Bureau Blank

Ideas + Execution

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Target Audience

Why you need a target audience

At Bureau Blank, we realize the importance of targeting your audience. We help all of our GAIN clients  with this fundamental approach – to see our results, check out our work with NYC’s Department of Consumer Affairs and Living Cities. In my experience, audience targeting is literally the make-or-break factor in how successful your action-centered campaign will be.

We work with clients in the GAIN sector because, like them, our mission is to help improve everyday lives. Whether that’s through development of new public policy, exciting new research that can inform changemakers or reforms in infrastructure or education, we are here to support their mission-driven work. Those commitments - in purpose and practice - are a big part of what made me want to join this team. However, when working with GAIN clients, like a government agency, we often receive requests for campaigns that apply to “everyone” rather than a specific target audience. It may seem counter-intuitive to narrow your audience, but overall, that leads to more effective outreach that prompts people to take action.

Targeting your audience begins with two key questions: Who are you trying to reach with your news, content or innovative online tool? And what do you want them to do?

If your answer is along the generic lines of “everyone”, “adults”, “parents”, or “workers”, I have bad news. No matter how fantastic, your content is probably not going to move as many people as you want to take action.

Here’s why. Imagine your boss, your best friend, and your grandmother asking how your weekend went. You might share different stories with each of those people, right? Even if subconsciously, you tailor your story to fit your audience. Your boss and colleagues hear a quick, “fine” and mention of a great show you saw. You tell Grandma how great it was to catch up on Saturday with your college friends. In other words, you frame your story for your listener, in order to elicit a specific, positive reaction.

Effective content marketing works the same way.

To figure out who they’re speaking with, marketers and content strategists typically create audience personas. We construct characters who represent likely, desired consumers of our content and draw a picture of their lifestyle right down to their Starbucks order.

We ask any number of questions to get that picture. What are their greatest concerns? What would make their lives easier? What annoys them? How and where do they get their news? What’s their demographic?

Here’s why. A 40-year-old mother of two and a 24-year-old single man will answer questions differently. Those specific answers will inform our strategy to create content tailor-made to effectively reach them to prompt a desired action.

To craft a persona, you need a mix of research, imagination and, ideally, interviews with some members of your target audience. After you’ve gathered information, you can create compelling content that honestly reflects your mission and goal. That content has a much greater shot at getting your audience to actually take action. It’s about using a narrower focus to yield a greater, more engaged overall result.

This all sounds simple; maybe it’s even common sense. But it can be particularly challenging to execute for groups in the GAIN sector, since many work with abstract concepts or mounds of raw data. That’s tough stuff to make enticing! On top of that, no one wants to miss out on any possible supporters, donors or partnerships. In fact, many answer the “who is your audience?” question with “everyone”. And I’m sympathetic to their likely reasoning. Why would you do anything that seems to limit your reach?

I encourage you to make the leap and target your audience if your goal is really to get as many people as you can to participate in your new program or engage in a new behavior (such as composting or using a city agency). We’d be happy to help you think this through - we want to see everyone in the GAIN sector succeed!

What challenges have you faced in targeting your audiences? What successes can you share after you made the leap? Share your experiences with us @BureauBlank!


Photo: “The Nitty Gritty Rather Pretty....” by Devin Smith via Flickr.

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