We know what it’s like. You’re working on a project or issue. It’s exciting or important (possibly both!). And it’s SO tempting to launch straight into developing a product of your choice – maybe an event, poster, article, video or talk - without taking time to think about who you’re are aiming your work at and in what format those people would actually prefer to receive the information. In other words, how do you know they’ll be interested in what you’re presenting and how you’re presenting it? That’s why, when you’re planning any wide communication, campaign or engagement activity, it’s essential to just pause for a moment and consider who your ‘target audience’ is. But what is a target audience and why is it important?
In a nutshell, a target audience is a group of people that will have most interest in what you have to say – they’re the ones your project or the issue is most relevant to. People often tell us that they struggle to define their audience and they feel that what they have to say is relevant to everyone. But this simply isn’t effective and taking a one-size-fits-all approach to communication and engagement might ultimately fail to reach, or have an impact on, anyone!
The ‘public’ is a very big, diverse group – you can’t engage successfully with everyone and it's very unlikely that everyone needs or wants to hear what you have to say. Do preschoolers, people in care homes, or prisoners need to know? Will cinema-goers be as interested as train enthusiasts? Or tall, bearded male cyclists be more engaged than red-haired, violin-playing female chefs? You might laugh, but these examples illustrate that there are many, many ways to segment your audiences by their characteristics or interests.
Defining and segmenting target audiences can involve a variety of factors, depending on what you are trying to achieve. Who might be affected by a particular issue or who would particularly interested in it? Are there people who need to hear about the issue as they have the power to take action? Does your area of work or the issue mean that you are looking at a very niche audience? Or is it a much broader audience that is made up of several different target groups?
If you are targeting a range of different audiences, it’s important to prioritise. It's better to target one or two groups, perhaps those with the most influence or those that matter most to you, than try to reach multiple audiences with the same approach. Remember what we said – one size does not fit all! If you’re not sure who your target audience is, you might need to gather more insight. This could come from data or information held in reports, or from other people working on the same issue or with the same groups of people.
Once you’ve narrowed down who you want to reach, put yourself in the shoes of your target audiences and think carefully about:
Then you can think about what information they need and how it can best be presented. Some groups will want to be presented with lots of data in a written format, some might prefer a face-to-face interactive discussion, and others may respond best to bite-size infographics or podcasts. The options are endless! But by first considering who you are trying to reach, and why, you can choose the most appropriate content, style and approaches, tailored to their needs and preferences.
We know what you’re thinking - it sounds like quite a lot of work and effort! So, what’s the big deal? Why is it so important? The answer is simple: the more targeted you are with your activity, the more you maximise your chances of success. Identifying and understanding your target audience is essential for effective communication and engagement. Spending time researching your target audience is an investment that will really pay out. The more you put into it, the more likely it is to deliver the impact you’re aiming to achieve.
© Tangelo House 2020