Development Cooperation Handbook/Designing and Executing Projects/Communication Management/Communication Planning/Analyse the communication needs of each stakeholder/Tailor the Message to Each Audience

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Draft ! To be re-edited !

Tailor the Message to Each Audience[edit]

Different audiences require different message styles. You must learn how to tailor your message to the specific audience or audiences it is aimed at. Look at it the same way your advertising department does. They present a product in such a way as to get the attention of, and be understood by, the specific people or groups they want to reach. Take computers and software, for example. If you are looking for computers for your office and staff, you are probably looking for different capabilities than you are when you buy one for your own home and children. When manufacturers are aiming a computer advertisement campaign at teenagers the emphasis will probably be on its ability to play games or music instead of how well it handles the latest project/programme purpose software. Advertisements for a software program that allows you to digitize video and edit it on your computer will be different when aimed at teenagers or other home users than it will be when aimed at video production studios. Even when the message is the same for people of different ages, incomes, interests, races, occupations, and such, you still often have to say it in different ways to get noticed by all the sub-groups within the larger population. You might also have to use different language, especially jargon or slang, or examples to emphasize that portion of the complete message that is of most interest or urgency for the various sub-groups.

Target Audience Research[edit]

Tailoring the message requires audience research. This includes reviewing the information you already have about your audience or audiences, and possibly gathering more about whatever group you are trying to reach. This research should include an analysis of their levels of understanding about whatever it is you need them to be informed about, and any relevant physical, behavioral, demographic, and psychographic characteristics they might possess. Here are the basic questions that apply to all types of audience research.

You have to learn:

  • What the target audience already knows about your topic,
    What rumors, myths, and misinformation exist about the topic?
  • How audience members feel about the topic.
    What questions and information gaps exist?
  • This research also can also help you define any specific ethnic, cultural, and lifestyle preferences of your audience.

In conducting target audience research, the first task is to check existing sources of information. Some of this will very likely come from your own organizational records. These can include market share analysis, buying and spending patterns, and sale figures for specific models. Other information sources include library databases, government statistics, market research data, and results from polling organizations.

Here is a basic checklist of the sorts of information you might need about your target audience, the specific groups that you are trying to reach. All of this might not apply, and you might have some categories that are not covered here:

  • Age
  • Ethnicity
  • Marital status
  • Number of children
  • Gender
  • Income—individual and family, gross and disposable
  • Political affiliation
  • Education
  • Occupation
  • Residence—urban, suburban, rural
  • Hobbies and outside interests
  • How they normally look at or use your product or service, or those offered by your competitors
  • Cultural habits, preferences, and sensitivities related to your product
  • Barriers to changing their behavior or buying habits
  • Effective motivators, such as the benefits of change, fear of consequences, incentives, or social support, and so on.


Here are three of the most common ways of getting that information.

  1. Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practice Surveys measure knowledge, attitudes, and practices on a specific topic. They can be conducted by telephone, mail, or face-to-face with members of the target audience. Advantages: They provide highly targeted, directly relevant information; can provide estimates representative of the total population. Disadvantages: They require time, statistical expertise, and resources to conduct; need a mechanism for locating and reaching large numbers of your target audience.
  2. Focus Groups function with a facilitator, usually someone with something in common with the target audience, who conducts group discussions with 6 to 10 representatives of the target audience which can last one or two hours.
    Advantages: Requires fewer audience representatives than other research methods; helps explain why an audience feels or acts as they do; allows in-depth discussion of issues; faster and can be less expensive than surveys.
    Disadvantages: Findings cannot be projected to the population as a whole; are qualitative, rather than quantitative; require expertise in conducting, reporting, and applying results appropriately. Also, with this method you need to motivate members of your target audience to participate.
  3. Personal Interviews require someone to conduct individual interviews with members of the target audience so that attitudes and issues can be explored at length. These interviews often take place in those locations frequented by the target audience. Shopping malls are becoming more and more common as an interview location, especially for consumer-related issues. Schools are often used for students and teachers. Gymnasiums and physical fitness center are commonly used to talk to people about health issues. This is done to make the interviewees as comfortable as possible, to reduce the chances of their feeling threatened or manipulated, and to make them more likely to give truthful answers.
    These interviews may be arranged by appointment or conducted with people who agree on the spot to participate.
    · Advantages: Interviews often yield more in-depth information than focus groups, by allowing the interviewee and the person being interviewed to go into greater depth. Talking to a person one-on-one also reduces the chances that the person will just go along with whatever “the group” says, even if they don’t agree.
    · Disadvantages: It is much more time and labor intensive than focus groups. Unless you obtain a random sample, there are no guarantees that the people you choose to interview will provide an accurate and honest cross-section of opinion.

Five Phases of a Communication Plan[edit]

Once you know your audience, you have to develop a communication strategy just for them. A communication strategy is just another type of project/programme purpose plan. The focus here, of course, is to develop a plan to get an explicit message out to a specific constituency or constituencies, and much of the information you need comes from your audience analysis.

There are five separate phases of a communication strategy or plan.

  1. Preparation The plan must be based on a thorough analysis of the current situation, everyone involved in it—both directly and indirectly—and a clear picture of the objectives that you hope to achieve. One of the key questions that has to be answered is what does the audience—or audiences—you are dealing with already think about the issue?
  2. Planning You must also know which specific media outlets you will be using, and what their fees and production requirements are. Weekly or daily newspapers? Regional radio? National TV? An Internet site? Specific magazines? If you are going to use certain types of magazines, advertise on specific types of TV shows, or other “special interest” media, you have to make sure that your constituency reads, listens to, or watches them. You will need an understanding of the demographic appeal of all the various media you use.
  3. Production. Here is where you actually put it all together. If it’s a speech or a news release, it has to be written. TV commercials need actors, announcers, videographers, directors, and production crews so they can be shot, edited, and duplicated. No matter what message or messages you want to send, or how you want to send them, time and talent go into producing the finished product. This is also when you might need to make changes—sometimes major changes. A line of dialogue that looked so good on paper might not sound that good coming from the actor’s mouth. The logical argument that the team fought over and finally agreed on may not be that logical when you read it. The photograph that was supposed to capture the beauty and uniqueness of your new widget looks like exactly like every other picture of a widget that you have ever seen. When you finally have it written, edited, and produced, then it is time to test market it. You and your team may look at it and be impressed. The real test comes when you show it to others. Collect groups of people like those you are aiming at, bring them together, show it to them, and then ask for their feedback or comments. It is usually better to turn this phase of the operation over to someone who has not spent as much time and effort on it; someone who is not emotionally involved in or committed to it; someone who can be objective and dispassionate about the results.
  4. Action The messages are sent. You, your team, and any outside experts or talent that you may have hired have done everything that they can do. Now you wait until the messages are delivered, and then you give the message time to sink in. The amount of time this takes depends upon the message, the media, and the type of response you are looking for.
  5. Analysis and Assessment If you are trying to restore trust in a product, or introduce a new one, you will know how effective your message has been when the sales figures start coming in. If you are doing this among a specific constituency, you will have to institute a system to measures sales figures according to demographic criteria. If you are trying to change people’s attitudes or perceptions, build trust, increase brand recognition, or sway public opinion, it could take longer to find out if you have succeeded. Once again, polling and surveys might be used to determine if you have achieved your goals. Once you have measured the effectiveness of your campaign among whatever constituency or constituencies you were aiming at, it is time to decide if you are finished or if more work needs to be done. Do they have the complete message? Are there still misconceptions? Is there anything more that you would like to do or that you think you have a realistic chance of succeeding at? If not, then you are done. If there is something, start over and repeat the process.

Analyzing Your Personal Audience[edit]

As we saw in the previous section, audiences are not always “out there.” If you are making a presentation or a speech, for example, your audience will be the people in the room with you. Will they be fellow workers? Stockholders? Friends? Family? Strangers? Superiors? Subordinates? Outsiders? All of the above? Some combination? You also have to be aware of exactly when exactly you will be speaking. What is going on before and after? Will it be part of a normal project/programme purpose meeting? Will it be early in the morning when everyone is alert, or near closing when everyone just wants to go home? Will you be speaking just before lunch, when everyone is hungry, or just after, when everyone wants to take a nap? Will you be the only speaker? Will the mood and the crowd be formal or informal? For that matter, will the crowd be friendly or antagonistic? As you can see, audience analysis involves asking a number of specific questions about your audience. How you answer those questions will influence how you frame your message to your audience. This does not mean that you tell your audience only what they want to hear. Rather, it allows you to construct your presentation in a way that they will understand what you are trying to get across and be more willing to accept your point of view.

The next step in audience analysis is to define their expectations. What is their goal for being there? What specifically do they want to get out of your speech or presentation? A key question is: Are they open to new ideas? Next, you need to think about your audience’s disposition toward your topic. Are they interested in it? What do they know about it? What attitudes do they hold that might create resistance to proposals in your presentation? What ideas and examples might your audience identify with? Another aspect of audience analysis is to ask: What is their perception of you? Do they think you are interested in them? What do they believe you have in common with them? Do you speak the same “language,” including jargon? Do they see you as credible? Do they believe you are qualified to talk to them? Why do they think you are speaking to them? What do you and your audience have in common? How are you different? Is there any significant common ground existing between you and them that you can build upon? Are you viewed as having any special commitment to this subject or proposal? How will you demonstrate your commitment to the audience? Finally, ask yourself how your audience sees the occasion. Is your message consistent with what the audience expects on this occasion? Is your message appropriate for the occasion?


Tools[edit]

Swiss sknife.png Communication Plan
Swiss sknife.png Project Stakeholder Analysis
Swiss sknife.png Stakeholder Roles and Responsibilities
Swiss sknife.png Stallholders Responsibility Matrix
Swiss sknife.png Guideline: How team members can improve overall project communication
Swiss sknife.png How team members can improve overall project communication