05 March 2021
Caroline Walker, Director of PR & Content

Communicating to a diverse audience

Communicating to a diverse audience

Initiatives such as International Women’s Day, LGBTQ+ awareness events and Black Lives Matter rhetoric have pushed diversity and inclusion up the corporate agenda. From both an internal and external communications perspective, having a strategy that considers a diverse range of people is integral to success across sales, HR and stakeholder engagement.

At the last census, more than half of England and Wales’ population is female, almost a fifth live with a disability and 18% come from a non-White British ethnic background. If you aren’t considering these groups as part of your communications strategy, you could be failing to engage with a large proportion of your target audience. 

This could alienate some key groups and reduce the efficacy of your communications or, at worst, impact sales performance and recruitment.  

Understand your audience
We’ve said it time and time, to create messages that resonate with your target audience, you need to understand who they are and what they want. 

One of the simplest ways to understand your audience, is to ask them. Surveys and market research can provide an overall understanding, however, there is scope for greater collaboration. Invite a group of people, who have different backgrounds, experiences and views, to input into your communications approach early on to create richer and well-balanced campaigns.

Creating campaigns that celebrate diversity are important to kick-start general thinking however, if this is the only focus, they will have a shelf-life. Equally, paying lip service to a particular group of people just because you feel you are pushed to will come across as disingenuous. 

As multi-faceted beings, we have many different interests and agendas. Reducing a person to their gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or their job title will fail to engage them with what you are saying. While being sensitive and progressive is important, don’t lose sight of your objective – to connect with people.

Truly diverse communications consider the priorities each audience has and how your brand can support them to meet them. Regardless of differences in gender, heritage or background, your audiences will share some common motivations. Effective communications campaigns build on these to create a single clear call to action but may adapt how it is rolled out to resonate with specific groups. 

Language and culture
Great communication shares messages clearly and effectively. The words and visuals you use reflect a lot about the audience you want to reach. 

Generally, the bigger and broader your audience, the simpler your message should be. However, it is important to adapt campaigns for specific regions or audiences to ensure they are culturally appropriate. If your audience includes individuals who speak English / your target language as a second language, avoid colloquialisms, jargon and metaphors. Your trusted diverse group can flag any cultural or regional sensitivities and taboos that you may have been unaware of. It can also be helpful to test communications with new audiences to ensure campaigns hit the mark! 

At the same time, particularly when speaking to a technical or academic group, dumbing down communications is damaging. Images effectively aid understanding and help audiences take on information at a glance, breaking down concepts quickly without reliance on linguistic skill. Photography immediately reflects how you see your staff and customers. Images that include a diverse range of people can be a powerful brand asset from a PR and marketing perspective. As well as varying the visuals used in your direct communications, the media is keen to use images that reflect diversity – put simply, if you can supply these it can secure PR opportunities.  

Choose to challenge
Communications campaigns have the power to challenge perceptions and stereotypes. Where consumers look to organisations and businesses to drive change, brands can add to the wider conversation and speak directly to individuals’ personal desire for societal change. However, this can be heavy subject matter. While it’s important to be sensitive to different groups, campaigns don’t have to be dry and self-righteous – humour is just as effective when it comes to breaking down barriers.

Interested in learning more? Read our blog on Communicating corporate responsibility authentically.

To discuss incorporating diversity into your communications programme, contact Caroline Walker on 01732 779 087.


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