Target Audiences

Many organizations have a developed sense of their target audiences and approach communications with these audiences in mind. Most organizations interviewed understood the concept of targeting audiences and did, indeed, indicate one or more defined segments of the population where they focus communications efforts. Very few interviewees described their audience as “the general public,”—a signal that the organization is not targeting its communications efforts. Those who did reference the general public clarified that, in reality, they focused on a specific audience segment.

Some interviewees reported conducting or consulting formal audience research. Many based their understanding of audiences on anecdotal experiences and one-on-one conversations. Many also described some form of customization—choosing particular communications vehicles and tailoring messages to suit various target audiences.

Many interview subjects identified training content on target audiences as highly valuable.


Targeting audiences and tailoring communications

Based on the audience, we will tweak the updates we provide and change the call to action.

Usually, we tailor by virtue of the channels we use to send messages out.

We are a lot more scientific and evidenced-based in communications to our members [versus other audiences]. And when we write something, we think about who our audience is and what we need them to know.

We think about key [audiences] and their staffs. But there is no influence map, no real targeting. It’s more like, let’s disseminate this to as many people as we can and see what happens. (Outlier)

We are behind the curve where media is concerned. I think we’re stuck 10 years ago, still thinking about the New York Times and Washington Post. We are not moving with grace into the new era.

Audience research

Our marketing research helped us understand which audiences we should focus on. We thought that we should be focusing on _____. We thought that they were a shoe-in. Our research told us the opposite and that we should increase our focus on _____ and _____.

Formally, we do surveys and focus groups. We also have a lot of data because of social networking and social media… responses to our website. And, our staff interacts with members.

We do surveys and interviews and advisory groups, meetings where we beta test products, usability labs. In our plans are more uses of social media.

[Our understanding of audiences] is informed by a series of one-on-one conversations we have on a regular basis.

I use… briefings on the polls that members read on the right words to use [with our target audiences]. As a team, I think we also rely on the past experience of our [particular program] staff. We depend on their instincts and we don’t double check.

Generally, we don’t have the luxury of [conducting audience research]. This research would add value, particularly with regard to making decisions about particular messages. We do, however, stay on top of polling in our region. Though not all of it applies directly to us, we can make some generalizations.

We do research on individuals before contacting them to warm up the communication with them.

We don’t do things that aren’t vetted by our audiences… we ask and we tailor.

Training influence

The whole idea that you have to… put yourself into the shoes of your key audience members, think about how your message will be received by them and how you can tailor it to be better… Training sharpened our focus on this and helped me develop some real skills.

Thinking about [audience members] more as customers… bringing it back to what we care about… Not being supply driven. I [also] learned more about working on a targeted message—not the same one for everybody. That has been super useful.

I’ve sat with program people here and asked them who they think our target audience is, and they say the general public. And at training, we learned that’s not feasible or effective. We have to target.

I think we knew this stuff [about audiences]. Maybe [training] was a reinforcement.

Segmentation of audiences stuck with me. (executive leader)

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