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Communicating for change

Identifying your audiences

Introducing the tool

By audience, we mean the group of people you need to reach to achieve the change you want.

Typically, a campaign will have more than one audience. There may be those you want to mobilise as campaign supporters, and campaign targets – those you think can help deliver the change you seek.

For each audience, stop and consider what would be the best communication channel to use to get your message across effectively. This should be at the centre of your approach.

We can categorise audiences in lots of different ways.

For example:

  • A campaign to encourage more women to be more active might use research that has shown some women need more help and encouragement to exercise and target them.
  • A campaign to raise awareness of the risk of suicide amongst young men might target parents, teachers and health workers.
  • A campaign to call for more support for private renters might target students and career starters.
  • A campaign trying to secure the release of a political prisoner might target the Foreign Secretary.

But it’s particularly important to identify attitudes towards the issue.

To do this, we can use a tool called the Spectrum of Allies.

Credit: George Lackey at Training for Change. Read more about this tool here.


In campaigns, it is tempting to focus on the two groups at either end of the debate. The people who actively support our cause and the people who actively oppose it. But most of the population are going to be somewhere in the middle. And that means they can be influenced.

The Spectrum of Allies tool can help to clarify our understanding of where different audiences stand in relation to our issue. Then we can design a communications strategy to shift them in the right direction.

But remember, it’s unrealistic to try and make people active allies overnight. Instead, we should aim to move our audience one wedge to the left on the Spectrum of Allies. If we do this consistently, we can deliver sustainable change.

Case study: Audiences for Climate Campaigning

A map of audiences for climate campaigning might look something like this.

Active opposition: These are the climate sceptics. They do not accept that climate change is happening and oppose efforts to stop it. There is little value in engaging with this audience, as they’re unlikely to change their minds.

Passive opposition: These people are not very concerned about climate change. They may not reject the science altogether, but they have some doubts. And they think that other concerns, like economic growth, are more important than climate action.

Neutral: These people have some awareness of the climate crisis and are somewhat concerned about the impacts. But they are unlikely to engage with climate action. They may be more concerned with other political issues or with their families and local communities.

Passive allies: This group is concerned about the climate crisis. They know there’s a big problem and want action to address it. But they’re not actively involved in climate campaigning. This may be because they have limited time or resources. Or because they don’t feel their actions can make any difference.

Active allies: These people are very concerned about the climate crisis. They understand that it’s a major threat to humanity and are willing to take action to try and solve the problem.

Homework Exercise

Imagine you’re in a group of parent campaigners pushing for lower speed limits and a car-free day a week in your local area. You’re planning a day of action to show support for the changes and want to get more of the community involved.

Develop some thoughts on:

  • What audiences you want to target;
  • Where your audiences sit on the Spectrum of Allies;
  • Which of these groups you’re going to prioritise engaging with; and
  • What channels and messages you might use to reach them.
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