Find Your People: Developing a Brand for Diverse Audiences

Key considerations when civic branding in diverse or varied communities.

Whether you’re a skilled marketer or new to the game, you’ve probably been taught the art and science of the “4 Ps”: Product, Price, Promotion and Place.

What’s missing from this important equation? People.

It’s easy to nail down your products and value proposition. But identifying your target audiences? That’s a whole other story.

Lots of organizations try to do one of two things: 1) Invite anyone and everyone to the table or 2) Focus on one niche audience at the expense of everyone else.

Neither of these strategies work well. Your audience pool has gotten deeper, wider and more diverse which makes your job more complicated, but also presents a tremendous opportunity. But you can’t create a brand that casts a super wide net without the risk of looking like you stand for nothing. You have to put a stake in the ground when it comes to your mission, values, and programs.

So how do you win? By working directly with your community (your audiences) to create a brand that reflects the people you represent, while creating tailored messages and programs that speak to specific audiences. Like a series of concentric circles, you start at the heart of your community with the values that unite the many, and follow-up with layers of messaging that speak to more specific audience groups.

Embrace the “A” word

While the majority of cities and communities represent people from all walks of life, meaningful engagement doesn’t happen until you connect with them in authentic ways. The key word there: Authentic. While this subjective term is regularly overused, the concept is pretty important when it comes to connecting with people through brand. You cannot tout diversity and inclusion as important brand values unless you’re actively implementing programs and initiatives that demonstrate this commitment.

For example, the City of South Euclid communicates that they are a “diverse community” on their website and within their mission statement and values. They also back these statements up with programs that support minorities. They’ve even passed monumental anti-discrimination laws.

The point is you can’t just talk the talk. You have to walk the talk too.

Communities and organizations that represent a group of people need to build authentic, diverse brands from the inside-out. There a lot of different approaches to this work, but here’s how we do it.

1. Establish diversity from within

Creating a brand that speaks authentically starts with bringing together a steering committee that is made up of diverse members of your community. And we don’t just mean diverse in terms of race, religious beliefs or gender, even though that helps too. We mean finding people who represent various institutions and groups that make up the fabric of your community – your schools, parent groups, chamber of commerce, neighborhood associations, public safety, government officials and more.

By doing so, you’re bringing different viewpoints to the table for a dialogue about what the community brand means to them.

2. Identify your core audiences

Here are a few smart ways to determine who makes up your audiences:

  • Leverage U.S. Census data reports to help gather a baseline understanding of your key demographics like age, gender, race, household income, etc.
  • Scan your channels – newsletters, social media pages, group forums, etc. – and see if you notice any trends in terms of which people are actively engaged in community issues and events.
  • Develop a new brand framework, including a positioning statement that elevates the community’s advantages and helps to differentiate it from surrounding communities.
  • Engage your steering committee or stakeholders to excavate insights on your most crucial audience groups and demographics.

This information can make all the difference when it comes to creating a tone-deaf brand vs. one that resonates with your people.

3. Create realistic values

Your values are the strength – the foundation – behind your brand. Sure, your logo is important, but your values communicate who you are and how you act, which is what your logo ultimately stands for.

Not only do your values need to be real and true, but they should influence decisions. Back to the City of South Euclid, if inclusion is an important value, then the laws, incentives, events, and programs need to reflect this promise. With a diverse steering committee in place, you’re in a position to identify the values that are common denominators across various segments of your audience.

4. Tailor messages to the right audiences

Sorry to burst your bubble, but the days of creating one newsletter, one big event, etc. are over. You have to create targeted messages for each audience and distribute them through the right channels. Some groups prefer to hear from you in-person or through a direct mail piece while others (younger demographics) may look only to social media or mobile alerts for important updates.

Now, this doesn’t mean you have to create dozens of communications channels for each audience. That’s beyond unmanageable, even for big-time corporate brands. You simply need to be mindful of the best ways to communicate with each segment and ensure your message speaks more directly to their needs.

5. Find your brand champions

Just like you need to foster diversity on the inside with your steering committee, you need to cultivate relationships with important stakeholders on the outside of your organization like residents, business owners, minority groups, HOAs, young professionals, etc. to help your brand flourish.

We call these people your brand champions. They’re folks who are invested in the success of your community and can influence others to feel the same way. Empower them with toolkits and talking points that enable them to represent your brand in positive ways. But also remember to let them create their own culturally-nuanced content so it resonates with their specific group.

Keep it going

It’s not a box to check off during brand development or implementation – as your audiences evolve, so must your brand and messaging. It’s an ongoing, long-term effort that ensures diverse groups are included and valued throughout important decision making. This is the epitome of authentic brands that spark genuine engagement with a diverse population.

Hopefully, you find it to be a worthwhile process that brings everyone in your community a little closer together in the process.

Need boots on the ground to put some power behind your brand? Download this free Brand Champion Guidebook for tips and tools to help you assemble advocates who promote your brand.

Marketing Communications Director


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