Tagged: community

Jan 16

Identify your target audience

The “General Public” should not be your audience. Be much more specific when defining your target audience. Otherwise, you will waste resources (and who has an overabundance of those?!?) on trying the get the right message to the wrong people.

Who are you trying to reach with your message? You will likely have several different groups in mind when starting to craft your outreach program. And that is a good thing. It means you have a healthy and diverse community. And it’s also a not-so good thing because you will need to craft different strategies for each target audience. What may work well for one group may completely alienate another.

Here is where you can learn from one of my mistakes. We developed a publication that we called the “Go-Kit Passport.” It was a small, durably-produced product meant to hold information valuable to have in an emergency situation. It had pages for drawing maps of your neighborhood and designating meeting places, pages for photographs of people and pets, pages for medical information, and many more pages for useful information. It was very popular in English. But, when we translated to Spanish, an issue came up because of the word, passport, in the title. This caused confusion and prompted a call to our office from ICS. We changed the title for Spanish publications. So the lesson here is to think about your solutions from many different angles and anticipate problems from serving more than one narrowly defined audience.

So take some time and think about the differing groups in your community.

  • Policy makers
  • Responders
  • Parents
  • Retired people
  • Pet owners
  • What are other groups in your community?


When creating your list of target audiences, use the following list of questions to finely tune who you are targeting. Ask questions as you build the profiles in order to learn how best to serve the information to your target audience. Their answer will guide you to the framework needed to best serve them. Come up with your own questions that reflect the needs of your unique community and target audiences.

  • Who do you depend on to get information about hazards in your area?
  • Who do you depend on for help during a disaster?
  • What are your concerns about earthquakes in your community?
  • What are your questions about earthquakes in your community?
  • Would you need help during an emergency? What kind of assistance?
  • How do you describe yourself?
  • Who are the stake holders?
  • Who are the leaders of your group?


Once you decide who you need to reach you need to find out how best to do that. By answering the above questions, you can learn a lot about your various target audiences. And more importantly, how to reach them with your messages. You will want to find active methods of getting your message to the audiences. Don’t stick a flier in the utility bill, and expect to reach a large percentage of the population. That is an example of a very passive method of outreach. While it can be effective, when targeted and timely, it can also fail utterly and completely, thereby wasting your time and the audience’s attention span.


Nov 22

Know what a successful outreach program looks like.

You have to know where you are going in order to get there.

When you set out on the journey of implementing your outreach program, you probably had a pretty good idea of what you wanted to accomplish. Increased awareness and increased protective actions are just two possible broad goals of your program.

How will you know you’ve reached your goal?
During the process of planning your outreach program, you will have spent a lot of time thinking about very tangible goals that can be measured. Measurable goals are important in order to make sure you know when you have arrived at your destination, but also important for planning next steps. You won’t know what your next steps should be unless you know if your last actions were successful.

Whew! It seems like we are right back at where we started. And we kinda are. The thing about outreach is that it never really ends. Once you complete one campaign, you start another with what you have learned about works and what doesn’t work in your field. That knowledge comes with time and experience.

  • Have you educated your community?
  • Have you engaged your community?
  • Have you put solutions in front of your community?
  • Once you reach your goal, what then?

Educating your community
Find the corners of your issue and work toward the center. The limitations can be liberating and spur creativity. Unrestrained choice can lead to paralysis of decision and action, so find the structure of what you want your community to learn about your issue and then get out there and educate away. How you do this education process will be dictated by the who, what, where, when, and why of your issue.

Engage your community
The last thing you want is to have your hard work be for naught. Nothing is gained by having passive community engagement. You want your community fired up and raring to go on your issue. this may mean at some point giving up a certain amount of control over the process. But your hard work should show fruit by having the community itself stepping up and taking on the issue in a grass roots manner. Find ways for the community members to get their hands dirty, to get up and moving, to create their own programs.

Provide solutions for your community
Solutions come in all types of flavors. It could be training for shelter management or first aid; it could be curriculum available to K-12 schools; it could be evacuation drills and exercises. These solutions need to be a part of the plan and should be sustainable after your program ends.

Key words: public outreach, community, education, natural hazards, seismic, earthquake, tsunami