Selecting diverse ways to reach audiences: a strategically ongoing effort
In this previous post about how think tanks are segmenting communications to reach diverse audiences we shared some findings of this study, mainly centred in the levels and tools with which these organisations go around segmentation. One of the main ones is the stakeholder mapping/analysis, which was also analysed in that post.
What do think tanks usually do after very well scanning who are their prioritised stakeholders? Many of them compare these maps map with their existing offer in terms of content and communications channels. In doing so, they usually face diverse situations:
1) Almost all their existing channels reach the different audiences making no distinction among them
2) There are issues that are attractive to only a few prioritised stakeholders
3) There are relevant stakeholders that they don’t reach with their areas of interest or adequate channels (for example, university students that could be engaged through Twitter)
4) There are existing channels with enough flexibility as to reach different stakeholders in diverse specific ways (i.e. an annual dinner can help convince donors about the contributions of the think tanks but also to show policymakers the kind of support that they could provide to them).
Consequently, and depending on the available resources, they need to decide which communication channels will be reinforced, modified or cancelled and which ones should be added to the current set.
In this regard, the following chart presents the type of channels and tools used by think tanks that have been more successful for reaching specific stakeholders:Type of channel/tool
External newsletterPeer organisationsDonorsSocial mediaVideosGeneral public, specially other organisations and university students/young people and mediaForums/Seminars/ Open eventsUniversities
Civil servants with whom there is a close relationshipInternal newsletterExecutives
ContributorsPolicy briefsSubnational and local governments
CandidatesPublications (books, research outputs, essays about and specific issue)More stable civil servants/ technocratsPersonal meetings/close events
Politicians with whom there is less proximity/ less developed bonds
Politicians with whom you work confidential or delicate issues
JournalistsTraining/DebatesJournalistsFuture civil servantsCandidatesExclusive/outlined informationJournalistsNetworking opportunities or visibility and recognition (events/ bi or multilateral meetings)Politicians
DonorsInventory of publications and researchUniversities
Future decision makersPress (specially columns and opinion editorials)
Journalists/ media persons
However, whatever mix of channels and tools is deployed, interviewees have stressed the need for continuous improvement and fine-tuning based on evaluating and learning about what is working better. Indeed, segmentation is not a job that is done once; even during a project’s lifecycle it is possible that the organisation could include a stakeholder or a group of new stakeholders (for example, when opposition legislators request help for the design of a draft legislation), or detect a specific communications format that is not useful (for example, when a blog doesn’t have followers or comments).
Being dynamic is crucial. Think tanks should try to avoid being stuck with categories. There is always the risk that categories identified through segmentation become ends in themselves, losing sight of the purpose of the research, the opportunities that emerge in the external context and the real needs of the end users.
Therefore, efforts are made by several think tanks to ensure that they are good at receiving and using feedback about the effect of their channels and communications practices in a very systematic way. Through trial-and-error approach they notice the ways to adjust their communication products, or detect the need to innovate or stop the use of certain tools.
So, is segmentation a good investment for think tanks? Our preliminary response would be yes, but as long as it does not become a rigid skeleton that constrains both the organisation and its stakeholders but a vibrant and dynamic way of thinking to promote effective interaction between what happens within the think tank and outside its walls.
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