Media Channels to Target Audience
research provided here will help public affairs practitioners analyze their
audiences and determine the most effective media channels to use in reaching
them. This will save valuable time and resources while improving the effectiveness
of the command’s public affairs programs.
market segmentation typology and additional information developed by the
research team will work for public affairs professionals because the material
is based on sound research in communication theory on how and why people
choose certain media channels and market segmentation techniques routinely
used in communication analysis and business planning. The specific research
on which the new typology is based, namely Morton (1998a, 1998b) and Scott
and O’Hair (1989), supports using the information in a practical application.
review of research demonstrates the need for audience segmentation in public
affairs practice. Cutlip and Center (1971), whose work in public affairs
continues to be the foundation for training at the Department of Defense
Information School, charge public affairs practitioners with finding "ways
to communicate with unseen, remote publics over lines lengthened and distended
by physical distance and psychological difference, and complicated by multiplying
barriers to communication" (p. 98). To do this, the public affairs practitioner
must identify the organization’s publics (those groups of individuals who
share a common bond or interest and a sense of togetherness).
to Morton (1997), understanding the differences in minority values, attitudes
about family, religion, self-image, and similar factors will allow public
relations practitioners to effectively communicate their messages. Public
affairs practitioners must be careful in their audience analysis to avoid
the spiral of silence identified by Noelle-Neumann (1984). This phenomenon
occurs when individuals who perceive their opinion is popular express it,
whereas people who believe their opinion is not popular tend to remain
silent. As the spiral continues, one side of an issue gains more publicity
than the "silent" side. Fear of isolation caused by expressing unpopular
opinions is a key element of the theory, but generally does not apply to
innovators, change agents or leaders of new movements.
affairs efforts directed at a specific group or coalition will require
more specific research to determine the group’s specific beliefs, values
and attitudes. Essential to the process, equal to development of the message,
is determining the correct channel to ensure the message reaches the target
audience (Cutlip & Center, 1971).
audience segmentation typology will assist public affairs practitioners
in identifying and reaching these audiences. Additional resources provided
in information tables will assist public affairs practitioners in locating
information on specific audiences to which general data do not apply. Together
these tools guide the public affairs practitioner to the next step – choosing
the best media channel for the audience just defined.
(1969) points to why carefully selecting the communication channel is essential.
People may mishear radio announcements because they are often doing something
else while the radio plays in the background. Many people read only the
first few paragraphs of a newspaper or magazine story, so the full message
may not be received. Making the communication channel fit requires research
into audience members’ situations, behavior patterns and especially media
uses and preferences (Richardson, 1969).
time public affairs practitioners must disseminate a message, they make
decisions about how that message should be distributed (Richardson, 1969).
Questions addressed, perhaps unconsciously, include what types of people
are likely to respond favorably to a certain type of printed message and
how people in a target audience get their information.
(1983) warns that persuaders must be very careful about choosing their
media channel. Public affairs practitioners should carefully consider which
channel will be most useful in getting the attention of the target audience.
Knowing the makeup of the target audience is essential to choosing the
right channel, getting the audience’s attention, and ensuring the audience’s
needs are addressed in the message.
public affairs practitioners fully understand the segments that their target
audiences comprise, they can choose the appropriate channels of communication
to reach that specific public. This is important because compared to baby
boomers members of other market segments are more sophisticated about media
and view and use television and other media differently (Ritchie, 1995).
changed dramatically in the last half of the 20th century, particularly
in the effect television had on media consumption patterns. The internet
promises to make a similar impact on media choices as the 21st century
begins (Napoli & Ewing, 1998).
are changing their patterns of media use. A study reported in Mediaweek
(Consoli, 1998) found more media use overall but less daily television
viewing and less use of newspapers. Use of books and magazines increased,
particularly time spent on business and trade publications. Adults surveyed
reported spending more time with recorded media such as videos and music,
and more time at the movies. While television viewing is reported decreasing
in this study, it remains the most used media among adults surveyed. Broadcast
and cable television combine to account for 31 percent of adults’ daily
media use. The communications industry envisions an increase in media use
through 2002 (Schwirtz, 1998). The nation’s strong economy will continue
to encourage spending on media and entertainment, especially cable television,
video services and online services.
and Lehnus (1998) point to the increase in use of personal computers as
further evidence that media consumption patterns are changing. Their internet-based
survey found young adults aged 16 to 24 spending significantly more time
watching television and listening to radio than reading newspapers and
magazines, with time spent on the internet ranking between the two. Their
survey shows internet access (excluding e-mail-only use) rose from 53 percent
to 64.3 percent of males and from 47.3 percent to 61.6 percent of females
just from 1996 to 1997. Internet access increased among all demographic
groups, with education level being a key element: over 90 percent of college
graduates reported recent internet use, while less than a third of respondents
who did not complete high school reported such use. The survey showed a
6 percent drop in internet use among males in the 20- to 24-year-old bracket
as compared to their counterparts aged 16 through 19. The survey also showed
greater internet use among whites than minorities and greater use at school
and home than at a friend’s or relative’s home.
by Napoli and Ewing (1998) revealed similar levels of broadcast and print
media use among internet users, regardless of how much time respondents
reported spending on line. The researchers predict that internet use will
increase dramatically with the rise of the Net Generation, which they see
as the largest group of consumers since the baby boomers. Given that this
group – perhaps as large as 30 percent of the United State population –
has grown up surrounded by digital media, their patterns of media use are
likely to be much more reachable by these means than previous generations.
Napoli and Ewing cite research characterizing Generation X as slackers,
materialistic and cynical, while the Net Generation has been described
as independent, assertive, and competent critical thinkers. Napoli and
Ewing conclude from their study that, while internet usage is increasing
dramatically, traditional media use is unaffected by the growth of the
new media channel and advertisers can still use traditional means to reach
the Net Generation.
research clearly shows that the world of communication technology has been
changing rapidly and is poised to continue doing so, yet experience finds
many public affairs practitioners making crucial communication decisions
out of habit or convenience rather than based on theory or research. Public
affairs practitioners often have neither the time nor the expertise to
research changing community patterns or media channel preferences. The
materials presented here can help public affairs practitioners make their
channel selections quickly, with a minimum of pre-research, and back up
their decisions with theory and hard data to convince commanders that the
right choice was made.