Part iv: Identify target audiences

It is absolutely crucial to identify the key decision-makers that can improve existing policies, create new ones, and ensure that policies are implemented. The target audience is the group of stakeholders, who can help bring about the policy change the EO hopes to achieve.

There are two kinds of target audiences: primary and secondary audiences. Primary audiences are those individuals with the direct authority to make policy changes (i.e. the Minister of Agriculture, members of parliament, etc.). Informing or persuading the primary audience about a policy issue is the centrepiece of any advocacy strategy.

Secondary audiences are those people who can influence the decisions of your primary audience. Secondary audiences are important because they can provide a way to reach the primary audience that may not be available to the EO directly. Secondary audiences may include the general public, academia, or other government ministries, political parties or members of parliament.(1)

A primary target audience is the person, or group of people, within a decision making institution, with authority to make or change policy. Audiences are always people, not institutions. Examples of primary audiences include:

  • The President or Prime Minister
  • Departmental Secretary General
  • The head of an institute or organisation

Selecting a primary audience requires that you understand something about the institution or organization. The EO need to know who exercises power and which people are linked to them. Usually, there are many potential secondary audiences. Generally The EO should try to focus on those secondary audiences with the greatest ability to influence your primary audience.

Knowing your audience is critical for planning an advocacy initiative. The EO can't advocate if it has not identified target audiences.

Learning about your target audiences is one of the most important parts of developing an effective advocacy strategy. The more that is known about target audiences, the more likely goals will be achieved. This process begins with a policy analysis, and should continue throughout the initiative.

What you need to know about your target audience

  • How much information do they already have about your issue?
  • Do they already have an opinion?
  • Have they already voted or taken a public position on your issue?
  • What new information are you offering?
  • What objections might they have to your position?
  • Do you need to clear up any misperceptions, or counter opposing arguments? ER
  • What could they lose as a result of your proposal?
  • Can you link your issue to something you know they do support?


(1) The Policy Project, 2006.