Election 2012: Knowing Your Target Audience a Lesson Learned for Romney

In the 2012 presidential campaign, the attempt has been to focus on the issues impacting this country.

The economy, jobs, health care and foreign affairs, among others, have been discussed, campaigned about and debated back and forth between President Obama and Governor Romney as the November election is fast approaching.

Despite the attempted focus, and in part due to the increased role of social media throughout the process this year, it seems the sideshow “events” that have occurred throughout the campaign have overshadowed the actual “main” issues.

In the first presidential debate, Romney’s threat to fire Big Bird took on a life of its own on social media and faux Twitter accounts were created and memes popped up at rapid pace poking fun at the perceived demise of the popular Sesame Street character.

On Tuesday, Oct. 16 during the second debate, Romney’s “binders full of women” comment immediately became the joke of the night and, like Big Bird, took off on social media.

However, in this case, it was no laughing matter. Women’s issues have been a key topic for both candidates and with the vote of women essential to determining who comes out on top in a few weeks, it became serious quick.

Predictably, President Obama responded the following day on the campaign trail saying: "We don't have to collect a bunch of binders to find qualified, talented women.”

According to a report by Laura Petrecca of USA Today, Terry O'Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, found Romney's tone off-putting. The U.S. doesn't need the résumés of capable women gathered in a binder, but instead needs better legislation on topics such as equal pay, said O'Neill, who designates herself a "flaming lefty."

From a PR perspective, knowing your target audience is extremely important to the success or failure of any campaign. Think of Governor Romney as your client and women as the key demographic you’re trying to sell your product to. A perceived insulting remark could damage your credibility with that target audience and find you in damage control mode.

“You have to go out of your way to fix it,” says Sarah Evans, owner of Sevans Strategy, a public relations and new media consultancy. “If it’s really affecting his numbers, they may want to think of a full marketing campaign add online.”

Evans emphasized the point that if the Romney team does counter with online ads aimed at women, they have to go where that audience and create hashtags and other online strategies that are specific to what women like.

Your message can sound good and have a great presentation, but if you’re not successful in reaching the audience in which it’s intended, it’s all for naught.

Follow Jamar Hudson: @jamarhudson