It is important to consider the most appropriate channels to reach your target audience – for example through press articles, workshops, bulletins or conferences. This will help you to frame the main activities of your impact plan, for example:
- Why a regular newsletter rather than a more occasional briefing?
- Why a large national conference rather than a series of smaller regional seminars?
- Why an email bulletin rather than face-to-face contact?
Researching your audience
Find out how your target audience prefers to receive information. Don't assume that a particular tool is best just because it has always been used in the past. For example, you may find that a standard quarterly newsletter has been an accepted channel of communication with a particular audience, but they would prefer smaller networking meetings.
Remember to consider the different timeframes, imperatives, language and objectives of your target audience. Many will be suffering from information overload, so you will need to demonstrate your relevance to them. You may have to reframe what you say and how you say it.
Contacting your audience
Don't forget the value of personal, direct contact with your audiences. This can often be the most effective form of dissemination. If this is a key channel for your strategy, it is vital to track and share knowledge of personal contacts within a large team.
The 'gatekeepers' to some of your key audiences, such as MPs' researchers and personal assistants to CEOs, can determine whether your material ever reaches its intended audience at all. Understanding their needs, and making sure the purpose and content of your material are clear, are vital for success.
Using secondary tools
You may not need to reach every audience directly. A well placed article in the in-house publication of a well-respected umbrella body can be as effective as directly mailing a report to its constituent members. This can be particularly useful if time and money are limited.
Remember that some audiences such as the media are both a channel to other audiences and an audience in their own right. Don't underestimate the value of the regional media. An MP is often as likely to take notice of something published in their local paper as they are to read something in the Times.
Obtaining and using feedback
Two-way communication is important in building relationships with your key audiences. It is useful to consider the following questions:
- What channels are you going to use to get feedback?
- How are you going to communicate what you did about what your audience told you?