Understanding your target audience by understanding their lived experiences

At contentgroup we focus upon communication and engagement between government and the citizens of Australia.  We do this because the public service across Australian has wonderful stories to tell. The communities served, benefit greatly from knowing both what the public service does, what has been conducted on their behalf and what new programmes and service offerings are available for them. The closer the relationship between the citizens and the public service the greater the ability of these groups to influence and prioritise the services provided by government.

In a recent contentgroup blog, my colleague Rachel Lobley asked people to reflect upon the impact of Covid-19, their core values and how to target messages based upon those values. In this blog I would like to take that conversation another step and address the targeting of those people within the day-to-day of their personal life, which we refer to as their lived experience.

We cannot assume to know the lived experience of our target audience. Oxford Reference defines lived experience as;

Personal knowledge about the world gained through direct, first-hand involvement in everyday events rather than through representations constructed by other people. It may also refer to knowledge of people gained from direct face-to-face interaction rather than through a technological medium.

 

Looking at stakeholder engagement and communication from the perspective of the lived experience of your target audience means that you listen to and understand their life and the impact that decisions of government will have directly on their life. In this way you respond to and are influenced by their behaviours not those anticipated from a perspective gained from second or third hand information. Lived experience enables a ‘contextual understanding’ of their daily living, with all the layers of complexity and intricacy they experience.  These layers will encompass their cultural, social, economic, employment and environmental concerns. In the last 12 months this has encompassed drought, bushfire, water shortages, floods and health experiences with Covid-19.

The public service needs to have a trusted relationship with the citizens to be allowed into their personal space in order to know their lived experience. Without this deeper understanding the real needs and desires and what citizens perceive as benefits will not be known. The opportunity to develop policies that are effective comes with access to better quality of data and insights.  The more engagement from the citizen’s perspective the more clearly the service need is defined and the appropriate placement of resources is made.  User design is a key focus of implementing new ICT systems and processes and the same defining principles need to apply to addressing community needs.  Understanding the different elements of the lived experience of the target audiences is complex and demands in-depth research.

 

In a recent assignment contentgroup has been able to demonstrate the contribution of in-depth research to the achievement of our client’s organisational goals.

Our client operates in a highly contested, complex and dynamic work environment.  There are many internal and external stakeholders, each with different needs and competing priorities.  With workload set to increase, a best-practice approach to engagement and communication with stakeholders (internal and external) was sought to build stronger relationships to drive greater effectiveness in the business operations.

Our approach sought to understand the expectations, needs, and priorities of the wide range of community and industry stakeholders. The aim was to enable the organization to build stronger relationships with all stakeholders to deliver the benefits of the program of investments.  The enhanced communications and engagement capabilities would play a significant role in achieving the client’s goals and mitigating their risks.

To deliver this assignment, the contentgroup team drew upon our Direct 2 Citizen Communications and Engagement (D2CCE) framework.  The framework places an emphasis on understanding the needs, wants and pain points of key audiences. From this understanding the tactics needed to first reach, and then influence the audience are defined. The framework also enables the performance measurement of the effectiveness of all activities.

To assess the current situation we conducted one-to-one interviews with key external and internal stakeholders across all areas and functions.  The review questions focused on the perceptions of the effectiveness and actual effectiveness of our client’s performance of stakeholder engagement and communications and to understand the impact of corporate culture of the formal and informal lines of engagement and communication. Findings from the consultations and network analysis were used to provide an assessment of the current communication approach and capability.

In addition to the research findings, the client’s leadership team were presented with a range of anecdotes as the first-hand statements of their stakeholders lived experience.  These anecdotes were extremely powerful in giving the leadership team an understanding of their key internal audience – shy, logical and lineal thinkers, technically focussed, for whom networking, communicating and engagement are not their natural way of working.  This was highly influential in both reinforcing the validity of research findings and in changing the leadership teams’ perceptions of the current state of change readiness and the need for change.  Having these insights enabled contentgroup to identify five different “stakeholder segments” within their total audience.  The strategy we then developed emphasised the changed behaviours needed to implement the ‘future way of working’ with these different audiences and provided a planned approach to building the necessary capability in communications and engagement.  The plan included key messages, objectives, audience, narrative, stakeholder segmentation, channels, content types, frequency measurement and evaluation.

 

Delivery of this outcome was only possible because of our client’s genuine desire for change and the skill of the contentgroup team in gaining an understanding of the lived experience of stakeholders.

In addition to our core capabilities, contentgroup is fortunate to have highly skilled, research partners located across Australia.  They are in academic, pracademic and commercial environments.

Please contact me, or our contentgroup team, if you would like more information on how to access their amazing insights on your target audience and their lived experience.

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