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Who is your audience?

In this video, we discuss one of the fundamental aspects of science communication: knowing your audience
We left off by stating that knowing your audience’s goals is important to determine the success of your activity. But if just starting a science communication effort, you might not have a clear audience in mind. You might be willing to talk to “everybody”, but somebody trying to communicate with everybody risks ending up with something that doesn’t fully satisfy any listener. And maybe your “everybody” actually means “everybody who is interested and is well educated”, which means that you are targeting a very small sector of the population, maybe without being fully aware of it. So, the first thing you should do after deciding your goal is to define your audience, and getting to know it.
Maybe you concluded that your goal can be reached through engaging with multiple audiences. That is great, but you should consider each audience separately.
The information you need include some aspects: How old is your audience? What are the percentages of men and women? What are their attitudes towards science, and what is their educational background? The information can be gathered through multiple sources. If you decided to use the Internet to carry out your science communication activity, you might start by looking at the profiles of the users who like your posts and who follow your account, or by looking at the posts and accounts of other science communicators that could touch topics similar to yours. Another source of information is constituted by the surveys on the perception of science.
Some examples are the Eurobarometer, an EU-wide public opinion survey that is conducted periodically, and the Wellcome global monitor, which has been carried out in 2018 and has been published in 2019. You can find a link to both of them under the “see also” section of this step. If you are carrying out your activity in a physical space – in a café, for instance, or in a library, then a good idea is to ask the venue owner for this information. Who goes there, usually? Do the time of the day and the day of the week have an impact? And, of course, you can talk with other science communicators, and ask them about their experience.
If you have the resources to do it, you could also run a small survey among your target
audience: Ask them if they would be interested in your event, what could impede their participation,
what they hope to “get” from your event, how much they know about your topic. Understanding what could impede their participation, for instance, will allow you in planning the event by choosing the most suitable day and hour. It is easier to get an estimate of how much your audience knows about your topic. Unless you are targeting experts, the answer probably is not a lot, and even other scientists probably won’t know as much as you would think. Understanding what your audience already knows will allow you to set the bar at the right
level: Not too high so that the message will not be understood, not so low that your public will feel patronized by you. By targeting your audience and crafting the message keeping them into consideration, you will show that you care for them (for it). You will create a greater sense of connection with them, your message will be more effective, your audience more receptive.

Knowing your audience is important.

Once you defined your goal, you should think about your audience: who are you talking with? Why? What do they know about your topic, and what are their goals?

This is important for more than one reason. Knowing what your audience goals are will allow you to reach them more effectively; understanding what they know will allow you to calibrate the complexity of your communication; knowing what is interesting for them will make your message more relevant for them.

Getting to know your audience is not easy, but it is an integral part of science communication. To get started, you could ask other communicators for help and guidance, run a small survey among your intended audience, or read reports on the public attitudes towards science.
In this way, you could understand what the public thinks about science and scientists, and some reports could contain data specific to your country, which makes them particularly useful.

You can find the link to the reports we mentioned in the video in the “see also” section.

Share with us

  • Were you aware of their existence?
  • Did you use them?
  • What other approaches could you suggest to assess public opinions and knowledge about science?

Share your opinion with us in the comments section!

This article is from the free online

Science Communication and Public Engagement

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