Know Your Audience

A successful campaign calls on the values and needs of its listeners. Who are we talking to? What are we asking of them? How do we connect with them?

Identify Your Target Audience

Any act of storytelling involves a two-way relationship between a storyteller and an audience. As we work on a narrative, it’s important that we’re clear on who our audience is. Are we trying to persuade urban millennials? Small business owners in your community? Farmers living in a rural village? Different types of stories will appeal to each group.

To determine your target audience, try some classic campaigning exercises such as those shared by our friends at 350.org (building a spectrum of allies or a power map) to figure out who you need to move to reach your goals.

At the same time, it’s important to balance short term campaign goals with longer term organizational or movement priorities. Either way, focus in on your target audience. Remember: If we try to speak to everyone, we won’t reach anyone on a deep level.

 

Exercise


Research Your Audience(s)

If you have access to market research on your target audience, that’s great! If you don’t, though, there are still many resources at your disposal. Government offices often release census information that can help you grasp the demographics of different communities, some design firms offer toolkits for gaining insights yourself, trade magazines can provide analysis of general trends in their industry, and there are many ways you can prototype and test what you’re learning. Alternatively you can simply try to speak to your target audience. Go out into the streets or call up some representatives of your audience and ask them questions. You’ll be surprised how much you learn, even from an informal exercise.

What’s important is that you have a solid understanding of who you’re talking to and why, what change they can make to your campaign, what matters to them and how they might be persuaded to join your campaign.

Things can get a little bit more complicated when you’re talking to several audiences at once. Maybe your campaign needs the help of both urban millennials and rural farmers. In such cases, create targeted storytelling for each group, if possible, but you should also look for points where the interests of each group overlap. Maybe they both worry about an unstable future or want to see their local communities thrive. Allow those common interests to guide your framing and maximize the appeal of your messaging.

Here’s a case study on how Greenpeace activists have used their knowledge of their audience to spread their ideas, and this exercise will help you better understand their success.

 

Exercise