Identify Priority Audiences

The information obtained from working through Unit 2: Rapid Needs Assessment will provide helpful insights into potential intended audiences for the communication response. Countries can start to identify all potential groups of individuals who may be affected by the problem or who have control over factors that cause or aggravate the emergency prior to it occurring. Countries can then expand and refine this information using additional data from primary and secondary research conducted during the emergency.

It is important to note that, for an SBCC strategy to be effective, it is not feasible to target all potential audiences, as this would likely reduce impact. Only the audience or audiences whose behaviors it is the most important to change in order to reduce the outbreak must be targeted. These audiences will be the focus of the interventions and are referred to as primary or priority audiences. The number of priority audiences will depend on the number of groups of people whose practice of specific behaviors significantly impacts the problem.

The priority audience may be a group of people who is directly affected by the problem, or it may be a group of people who has an influence over how the problem evolves. It is important to analyze the available data and take into consideration potential audiences at the different levels of the socio-ecological model (discussed in Using SBCC and Communication Theories in Emergencies). It is likely that, for a comprehensive strategy that addresses the emergency effectively, audiences along several levels of the social-ecological model will need to be targeted.

Tips for Selecting Intended Audiences

  • Use available secondary and primary research data to explore potential audiences. This practice supports an evidence-based selection of priority and influencing audiences.
  • Use epidemiological evidence to identify those most affected and most at risk of the issue causing the emergency.
  • Consider audiences along the socio-ecological model who can greatly impact the problem. Individuals, community leaders and organizations, health providers, policymakers and authorities can all have an important part to play in bringing the emergency under control.
  • Keep vulnerable groups in mind. Socially marginalized groups may be at greater risk of the problem due to their living conditions, fragile health and inadequate access to facilities and information.

Exercise: Identify Priority Audiences

Worksheet 4.1 has been designed to help with the selection of the priority audience or audiences. It provides a list of questions and considerations to apply to the available data and analyze it in ways that allow capturing important details about potential priority audiences. Once the audiences have been selected, it is important to understand the behaviors they currently practice and what they know and feel about the desired behaviors that will help curb the emergency.

Please note that some of the worksheets in this section are accompanied by a completed example. The completed example will likely include information about an emergency that during an actual event might not be immediately available. This was done to illustrate the full range of information to inform a strategic communication response. As more data becomes available, update this worksheet.