How To Write A Good Communications Plan – Part 7 – Audiences

This is the seventh post in a series exploring how to write a good communications plan.

At this stage we’ve finished our analysis of the situation, set our objectives and decided on a strategy. Now it’s time to decide our audience – in other words, who we’re speaking to.


Think back

Audience at a theatreIt’s time to decide who you want to reach with your communications.

Analyze the key groups or people you want to reach and what their needs are. Which stakeholders are key to this initiative? Who else do you need to consider?

Remember to refer back to your objectives and your strategy. Are you looking to reach a few narrow groups or a broader selection?

Be thorough

Make sure there aren’t any gaps in your chosen audiences. What angles haven’t you thought of?

Think about why you’re considering each potential audience. Where do they stand on this issue? Are they so opposed that they’ll never be happy regardless of what you do (if so, maybe you should re-focus on the people who may be receptive to your actions)? How much do they know about this (that may affect your tactics later)?

You can draw your audience from a wide range of groups. Your stakeholder analysis is an easy place to start. Look back at what you came up with. Who are your targets within this?

Some other potential sources of audiences:

  • Opinion leaders
  • Professional/business groups
  • Governments (other jurisdictions if you’re working in the public sector)
  • Industry analysts
  • Your employees
  • Online audiences (bloggers, for example)
  • Media

Be precise

If you’re looking to speak to consumers (or, if you’re in the public sector, “the public”), do your utmost to break that down and identify specific niches. Whether that’s by demographics, by interest, by previous purchase habits or whatever means appropriate, never leave yourself with “the public” or “consumers” as an audience. It may not be easy but, hey, if it were easy they wouldn’t need us communicators, right?

Just as with “the public” or “consumers,” never use a general definition of “the media.” Break it down. Look back at your environmental scan (funny how this all fits together, eh? Almost as if people have thought it through) and see who has written about this in the past. Who is interested in this subject area? Not just publications, but individual journalists where possible (some publications, like the Economist, don’t identify their authors).

If you’re targeting bloggers, think carefully. Of course, you’ve already identified and engaged with the key bloggers in your industry, right? That means you also know who is interested in this particular topic and who is likely to be receptive to your approach. Don’t just blast your material out to every blogger you identify – just as you would with media, think about what they want, what their perspective is and whether you should even approach each of them. While positive reviews in the blogosphere can be a great thing, bloggers are far more likely to turn around and complain publicly if they don’t like your pitch than journalists are.

Think ahead

Throughout, consider whether you may be able to leverage the support of any of your audiences ahead of any potential announcement, in preparation for planning your tactics later.


Your audience selection is critical to the success of your communications plan. Gap-filled or imprecise audience selection leads to an unfocused, ineffective roll-out of your communications. Conversely, well-defined audiences let you craft your messages and tactics appropriately to achieve your objectives.

What have I missed here? How do you approach defining your audiences?

The “Communications Plan” Series

This is post number seven in a series of 13 posts exploring how to create a good communications plan. To read more of the series, check out a summary of the posts so far or pick from the list below:

Dave Fleet
EVP Digital at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.