Targeting Audiences is Out. Engage Your Community.

By Dennis Fischman

Kivi Leroux MillerIf you read the Communicate! blog regularly, you know that I have learned a lot from Kivi Leroux Miller.  That’s why when I opened her new book, Content Marketing for Nonprofits, I was stunned to see that the first section of the first chapter is entitled “The End of the Target Audience.” What? Here I am, doing my best to persuade the groups I work with that they have to communicate with a specific audience in mind.  I say:

  • There’s no such thing as the general public. You’ve got to focus on a particular group and tailor your approach to them.
  • Just blogging, or being on Facebook or Twitter, won’t guarantee that anybody reads you–any more than opening a bank account guarantees that anybody makes donations.
  • Go where your audience is, and tell them what they want and need to learn.

Kivi knows this.  She taught me some of it.  So why “the end of the target audience”?

“Target” is the wrong word

Think about it: would you want to be somebody’s target?

Targeting means blasting a message at someone.  It may be the right message.  It may be a clever message.  It may be visually and emotionally appealing.  But it’s all still one-way.  It’s like hitting on someone you want to date.  Targeting is no way to build a relationship.

Instead of targeting a group, Kivi suggests we attract them.  Not for profits should use our communications to make the people we want to reach, want to get to know us.  They should seek us out because we meet their needs and make them feel good about themselves.

“Audience” is the wrong word too

Audiences listen.  We want the people we reach to ACT.  If we succeed in making ours their favourite not for profit, they will give up to two-thirds of their charitable donations to our organization.

More than that: they will endorse, advocate, join, volunteer, spread the word, and talk about the organization in unsolicited and unpredictable ways and places that make a bigger impact than anything we say about ourselves.  They will write and blog and tweet about us, becoming co-producers of the content we call our own.  Our most loyal supporters will get us other supporters we had no chance to reach on our own.

It’s a mental shift worth making.  Identifying the groups we want on our side is still vital.  But once we identify them, let’s work on engaging with them as a community. 

About Dennis:  Dennis Fischman is a Cause & Effective Associate. Contact Dennis here to discuss how your cause-based organisation can win friends and get the support it needs to keep doing excellent work.

About B-Cause

B-Cause is published by Cause and Effective. We help good causes find and attract effective leaders.

Thats our take on things. Over to you, please add to the discussion.

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