Communicating with Diverse Audiences

Stylized words,

As communicators, we sometimes generalize our messages so that we can reach as many people as possible. Unfortunately, only communicating to a general public means we will likely miss some important audiences.  When we move beyond generalizations—and dig a little deeper to discover more distinct audience traits—we can do a better job of reaching more people in ways that are meaningful to them so they can better receive important information.

When communicating with diverse audiences, one way to better understand their communication needs is by learning about the languages they speak. While it’s always a good idea to check with local authorities, the U.S. Census Bureau language mapperExternal tool can be very helpful for learning which languages are most common among people in various geographic areas. If we know the languages our target audiences speak, we can better understand translation needs. And, while translation alone does not allow us to meet our audiences where they are, it is a huge step in the right direction.

Developing information products that consider the influence of culture on communication allows us to better connect with diverse audiences. Choosing images, colors, and even media that are more relevant to the people we want to reach helps us break through some communication barriers.

We frequently need to work closely with partners and stakeholders to understand the needs of the audiences we want to reach. These partners and stakeholders are often trusted members of target communities and can be gatekeepers; their cooperation is key in spreading messages. Working with partners, we can craft better messages, materials, and communication strategies so that audience members trust the advice presented and believe that taking recommended actions will help protect themselves and their families.

When we seek to protect public health, we should strive to reach as many affected audiences as possible. We need to do everything we can to understand the differences between audiences and how they impact communication. When we explore, appreciate, and account for the diversity of those audiences in our communication, we promote more effective public health efforts.

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Page last reviewed: March 31, 2017 (archived document)