How do governments select their public diplomacy targets? Officials can shake hands with important allies’ presidents, they can honour writers from far-away states, or they can visit slums to meet victims of violence. This article proposes a conceptual typology of strategic publics based on two dimensions: the strategic importance of the represented polity; and the individual’s power position. The variables are parallel to universal psychological dimensions of social cognition — that is, warmth and competence — and they are combined with diplomatic theories revolving around the primacy of representation. Six ideal types of strategic publics are defined and exemplified. The typology integrates governmental and non-governmental, foreign and domestic, and elite and non-elite publics. In addition, the article proposes a three-level heuristic device that facilitates the analysis of cases with multiple publics. The proposed analytical tools seek to stimulate future efforts to refine conceptualizations of strategic publics.