Do you ever have conversations internally about who it is you’re trying to reach with key messaging, only for someone to say that your target audience is “the public”?
How do you respond to this?
After all, there is no such thing as the general public. The information wants of young parents are different to those of retirees, just what a healthcare professional needs to know is different to that of the person they are caring for.
Effective communications means understanding who your niche audience is. Only then will you be able to speak with them in a way that is appropriate, relevant and useful.
Questions you might ask to allow you to define who that audience is include:
- What is it you want your audience to do?
- Are they young or old, male or female, rich or poor?
- Where do they live and what do they do for a living?
- How knowledgeable are they about your cause?
- Are they looking for power and status, excitement and adventure, or an opportunity to enhance their skills and expertise? Are they time poor?
It may seem easier not to bother establishing defined target audiences, but this is a false economy. It is impossible to speak to everyone equally and in the same manner. Failure to define target audiences will result in wasted time, energy and resources, and a diluting of messages that will ultimately not resonate with anyone.
For example, if you are only concerned with raising the profile of your charity among ministers or industry leaders then you needn’t bother targeting women’s lifestyle magazines. Equally, if you only operate within a particular region of the country then your priority is likely to be on building relationships with your local media rather than focusing on the national press.
Once you have defined your target audience, you then need to know as much about them as possible. What they think, what motivates them, which websites they visit, which newspapers they read and how active they are in social media, etc. At its most basic level, this means using common sense and some desk-based research. More thorough and therefore more accurate audience research would involve polls and surveys, focus groups and paid-for data from research companies such as YouGov, Ipsos Mori, Kantar and others.
We think a really good example of knowing your audience comes from Macmillan Cancer Research whose fundraising for World’s Biggest Coffee Morning went through the roof after it changed its communications to focus not on what women over 45 could do for it, but what the charity could do for them.
Or another example would be the This Girl Can campaign. Its focus on audience research provided valuable insight that influenced the direction of the campaign. For example, the campaign team discovered that many mums would like to exercise but the fear of being judged for putting themselves first is a barrier. It’s understanding of the barriers to exercise that women face meant it was able to challenge attitudes and inspire more women to get moving, regardless of shape, size and ability. In 2016, the campaign reported an increase of 1.65m more women exercising since London secured the rights to host the Olympic Games – a figure which has increased further since.
We’d love to know about more great examples of really excellent audience profiling and the impact it has had on your communications, as well as ideas for sharing information about the nuances of your audience with colleagues. Get in touch or share your thoughts on our Facebook Page.
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This blog is a rework of one that was originally posted on Charity Connect