fear, PrEP Here,” the center ran an ad on major gay dating apps such as Grindr, Scruff, Hornet, and Jack’d with original, intimate photos of men and transgender women of color. Additionally, Fearless F*cker was used as a Grindr persona. This is an example of using new tools and technologies to reach under-represented and marginalized communities.

Reaching and mobilizing diverse publics while giving them priority

Finally, Color of Change (CoC) is an example of an organization that mobilized diverse publics by using technology such as cell phones. The online racial justice organization was founded in 2005 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to “move decision-makers in corporations and government to create a more human and less hostile world for Black people in America.” CoC uses texts and emails to mobilize members to call, write, or petition people in power.

Also, CoC gives its publics priority over the organization by providing them with tools and technologies to tackle injustices in their communities. CoC’s digital platform, Organize For (, trains grassroots activists on how to create digital campaigns and petitions. For example, a Black mental health advocate at a youth center used Organize For to create a #nonewSFjail petition that stopped a facility from being built in her San Francisco community, according to CoC. As a result, her petition kept Black people from being unfairly incarcerated for profit, CoC suggested.

CoC experienced a major victory in 2011 when it forced major corporations to leave the American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization accused of suppressing the Black vote. Those corporations included Walmart, Coca-Cola, and AT&T, according to the Associated Press.

Today, amid worldwide protests demanding racial justice, CoC is using its platform to mobile its members to fight for unarmed Black victims murdered by police. For example, CoC partnered with Black Lives Matter Louisville (Kentucky) to launch a campaign, #justiceforBre, on behalf of Breonna Taylor, 26, an emergency medical technician who was fatally shot March 13, 2020, more than eight times in her home while she slept in her bed.

Three officers with the Louisville Metro Police Department had executed a no-knock warrant, did not have a search warrant, and were at the wrong house, according to CoC. At the end of June 2020, the petition to get the officers fired and charged had reached 97% of its goal to secure 1.3 million signatures. On Juneteenth, June 19, 2020, one of the officers was fired. Eight days earlier, city officials voted to ban no-knock warrants.

Next Page: Making the Business Case for Diversity