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Identifying target audiences

Last edited: January 03, 2012

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Primary targets are those who have the power to effect the changes the campaign calls for. They need to be influenced in order to reach the campaign goal. In campaigns of limited scope, the target could be just one decision-maker. In most cases, however, there are likely to be more targets; in campaigns aiming at behaviour change, for example, targets could number in the thousands.  

If the primary target cannot be reached directly, or if communicating with the primary target alone is not sufficient to bring about change, people with influence on the primary target need to be mobilized, i.e. the secondary target audience. Local leaders and opinion-makers, including mass media and religious or other traditional authorities, are key secondary targets in most campaigns because of their power to influence large numbers of people, as well as those who are in a position to make change. In complicated or complex campaigns, primary targets can sometimes become secondary targets also during the course of the campaign. For example, lawmakers drafting end VAW legislation might be primary targets for a campaign, but could also become secondary targets if they decide to join the campaign, and use their influence to get their constituencies involved and pressure fellow lawmakers.

In campaigns with multiple outcomes or objectives, the target audience may be different for each outcome.

Example: Many behaviour change campaigns target (i) women who experience domestic violence (DV), encouraging them to seek  support and services, (ii) men who perpetrate DV, showing that it is wrong, and (iii) adult and adolescent men and women, girls and boys, making it clear that violence must end and survivors be supported.

The audience can be differentiated into different audience segments. The more clearly these segments are defined, the greater the chances of the campaign message being understood and acted on. Even if a campaign is meant to prompt behaviour change across entire populations, it is not advisable to target the “general public” as a whole. Good questions to pose from the outset are: which of the key audience segments must be convinced so that the campaign attains its objectives, and how ready are these audience segments for change?

To choose those audiences that are most decisive for campaign success, distinctions should be made. These include distinguishing between men and women, people of different social backgrounds and age groups, people at different levels of perception of VAW, people with different behaviours related to VAW, and people who may be affected by multiple discrimination, among numerous other distinctions.