Audience, Audience, Audience.

There’s a lot of work going on at the moment in the team, implementing a new strategy for our part of the organisations wider communications/engagement function. This is really exciting and interesting work that’s hopefully going to increase the value we add to the organisation.

For our communications activity, this means moving from a wide broadcast model where we keep our audiences informed to a targeted/strategic approach where we drive action and influence behavior.

To be able to effectively implement this change we’ve been learning more about our audiences, looking again at mapping, segmenting and profiling them.

How have we done this and what have we learned?

What’s valuable

In can be really tempting at the start of work like this to try and find out everything about your audience. What television do they watch every minute of the day, every Facebook like and Twitter follow etc.

But it’s worth thinking about what exactly you need to know to make your audience insight useful, to help us we kept a few things in mind throughout:

  • How is this work supporting the organisation’s strategy
  • How is this work supporting our business plan
  • How is this work supporting our team’s strategy
  • What’s the impact we want to see at the end of this work
  • What we want to tell our audience(s)
  • What they want to hear from us

We didn’t have all the answers

We already knew a lot about our audiences but when we put our insight down on paper there were still plenty of gaps. We didn’t have a big budget to commission research to fill these but what we did have was an opportunity to work with partner organisations that held other bits of insight. And like a jigsaw puzzle we were able to combine what we all knew into a richer, more detailed view of our audiences.

Also, just ask

But we also asked them, often the people with the most insight are your audiences themselves. We asked them how they want to be communicated with, do they prefer social media or email bulletins? Twitter or LinkedIn? Detail or brevity? There was an eager response to these questions, they don’t want poor communication!

Break them down…..

So based on all the insight we now had we went back to basics and asked who our audience is. Is who we currently think of as our audience(s) a coherent group who have the same interests, needs and preferences?

In some cases yes, but often we gained a lot by breaking them down into smaller groups and looking at their individual needs.

….To build them back up again

So now we had the level of detail to really target our communications, but we also need to use this insight to inform our approach to large reach communication. We looked across our audiences and brought together ones that shared channel use, or content preferences, or have the same kind of influence. And brought these audiences together into coherent and useful segments.

What does that give you

Now we’ve got a suite of audience profiles that sit at various levels of breadth and detail that give us and our colleagues at a glance information on:

  • The right channels for the areas we’re communicating about
  • The content types they need/want
  • Who influences them
  • what actions they take when communicated with
  • The right tone of voice to use

So, what next?

Well, we use them. They inform our communication strategies / plans, they help us target the right audiences, develop content that has an impact, design the right message that will drive action, and deliver information that influences behavior.

They give us credibility, demonstrate our expertise and deliver results.

But it also tells us what we might need to test, change and develop. We’ve started doing more on LinkedIn because it’s where our audience wants to engage, we’re developing a series of podcasts because our audience tells us they prefer audio to written information, we’re working more with partner organisations because they have more influence than us over some of our audiences.

And every new channel or approach we test will be evaluated and the insight it gives will go back into our audience profiles to make them richer, improving our work and delivering more value to the organisation


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