Target groups can be defined as a public to whom you want to communicate your messages. When defining target groups for your communication efforts, it is always a good idea to think about their profile and their typical characteristics. The more information you have on your target group, the easier it will be to shape messages and choose respective channels.

According to Newberry, 2020 and Law, 2019, when defining your target group, you should consider the following:

  • Demographics: what is the age range of your target group, and their sex, level of education and general income; all of this is valuable data that can help in shaping messages and choosing the right strategies; 
  • Location: it is quite important to know in which area your target group lives; and it must be as specific as possible; if you choose to communicate to the whole of Europe or an entire country, this could be too broad and your communication can be dispersed;
  • Psychological factors: these can include lifestyle, ways of receiving information, recognising the values of your target group or knowing attitudes and beliefs;
  • Other factors: these can include the amount of power a person has in a community (e.g. maybe influencers are your target group and they have a significant amount of power), their social media usage, who they look up to (who is seen as a role model) and what they care about.

Having information on what your target group already knows, thinks or does – with information on where they are located – is the basis for defining every target group (Cutlip, Center & Broom, 2009)

Within your organisation or project, there can be multiple target groups. It is always a good idea to brainstorm in order to find all of the target groups, allowing you to use pre-existing prototypes later on.  For example, if you are a youth organisation dealing with entrepreneurship programmes, your target group can be young unemployed people who want to start their own business from your city/region. Their age range is from 18 to 30. They believe that the future is in their own hands and they should be independent and live without set limitations of traditional workspaces. They value freedom, flexibility and connections with others.

As you can see from the example above, the description of the target group is quite detailed. Be sure to be as concise as possible when defining your target groups and avoid being too general. For example, you can just say that your target group is unemployed young people. Even though this is generally true, it will influence your communication, as the messages will be harder to craft; it will also be challenging to choose the right channels. Unemployed young people can live in different realities, even if they live in the same country. Thus, communication will be different and you will have to adapt the message (e.g. communication with young people in rural areas will be different from young people living in urban and big areas). In mapping the target groups, have in mind that target groups are not homogeneous, but heterogeneous, which means that there are some specific characteristics within each target group. So, our unemployed young people can have some similarities and differences based on the region they are living in, lifestyle, level of education, etc.

If you are missing some information about your target group, especially connected with psychological factors or media consumption, you can use already available data (statistics and research findings) or undertake a short action research project to find out more about your target groups.


How to map target groups?

There are several methods that can be used to map target groups:

  • Stakeholder mapping. Stakeholder mapping is used to define internal and external stakeholders and their level of interest and power in participating in an organisation’s activities. You can organise a brainstorming session with your CAT to detect them. The other way is to organise focus groups or interviews with key people in the organisation in order to identify them better. (Dam, Siang, 2020
  • Persona building. Personas are archetypes of your target groups. The process of defining personas is usually used in design thinking methodology. (Dam, Siang, 2020) In your team you can build your persona by answering some of the questions, such as:
    • What is their age?
    • What are the interests of the person?
    • What values do they likely hold?
    • Where does the person live?
    • What challenges does this person have?
    • What is their level of education?
    • What motivates your persona and what do they want to achieve?
    • In what region is your persona living? 
(Joosten, 2020)
    • When you are finished with answering questions about your persona, give the real name to the persona and write down a short summary about them. It would also be wise to put personas in different situations and check what would trigger their participation in your organisation’s activities or causes. It is always a good idea to keep personas a little bit unpolished, as you can add to them later on; you can also update them as time passes and some characteristics of the personas change (e.g. the values of young people may change over time). (Dam, Siang, 2020)
  • Use available data. The web and social media pages of organisations are a useful resource in mapping your target groups. By using analytics functions on web pages and the insights function on social media sites, you can glean different data about your target group, their age, demographics and interests. For example, you can use Google Analytics for tracking how your web page is approached by different users. Google Analytics can tell you more about demographics, age range, session duration, bounce rate, devices used to access pages, etc. This can be used in order to optimise your web page to the specific needs of your users. For example, if you see that most people are using mobile phones to access your web page, it would be wise to have a page that is adaptable for mobile. On the other hand, you can use Facebook to obtain valuable information. On the page you manage, you need to go to the Insights tab, where you will see statistical data on demographics, age, time of user activity, reach and number of reactions and shares. 


Domagoj Moric
Domagoj Morić

Facilitator and a trainer in the field of youth. He holds MA in Communication Sciences and currently is attending PhD in the same field. For the last ten years, he has been working as consultant for public relations for different NGO’s and has implemented several campaigns related to civic education and sustainable energy. He regularly works as a trainer in the field of youth and school education. Domagoj is member of the trainers’ pool of Croatian National Agency and SALTO SEE and is also working with other NA’s and other institutions such as European Parliament and Council of Europe, as well as private companies and NGO sector.