Playing to Your Audience

In any kind of communications planning there’s one universal truth: it’s always about the audience. Wherever you work and whatever your public environment, audiences should be the gravitational pull that guides your communications directions, messages and tactics.

As you’re identifying key audiences, remember that a strategy requires focussing on the best use of finite resources. Because it’s impossible to communicate with relevance and resonance to everyone, you’ll need to choose your primary and secondary audiences carefully, based on the research and analysis you’ve done in your preparation and early planning stages.

Different types of audiences will have different potential roles in your strategy: some will be both targets for information and also intermediaries for conveying your message to others. The media, for example, is often an important audience—but you’ll be focussing on informing or influencing them as conduits to the general public.

Here are two useful concepts for thinking through your audience definition:

  • Segmentation enables you to divide large audiences into meaningful sub-sections. (For example, ‘government’ might be segmented as federal, provincial and municipal governments.) This dividing-up exercise will help focus your messaging and tactics, which can then be customized for these various audience sections.
  • Aggregation, conversely, is about clustering similar audience types together to keep things simple. For instance, if you’re communicating about public health and have limited resources to work with, it may not be realistic to have a different message and customized communication tactic for doctors, nurses, pharmacists, chiropractors, massage therapists and physiotherapists. In this case, you can aggregate them into the two groups of ‘health professionals’ and ‘allied health professionals’, and shape your messaging and tactics accordingly.

So put them together and take them apart as your resources, circumstances and strategy dictate—but whatever you do, keep audiences front and centre in your communications planning.