The PR recruitment lessons from the Apprentice: Episode three

I’m not going to lie, I was slightly concerned when I committed to writing a weekly reaction to the Apprentice and the relevant lessons in PR for recruitment firms, but the show seems to keep on giving! Indeed, before we were even half way into the latest episode, I had my top advice outlined and, had I been a gambling woman, I would’ve successfully bet on which team would lose.

PR Recruitment lessons: Know your audience

It might perhaps come as no surprise that my top PR tip for recruiters is to know your audience. The ultimate faux pas for the losing team was that they didn’t understand the target demographic. I’ll admit, the product was good. I liked the idea. I liked the look and feel of the toy. I even liked the packaging and admittedly would consider buying it. For my two-year-old.

And, as it became abundantly clear, this failure to grasp the wants, needs and desires of the target audience led to poor sales from the team. One of the retailers they were pitching too also apparently stated that, were they looking for a product for a younger demographic, they would have purchased Talking Tommy.

What really struck a nerve for me, however, was just how much the team insisted on suggesting it was aimed at six to eight year-olds, regardless of the evidence they were presented with. Now, as a mother of two boys, I can tell the contestants one thing that I hope they take away: if a child tells you they don’t like something, arguing is futile.

Never make an assumption

A slight aside here, but it’s a point that I am personally keen to pick up on, and that’s never assume something about your audience. In particular, don’t let stereotypes sway your messaging. Although at the end of the day they were the winning team, I can’t help but disagree with some of team slime’s actions.

Yes, slime is a popular kids toy at the moment (I should know, I’ve scraped the stuff off my floor more times than I care to admit!). But it doesn’t need to be incorporated in a unicorn toy to make it appealing to girls. In a similar vein, a unicorn can be liked by boys as well, so picking arguably feminine colours to attract a certain gender wasn’t the best approach.

The fact that the market research group of kids between six and eight years old demonstrated that this audience doesn’t like gender stereotyping says it all really. And therein lies the biggest mistake the winning team made which could have cost them their victory: they assumed they knew what their audience wanted and failed to listen to their customer voices.

The take-aways for PR for recruitment agencies

So, what can we learn from the errors in the latest episode of the Apprentice? First and foremost, in any PR and media relations activity, be very clear who your audience is, what type of content appeals to them and where to best engage with them. And remember to make any communication two-way. Yes, expert recruiters know their candidates and client markets inside out – if they don’t, they’ll suffer financially. BUT, that doesn’t mean that what we know today, won’t change tomorrow, so never assume you or your team knows best. Instead, keep any dialogues open and listen to what your audiences are saying.

Going back to the Apprentice, was the right person fired? I’d argue not. If the brief was to design a toy for a specific audience, then I’d suggest the individual who failed is the one who continuously pushed a product at an audience who simply isn’t interested in it and ignored any feedback (sorry Thomas, you’ve got an addictive personality and I’m sure Del Boy would love you, but this is business mate).

What did you think? Comment below.

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Author: Vickie Collinge

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