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Nonprofit Communications Plan: How to Identify an Audience and Create an Avatar

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identify an audience

This is part 2 in a 4-part series. Read part 1 here

Any experienced marketer would tell you that understanding one’s audience is key to success in communication. When creating a strategic communications plan, it’s important to identify your goals for each particular communications effort. After you identify the goals and objectives of your communication efforts, you can identify an audience. Brainstorm different groups of people you hope to reach that can help you accomplish your organization’s objectives. Each goal may have several different audiences in which you want to communicate to. 

When you identify your audience, it will help you decide how to tailor your message to make it relatable to them. Your audience should feel as though your content was written directly for them, which is where constructing an avatar–or ideal customer–comes into play. We’ll talk more about avatars in just a moment.

Identifying an audience is a twofold-process–it’s important to look at who you hope to be reaching AND it’s also important to take note of who is already interacting and engaging with your content. This will help you determine what content to create to attract more of your desired audience while also examining how to create more of what people are drawn to and interacting with already. 

I should also make sure to note that you have an internal audience (staff, board members, volunteers, etc.) and an external audience (public at large, new donors, lapsed donors, politicians, etc.) Getting your internal messaging right will help ensure your team is all on the same page with the same expectations and goals. It will also help make sure the message that is being presented externally is consistent.

That said, start by segmenting your audiences into internal and external audiences. Then you can segment those external groups of audiences further. Again, these groups could be recurring donors, potential donors, the general public, event attendees, etc. Many nonprofit donor management systems can be extremely beneficial in helping you track and segment your donor base.

Once you have identified your audience, analyze them. It’s important to know your audience’s:

  • Interests
  • Pain points
  • Hobbies
  • Occupations
  • Ages
  • Etc.

The more you know your audience, the more effective your communication will be.

One of the best ways to identify your audience is through an avatar. Avatar is a fancy word for ideal consumer. You have to know this person like the back of your hand if you want to effectively communicate to them. It’s absolutely crucial you pinpoint a real person, an actual human being, and speak directly to them. I know a woman who actually printed a picture of her avatar and keeps it on her desk to remind her every day of who she is trying to reach. Now, this may be a little creepy depending on how well you know the person, but I’m not here to judge. 

If you haven’t done an exercise like this before or in the last year for your organization, stop right now. Don’t pass go. Grab a pen and let’s work through it together. Remember, get a clear visual on a real person you hope to reach and write down the following:

  1. What are their goals and values?
  2. What are their challenges or pain points?
  3. Where do they go to for information and entertainment?
  4. What are their demographics (name, age, gender, occupation, income, etc.)?

When you’ve completed the answers to these questions, put the paper somewhere you can easily access it and refer to it often.

Consider creating an avatar for each of the objectives you identified for your messaging. If your goal is to raise more money, your avatar might be your ideal donor. If you’re looking to inspire employees internally, select one specific employee and create an avatar for them. If you’re hoping to raise awareness about an issue that requires major change, your avatar might look like a lobbyist or a politician. If you’re trying to use your message to encourage those you already serve, identify a beneficiary you have served or are serving and create an avatar for them. One you’ve identified your avatar, creating or constructing a message that relates to them will be much easier. This will be the next step of the strategic communications plan–developing your message.

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