Students are introduced to the importance of target publics to strategic organisational communication, and why publics are different from stakeholders and need to be segmented to ensure messages are appropriate. It stresses that target publics are people who hold different views about issues and who access information in different ways.

This leads to considerations of organisational relationships with its stakeholder groups and its segmented target publics and how, in given situations, an organisation might need to communicate with them in different ways.

An In Theory panel covers the importance of practitioners understanding target public characteristics. This is vital when working out whether publics are primary, secondary or tertiary (or intervening) publics, and the chapter explains the defined roles of these categories. This includes two cautions: one, that journalists are rarely primary publics but play an intervening role in strategic communication and, two, that the “general public” is not a suitable definition of people who have relationships with an organisation.

Students should use the chapter to recognise the central role of target publics in communication strategies and thus understand the need to accurately segment publics. This is important because different categories of target publics have specific information needs, and ways of accessing that information, that a strategic communication plan must address.