Director of our UK Cause-led division, Guy Turton, explains a two-step audience development plan to achieve audience diversification.

Diversification of audiences has never been more in focus for cultural, heritage and environmental causes.

So it’s not a surprise that it topped our readers’ poll as the biggest challenge lying ahead this year. As organisations across the country get used to their new status as Arts Council England NPOs, the need to evidence engagement with a broader audience is vital. But thankfully it’s more than ‘evidencing’ the sector is seeking. We’re encouraged by the increased action behind the words we see in vision statements. There seems a genuine acknowledgement of the value of audience diversification for people, society and increasingly, for the organisation itself.

As the sector battles to recover from Covid, we’ve been working with a range of organisations across culture and heritage to create Audience Development Plans. These plans often include target setting for audience diversification.

In the planning process we address the often-misunderstood interaction between demographic diversity targets and psychographic segmentation. In this article, we share how we believe these two things complement each other.


Identify your target audience first, then bring in segmentation

Think of an Audience Development Plan as a two-step process.

  1. Identify demographic target groups.

Choosing target groups is of course dependent on the vision, cause, brand and value proposition of an organisation.

But it should also be informed by insight: where are your audience gaps? Quantifying audience gaps will require research. Which audiences are currently engaging with us, which aren’t but might, which reject us?

Then will typically follow a process of introspection and consultation. We need to ask difficult questions on what changes (and investment) we are willing to make in order to fill the audience gaps that are important to us.

Target groups can be as simple as ‘young adults’ or ‘people in low-income households’. Or it could be groups that combine factors, acknowledging the intersectionality of protected characteristics and the fundamental cultural and socio-economic barriers that prevent certain audiences from engaging with culture.

So, for example, ‘Young adults from low-income households’ might be a target. And we might set an objective for how many of them we hope to reach and how we want them to engage.

So, while we now have a demographic target group that shares characteristics, it is not an easily addressable segment as they don’t necessarily share values, attitudes, needs and motivations: the things that will shape and inform their engagement with us.

  1. Use segmentation as a tool to reach target groups.

So how can psychographic segmentation to help us engage our target group?

Psychographic segmentation (such as Culture Segments) defines people by their values, attitudes, needs and motivations rather than their demographics. Of course, there are demographic patterns in some segments, but it’s important to remember that this is not what defines them.

Let’s take our ‘Young adults from low-income households’ example. In the wider population they are more likely than other demographic groups to be in the Affirmation Culture Segment. So using Affirmation insights as a focus for reaching them might be a logical choice. But there will also be plenty of Stimulation or Entertainment in this target group to consider too.

Therefore, segmentation gives you options. You can select the combination of Target Group + Segment which is right for your brand and your programme. Equally, you might target two different segments within the target group.


What might this look like in practice?

Let’s explore a fictional example for a museum:

  • Audience development aim: Activate a younger audience
  • Target group: Young adults from low-income households
  • Objective: Increase visits from young adults from low-income households from 10k to 50k by 2029

How this museum would go about this can be partly informed by the target group alone. Young adults face certain barriers other audiences are less likely to face. We are more likely to find young adults on some digital platforms over others. Young adults might be more motivated by career development opportunities than others, etc.

However, here we quickly run out of road. Because clearly not all young adults have the same cultural tastes; are seeking the same outcomes; have the same personality; care about the same things; share the same values, etc. And it’s these things which really dictate the choices we make in culture.

So psychographic segmentation provides us with deep insights and a clear focus for how we craft strategies for our target groups.

In this example, we might consider a strategy which revolves around career development opportunities. How this would be shaped, or positioned, for young adults in the Stimulation segment would be totally different from those in the Affirmation segment. For Stimulation, we might create an in-person speed networking event. It would have a big idea at the centre of it, it would embrace digital technology, it would be social, perhaps even slightly chaotic! But chaos is the antithesis of what Affirmation want. For them, a careers fair with stalls, where you can sign up for timeslots for one-to-ones with experts would be more in-tune with their sensibilities.

Same target group, same objective, same strategy, different execution.

And the segment insights are so detailed that we can know the words, phrases and images that trigger positive responses and those that turn them off. That makes our campaign so much more effective.

In short, think of target groups as the ‘who’ and segments as the ‘how’. And as such, when measuring impact, measure against the target not the tool.


If you’d like to hear more about how we can help with Audience Development Plans, feel free to request a one-to-one with Guy. You can also watch our thirty-minute webinar to further explore this topic.