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Part 3: Working with your audience

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Reaching your audiences

Next up is thinking about how to reach out to your target publics or communities and as such you may need an audience marketing or stakeholder engagement plan. This also depends on the target audience/ participant number.

To develop this, here are some key questions to explore:

  • Are we aiming to reach small numbers of folk for deep participatory engagement or larger numbers for other types of engagement activity?
  • What communication channels will reach the target groups? Which channels do we have access to?
  • Where do the target groups spend their time – in ‘real life’ and virtually/online?
  • Do they use social media – if so – which platform?
  • Who is going to develop and deliver the communications plan and the content?
  • What is the ‘hook’ to attract people’s interest?

You can then identify which communication channels you are going to use and create the content/ outputs required – such as flyers, posters, social media posts, webpage or local radio adverts. When reaching out to groups outside of the University ‘bubble’ – the likes of the University’s social media accounts are unlikely to be followed by your target groups – so think about other ways to get your message out there, including the use of paid social media posts.

You may already have a partner on board, such as a community organisation or museum, who already have a strong relationship with the community of interest or an existing audience.

If you are already working with a museum, festival or online platform with an existing audience/ readership – it is good practice to explore if your target groups match with the attributes or demographics of their existing audiences – if not – additional activities will be required to engage these groups.

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Values, Ethics, Safeguarding & Inclusion

  • Audience development is not just about exploring and articulating target publics and communities; it’s also about thinking deeply about why those groups will want to engage. The very definition of Public Engagement is that there should be mutual benefit for all parties involved including the participating researchers, publics and partners. Have a think and articulate – what will the publics and communities gain from taking part in this activity? Why would they be interested in taking part?

Pen Portraits: Picture in your mind a few potential individuals within your target groups – and draft out some pen portraits. For example:

  • Aiste is a 42 year old women, living in Sheffield, she is in full-time employment and is interested in environmental issues.
  • She would be interested in taking part/ engaging in this project, because……
  • Accessibility/ inclusion considerations for Aiste include: ensuring the activity takes place outside of ‘typical’ working hours and….
  • Accessibility is ensuring that all the barriers (be they social; economic; cultural etc) are removed to enable your target groups to engage. Considerations might include:
    • what days/dates/timing would work best?
    • is the venue/ location of the engagement easy for all groups to get to (including mobility and other considerations)?
    • are there any costs as a result of taking part in the engagement?
    • will food and refreshments be needed?
    • will the target groups likely have caring responsibilities?
    • what format or engagement approach works best for the target groups?
    • are there any cultural considerations to explore?
  • Inclusivity questions to explore include:
    • Have we thought about equality, diversity and inclusion?
    • Are we only engaging the ‘usual suspects’ and ‘preaching to the choir’?
    • What do we need to do to ensure that all the target groups and communities are able to fully engage with the experience – i.e. is it inclusive and are there any particular requirements needed? (e.g., translator; wheelchair access; hearing loop; childcare provision; quiet spaces)
  • Even if it’s not immediately obvious that there are any ethical issues – it’s still important to look at your engagement plans through an ethical lens, which includes safeguarding. Questions to explore include:
    • Are the target individuals or groups minors (<18 years old) and will they be engaging without their parents or guardians present? What parental consent or safeguarding measures need to be in place?
    • Irrespective of age, are any/ all of the potential participants/ audiences vulnerable? What safeguarding measures need to be in place?
    • Is the content sensitive, particularly challenging and/or have the potential to cause harm or distress to the audiences or participants? What are the considerations and safeguarding measures that need to be in place?

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  • If you are collecting data about the folk that engage with the activity or project, make sure to only collect the information you need and absolutely no more.
  • This is especially important for personal data; and even more important for personal sensitive data.
  • Aim to aggregate and group data requirements where possible. For example, if it is important for your evaluation to find out the age demographic – provide age ranges for responses (e.g. 20 – 30 yrs; 30 – 40 yrs etc) - do not request Date of Birth. Likewise for location, request the first half of the post-code, instead of full addresses and so on.
  • Ensure you are clear about your GDPR obligations, this includes whether informed consent is required and articulating and communicating the purpose of collecting personal information, including how it will be stored and for what duration and the right to withdraw etc.

For further support and guidance on evaluation, see the evaluation pages.

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