Whenever I talk to a grassroots leader who says, “I’m trying to reach the general public” my first response is, “Well, that’s a large and nearly impossible task. Focusing on your key audience instead will save you substantial time, money and effort.”
There are plenty of multi-million dollar corporations with vast advertising budgets that don’t try to reach the “general public” — they focus on people shopping for their type of product. Political campaigns spend hundreds of millions of dollars each electoral cycle and don’t try to reach the “general public” — they target likely voters. It’s difficult, it’s expensive, and it’s near-impossible to try to reach a mythical, undetermined “general public.” Who should you be trying to reach instead? Your key audiences.
How to Focus on Your Key Audiences
There are several different questions you can ask to focus your communications on the most important people to reach.
Who are we organizing?
If you organize a particular constituency, your communications have to be specific to mobilize and connect you with this audience. Identifying them is just the first step, then you need to plan for how you will tailor your communications for them.
As you think about your communications with these individuals, it still comes down to answering these strategic questions:
What questions does this group of people have that we can answer?
When you think about the information your audience wants, you can also include thinking about how they want to receive the information and what they will do with it.
- People have questions about their rights when stopped by police. We can have a fact sheet about that we hand out while cavassing and at our general meetings, and a printable wallet card that people can carry around.
- People have questions about whether these new toys will make their kids sick. We can have pages on our website to tell them which toys are good and bad and why. When new toys come out, we’ll add the information to our site.
- People have questions about how a piece of legislation is moving or not moving through the legislature. We can send weekly email updates about legislation, and post updates on Twitter as well.
Is there a task they’re interested in doing that we can help them get done?
- Are they frustrated about how a decision-maker is acting — or not acting — on their issue? Do they want to tell this decision-maker what they think? Make it easy for them to give that person a piece of their mind by submitting an online message in less than two clicks.
- Do they want to get a letter to the editor published about an issue they care about? Send them talking points and a link to submit a letter to the paper’s editor.
As you ask and answer these questions, which are in essence, “How can I be useful and relevant to the people I organize?” you may find that you’re changing your outgoing communications. Although it may take more time at first, it can be a great thing.
Read more on why to focus on a key audience and how to think about them
- The Nonprofit Communicator: The General Public is Not Your Audience
- Nonprofit Marketing Guide: Know Your Audience
- SPIN Project : Identifying Your Target Audience (This is a PDF, so it might take a minute to load.)
Rather than trying to persuade some vast group of people that you can’t know very well (the “general public”), you can craft communications that are useful to the people you do know — your key audiences. You’ll find that people look forward to hearing from you!