Communications Tips for Reaching a Diverse Audience

Co-Author: Allison Gross

When you have a diverse primary audience for a strategic communications campaign, members of the group likely will have different needs for how they receive information. People obtain and retain information in a number of ways, and your strategies and tactics should align with your audience’s preferences. Reaching everyone in your audience is even more important during times of crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic we are experiencing right now. During a public health emergency, your organization may be responsible for conveying vital information to millions of people whose health and safety depend on it.

In Vanguard’s work with a Medicaid managed care organization to support the District of Columbia Department of Health, we reach individuals from multiple demographics. We support the organization’s efforts to educate D.C. Medicaid enrollees about health and wellness initiatives, which requires us to use a multifaceted approach with respect to the audiences we need to reach. Using our experience with health communications campaigns, we compiled tips for launching a campaign to reach a diverse audience.

  1. Use a variety of communications channels.

You need to engage multiple channels to reach your audience, because everyone absorbs information differently. Social media, direct mail, email, phone, text, radio, print advertisements, billboards, fax (yes, people still use fax machines!) — your audience probably uses a combination of these channels, especially if your campaign aims to reach people from a range of age groups. If the young adults in your audience don’t answer calls from unknown phone numbers and the older adults in your audience don’t use Instagram Stories, you may need to use both channels to reach everyone.

  1. Develop content for each audience.

Our work with the Medicaid managed care organization mentioned above is dedicated to reaching providers as well as Medicaid enrollees, which requires us to tailor content appropriately. When you understand your audience, you can create a content strategy just for them. In addition to adjusting your language, it’s important to shift your perspective and speak to each audience’s priorities. For example, content for enrollees may focus on convenience or accessibility, while content for providers may emphasize efficiency.

Team members who are responsible for different content strategies should coordinate with each other to ensure your audience isn’t overloaded with content and that your communications align with your campaign goals.

Finally, your content should be inclusive and representative. Know the specific needs of your audience, and make sure these needs are reflected in your communications and materials.

  1. Cultivate strategic partnerships while keeping target audiences in mind.

It’s possible we will only be able to reach a portion of our priority audience directly. To reach our entire audience, we look for partnerships that can produce synergy, while also sharing our message with a diverse group of individuals.

  1. Recruit influencers to help promote your brand.

Social media influencers are sometimes tasked with promoting messages in health communications campaigns. Similar to the strategy behind partnerships, your audience will be more receptive to information that comes from a source they recognize and trust. You will likely need influencers with their own specific audiences to capture your diverse audience. There is a lot to learn about working with influencers, so check out this blog post for more information.

  1. Address communications barriers.

Individuals’ unique abilities are a key consideration. A combination of audio, visual and in-person communications will enable members of your audience to engage with a format that is accessible for them.

Language barriers, for example, are a hurdle to overcome to communicate a message effectively to a diverse group. Your audience might speak a number of languages, but if you can communicate through methods besides the written word (such as using charts or graphics), you can convey the same message to each of them.

  1. Ensure your brand makes sense for everyone.

It’s not easy to create a brand that appeals to a wide audience, so it’s crucial to make deliberate, data-informed changes if your brand doesn’t resonate with a segment of your audience. Making changes to your brand also might require you to conduct more message testing and other research if you’re targeting a more diverse group of people than more niche brands.

We know implementing these tips is easier said than done, but with any strategic communications campaign, your audience’s preference should be at the forefront of your work.