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Your Target Audience: A Lesson from Politics

Posted by on January 15th, 2016
Posted in Blog, Nonprofit Branding, Nonprofit Communications, Nonprofit Fundraising, Nonprofit Messaging    Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

It’s election season. While you might get tired of the constant commercials, news clips, and solicitations, we have to give a nod to the candidates and their campaigns. Because perhaps more than anyone, politicians know their audience. And, just like our nonprofit branding clients, knowing your audience is the first step in creating the brand, or reputation, that attracts attention and support.

We’ve previously written about why your audience isn’t “everyone” and the 10 questions you should ask to get to know your audience. But what about the in-between? Before you can get to know your audience, you have to identify who they are, which can be difficult. So what can we learn from the politicians who are so adept at identifying their target audiences?

Successful political campaigns ask themselves the same questions we ask our nonprofit branding clients to ask:

“Who are the people without whom we cannot succeed?”

and then

“What do these people need to feel about themselves in order to support us?”

For politicians, the answers often fall into two categories:

Die-hard Supporters

Those who are almost guaranteed to vote for them and whose donations, volunteerism, and evangelism will give the campaign the resources it needs to succeed.

What they need to feel from a campaign/candidate: To feel like they are part of something big, that they can play a part in whatever change the candidate promises.


Undecided/Swing Voters

Those who consider themselves more moderate and who could be swayed in either direction, and whose votes are often the deciding factor in elections.

What they need to feel from a campaign/candidate: To feel assured and calm about their decision to support a candidate. Alignment. Information that shows the candidate is not too radical in either direction (very liberal or very conservative).


But this break down still isn’t specific enough. Which die-hard supporters and undecided voters are most likely to be receptive to your message and give the support you need? As a nonprofit, you need to identify the specific subsets of supporters who are most likely to align with and support you. Perhaps you’re an arts education organization that must appeal to middle school administrators in order to expand your program. Or, as an environmental nonprofit, you may have identified young professionals in cities as those most likely to generate the energy and excitement you need around your work.

Once the target audiences are identified, a candidate can begin building a platform and developing the best communications tools and styles to reach those people and secure support. As a nonprofit, once you have identified your target audiences, you can begin finding what’s best about you that most appeals to those imperative to your success. This is the foundation for developing your brand strategy and messages, both of which must be compelling to your target audiences.

Who, specifically, does your nonprofit need in order to succeed in your mission?


Stephanie is a Mission Minded Brand Strategist and a huge Harry Potter nerd.

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