Photo by Tyler Callahan on Unsplash
4 min Read
July 27, 2022

Five tips for an audience-first approach to communications

Building a deep understanding of your audiences is a foundational part of a compelling, effective brand and communications strategy. I wrote a blog a few months ago on four simple frameworks to prioritize your audiences—whether it’s using the primary vs. secondary, bullseye, spectrum, or matrix frameworks—hopefully you’ve unlocked some ideas and structures for defining your audiences in a meaningful way.

Now that you’ve identified and prioritized your audience groups, it’s time to translate these frameworks into decision-making tools for your organization and team. Just as a note before we get started: if you’re not sure of the answers to the following questions, this might signal that it’s time to employ some qualitative and quantitative research methods (like interviews, surveys, or focus groups) to investigate and understand your audience groups further.

Here are five tips for using your prioritized audiences to guide effective communications strategy at your organization.

Look at your bigger picture. Why is this audience group important for us to communicate to?

It’s important to understand how communicating to this audience fits into your greater goals and objectives as an organization, and also what communicating to this group will allow you to do in the future. Let’s say you’re an afterschool program. Is your main goal for communications to recruit more participants? Your audiences probably consist of caregivers, teachers, and the students themselves. Program volunteers might not be as important here.

Map out the role you play in your audience’s ecosphere. What do we hope this audience group will think or feel about us?

Take a moment to think about not only how communicating with this group serves your goals, but also why you are important to them.

Let’s say you are a nonprofit providing free healthcare to low-income families in your region. For your patients, you’re ideally a professional, thoughtful, and trusted resource in getting the care that they need. For other nonprofits in the area, you’re a key partner in reaching more families and children. For donors, you’re a reliable, honest partner to invest resources in to support their community. These are all different roles that you take on in your community in the eyes of various audience groups. Bonus: spend some time mapping out your organization’s ecosystem.

Examine interests and barriers. What motivates this audience group to engage with us? What prevents this audience group from engaging with us?

It’s important to understand why people engage with your organization, and also what is stopping them from getting more involved—if anything.

Let’s say you are part of an arts and culture nonprofit that provides free access to local arts and culture events and curates accessible, online content. For some, the main motivator might be free access; for others, the main motivator might be curated content because it makes it easy to find talented local artists. A barrier to entry could be a lack of content in their preferred language, or even that you don’t offer the genres of art they’re interested in. These are barriers you can acknowledge and overcome through communications to increase engagement and drive action. They can also generate new insights to share with your colleagues in other departments to inform changes to programming and more.

Map out their key touchpoints. Where does this audience engage with us today? Where could they engage with us in the future?

Understanding what channels your audience groups are already using or not using is crucial. Some folks may only receive information from you through direct mail and in-person events. For others, the best ways to reach them might be Twitter and Instagram. Knowing where each audience group’s key touchpoints are will help you make focused, informed decisions based on your team’s capacity and budget.

Think in terms of actions. What actions do we want this audience group to take?

Thinking about actions is part of asking what objectives each audience group is helping your organization fulfill. Volunteering, donating, attending events, signing up for petitions, sharing with their network—these are all kinds of actions audiences might take. By mapping these out, you’ll be able to create engaging content that drives engagement and specific action by members of your organization’s community.

Following these tips will help you develop an effective and targeted communications strategy that is driven by your goals and audiences. Good strategy is a necessary starting point to work off of as you begin to implement whatever might be coming next, whether that’s communications planning, developing messaging for your organization or a specific program, growing your team, or even pursuing a rebrand.

We at Big Duck love to think about deepening your understanding of audiences and using that to make decisions to inform branding, communications, fundraising, and more. If you’re looking for a partner to discuss further, drop us a line!