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Five (free) ways to understand your target audience

See how Audience Understanding can be done without primary research.

While there may be financial barriers to charities and not-for-profits using research to inform campaign development, as our research with Campaign Collective found, there are significant benefits to using primary research to understand your audience.

But in the internet era, primary research bespoke to a not-for-profit can be more targeted and used to supplement research which others have made freely available.

Taking one example from our recent survey of not-for-profits who wanted to understand what prevents people seeking help for their hearing loss, here are a number of steps a charity could use to seek answers to its question:

1. Identifying where insights from your – or a similar – organisation have been cited by others:

  • The NHS[1] cites Action on Hearing Loss telling us “a key reason for those long years in denial about deafness is the stigma of hearing loss.”
  • “Hearing aids are often viewed negatively by people who aren’t aware of more recent advances in technology and design.”
  • While the Royal Voluntary Service says “People with hearing loss also experience difficulties accessing health services[2] and other every day services such as public transport, due to failure in making appropriate adjustments.”

2. Look to see how suppliers and businesses wishing to target your market are covering the issue.  In this example AccuQuest[3] an audiology and hearing health care provider has a number of theories:

  • “Motivation: For those who live by themselves or rarely receive social interaction, the ability to hear is not necessarily a primary concern. These individuals may reason that their sacrifice of hearing is personally justified because there is nothing of importance to hear.

3. Search for blogs and writing by those affected by the condition or committed to the cause, so you are in effect trying to “walk in their shoes”. Shari Eberts[4] is a health hearing advocate with mild tinnitus. Her work gives us an insight as to why people might not seek help with hearing lose

  • “Hearing aids don’t work like glasses. Glasses transform blurry images into something crisp and clear restoring your vision to normal. With hearing aids, this is not the case. Hearing aids amplify sounds, but this only makes them louder, not necessarily crisper or clearer. Hearing aids also have a tough time differentiating among sounds so that background noises like the hum of the refrigerator or the air conditioner are amplified in addition to the more important sounds of conversation. This can actually make it harder to hear in certain situations!

4. Try aggregator sites and lists of relevant communities that deal with the issues, i.e. places where people (and their advocates) share issues, review products, learn about the latest developments, ask questions and even share warnings.  For example here is a link to 50 related sites on Feedspot[5]

  • A member of a forum gives us an insight into why seeking assistance for hearing loss can sometimes be a backwards step[6]”6 months should be more than enough to get adjusted (to a digital hearing aid) and I am not even mentioning the amount of times I have gone back to get them adjusted. She (the Audiologist) keeps telling me that she has done all she can to try to mimic the sound of an analogue hearing aid on a digital aid but it’s clear there is still far too much compressed sound and missing noise than I find desirable. Forget about ever listening to the television or music again either as this is part of the reason I have fallen into depression…”

5. Try thinking slightly laterally and look for things related to the subject that might explain why there are barriers, for example

  • Action for Hearing Loss is on hand again to tells us that there is strong evidence that mild hearing loss doubles the risk of developing dementia. This suggests that the individual themselves would not necessarily be capable of making the conscious choice to improve their hearing loss.

Without turning to internal information sources (which are often a good start), with a number of not particularly targeted internet searches we’ve identified that if your campaign is to improve the take up of hearing enhancement devices, you might not want to target those who have already self-identified as hearing impaired in the first instance.

You might want to think about educating them about the latest solutions available and manage expectations about what they can expect from the devices.  Perhaps you might want to do an education campaign among the wider public to highlight the continuing difficulties that those with hearing devices still experiences even when they have sought assistance to heighten empathy and support for the cause. You might want to create partnerships with organisations that are concerned with the welfare of older people, dementia suffers, or social inclusion for example, focusing on their carers and family could be a good option too.  Different messages will be needed for each of those audiences, but at least you have a fair idea of who they might be and they kid of things they might be receptive to.

Lots of food for thought for free – although you must always be aware of the risk of fake news in freely available research.

Primary market research could then be used to test the theories developed for resonance and fine tuning, meaning that for a relatively modest outlay on research costs you’ve identified a new way of campaigning and tested it for effectiveness.

We will be discussing the findings of our research and providing more tips at the PRCA event on research in NFPs on 11 October.

[1] https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/hearing-problems/Pages/admit-you-are-going-deaf.aspx
[2] https://www.royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk/Uploads/Documents/Reports%20and%20Reviews/hearing_loss_and_older_people.pdf
[3] https://accuquest.com/dont-people-seek-help-hearing-loss/
[4] https://livingwithhearingloss.com/2016/01/19/five-things-i-wish-everyone-knew-about-hearing-loss/
[5] https://blog.feedspot.com/deaf_blogs/
[6] https://www.hearingaidforums.com/showthread.php?16955-Really-Depressed-after-having-Phonak-Naidas-(Q50)-for-6-months&highlight=wouldn%27t+treat+hearing+loss

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