SBCC for Emergency Preparedness I-Kit

Unit 4: Audience Analysis and Segmentation

Unit 4 provides guidance on how to analyze, select and segment priority and influencing audiences. Obtaining information about the demographics, geography, knowledge, values, aspirations, beliefs, media habits and emotions of the audience in relation to the emergency can help identify the most important groups of people to target for the communication response. This process also supports the design of messages and activities that resonate with the intended audiences and the selection of the most appropriate communication channels and approaches for a successful intervention.

Having completed this unit, you will have the following tools to assist you in developing messages and activities for the communication response.

What Are Audience Analysis and Segmentation?

Audience analysis is a process used to explore and identify the priority and influential audiences of an SBCC intervention.

Priority Audience

Priority audiences are those whose behavior the intervention aims to change. They are not necessarily those who are most affected by the problem. Rather, they are those whose change in behavior will most likely achieve the program goal. For example, children may be most affected by a cholera outbreak, but their caregivers’ behaviors may be what needs to change to bring the outbreak under control.

Influential Audience

Influential audiences are the populations who interact with the priority audience to influence their behaviors. Influential audiences can therefore support the desired behavior change in the priority audience. Examples include religious and community leaders who can influence men in a community; mothers-in-law who can influence young mothers; health care providers whose attitude and behavior can influence those who attend their clinics. Both primary (i.e., priority) and secondary (i.e., influential) audiences are important for promoting behavior change.

Audience Segmentation

An important component of audience analysis is segmentation. This involves dividing a large audience population into smaller subgroups of individuals, based on a set of similarities such as needs, behaviors, values and other characteristics, in order to design tailored and thus more effective activities and messages.

More information on How to Do an Audience Analysis and How to Do an Audience Segmentation

Who is the Primary Audience?

Primary audiences are those whose behavior change will be more likely to lead to the desired outcome of an SBCC intervention. Below are two fictional examples to illustrate this point.

  • Example 1: A situation analysis during an Ebola outbreak highlighted the fact that traditional leaders were promoting unsafe burial practices and encouraging communities to practice them as well, rejecting recommendations for safe burials. As a result, the unsafe burial practices led to the further spread of Ebola among community members. Although leaders were not the most affected by the virus, they constituted the primary audience of the communication response as changing their beliefs around burials practices to promote safe burials would considerably contribute to curbing the outbreak.
  • Example 2: Following a natural disaster, large populations of displaced people were provided with shelter in a refugee camp. Despite food distributions, children remained severely malnourished. A needs assessment revealed that mothers were unable to feed their children correctly because the husbands would take the food and sell it on the market to buy local beer. Although children were the most affected by malnutrition and mothers were the primary caregivers and fed the children, the communication response targeted men to encourage them to use the food from distribution correctly for the health of their children.

Why Are Audience Analysis and Segmentation Important?

Audience analysis allows for an in-depth understanding of the characteristics, needs, values, aspirations and behaviors of the intended audience. As such, audience analysis supports the development of activities, materials, messages and the selection of communication channels that resonate with the audience and that are more likely to lead to the desired changes in behavior.

For this to be effective, large audiences sometimes need to be segmented. Although an audience can be defined with one word that encompasses all those belonging to that group, within that audience there are often subgroups of individuals with different characteristics and needs. Through audience segmentation these differences can be captured, appropriate strategies can be designed and the most critical subgroups for the success of the SBCC intervention can be targeted. To highlight the importance of audience segmentation, The table below provides an example of how one audience category can be subdivided into different groups with different communication needs.

Example of Audience Segments and Their Communication Needs

Audience: Men between the ages of 15 and 49  
Audience Segments Examples of Different Communication Approaches
Living in an urban setting vs. living in a rural setting Available channels of communication and their popularity, lifestyles and literacy levels may be different in rural and urban areas.
Educated vs. not educated Communication materials and activities will need to be tailored differently depending on the literacy level of the audience.
Younger (ages 15 to 24) vs. older (ages 24 to 49) The types of activities, messages and communication channels that resonate with 15- to 24-year-olds are likely to differ from those that resonate with 25- to 49-year-olds.
Employed vs. not employed Activities to reach employed and unemployed men will differ, as will the type of messages that resonate with them.
Men who already practice the desired behavior vs. men who do not Those who already practice the desired behaviors may need reinforcing messages, while those who do not practice them may need incentives and factual information about why the desired behavior benefits them.


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