Public Sector: Forum - How to embrace diversity

Public sector marketers must tailor their activity carefully to engage with consumers, writes Jemima Bokaie.

Book now to find out how to market effectively to this hugely diverse audience. Call 020 8267 4542.

It is not easy being a marketer in the public sector. The target audience is so diverse that it is almost impossible to communicate with everyone at once. Even if it were possible, they would be unlikely to listen, due to the high levels of apathy toward anything to do with the government or local authority.

The UK's changing demographics only serve to increase the challenge. There are about 3.2m people from ethnic minorities in the UK, while by 2020, half of the population will be over-50, and a third of those between 50 and retirement age will be classified as disabled.

Yet many marketers assume that all communities merit the same approach. They are consequently missing out on the opportunity to reach particular groups of people that are often ignored.

'We are an ageing population, so from a marketing perspective, it is crucial to be aware of this,' says Tom Berry, head of campaigns and marketing at the Disability Rights Commission and a speaker at Marketing's Public Sector Communications conference next month, which will address the issues facing those working with young, old and disabled people, as well as ethnically diverse groups.

'A lot of these older people don't consider themselves disabled, which is a further challenge for marketers,' he adds.

So how can marketers successfully target audiences across cultural, social and age barriers? Ross James, managing consultant and head of inclusivity at COI Communications, and also a speaker at the conference, believes that multiple messaging is vital to diversity.

'It is not right to think that one marketing message is relevant to everyone, particularly with issues such as cultural sensitivity,' he says. 'I constantly see ads with references that could alienate or be misunderstood by certain communities.'

Berry agrees that marketers should not treat disabled people, who have been estimated by the Department for Work and Pensions to have an annual spending power of about £80bn, as a homogeneous group. 'It is important to look at all people that fall under the Disability Discrimination Act, rather than just wheel-chair users, who make up 5% of the 10m disabled adults in the UK,' he says.

He stresses that it is important to highlight that disabled people are consumers too, by featuring them in advertising. Berry cites B&Q's TV ad for power tools, which featured a member of staff with one arm, and the Home Office's Frank campaign that showed someone hugging a wheelchair user, as good examples.

Anjna Raheja, managing director at ethnic marketing specialist and PR agency Media Moguls, believes that understanding the cultural sensitivities of particular groups is crucial to conveying a message.

'You don't want to go in all guns blazing without understanding a community's dynamics, such as religious and social issues, and economic status,' she says.

Using Media Moguls' 'Stop Forced Marriages' campaign as an example, Raheja believes it is possible to target communities with different messages.

'The biggest challenge was making sure people understand the difference between arranged and forced marriages, but we didn't want to alienate older communities or look like we were condemning arranged marriages,' she adds.

'So we targeted potential victims with messages about the support services available; conveyed to older audiences that the government understands the cultural issues surrounding arranged marriages, but asserted that forced marriages are an abuse of human rights; and educated people in the public sector who are working with community groups about what you need to do if you think someone is facing forced marriage.'

Berry says marketers should also think practically, as mainstream advertising is not often accessible to everyone. 'Older and visually impaired people may need printed materials in a large format, while those with cognitive disabilities may need information in a simplified form of English, such as Easyread,' he says.

Text messaging and podcasting, as well as radio and TV channels suitable for those with lower literacy levels, are a useful platform for reaching groups of disabled people. Digital television also enables those who cannot leave the house to access services and products.

But the internet is less penetrable to some socially excluded groups. 'We conducted a survey which found that four out of five websites are inaccessible to disabled people,' says Berry. 'The British Standards Institute now offers guidance on how to make sites more accessible.'

Some communities do not have access to any media channels. James believes outreach is the only viable way to reach these. 'Some messages can be communicated only through the communities themselves,' he says, citing the NHS's black organ donation campaign.

Paul Mylrea, director of group media relations at Transport for London (TfL), agrees that marketers should never take it for granted that their messages will reach every member of their perspective audience by classic media.

'You need the whole communications package, so direct communication with groups though outreach is vital,' he says. 'New technology may help us be more targeted, but marketers need to talk to groups directly to understand how they get their news and information.'

Reaching specific groups is critical for TfL, which is aiming to reach the 10m daily users of its buses and Tubes. It has also produced targeted information that will help people from ethnic minorities make greater use of the Docklands Light Railway. This involved talking to newspapers in East London which have a lot of readers in such groups.

Despite the enhancement in interest and awareness of public-sector communications, the niche value of the sector means it remains an afterthought for some marketers.

'Marketers need to remind themselves that they are not just selling a product or brand, but are also educating about a service, policy or key issue, and that these concerns and the target communities should be determined at the very start,' says Raheja.


Public Sector Communications
Date: 14 September
Venue: Ibis Hotel, Earls Court, London

Speakers include: Charles Skinner, head of communication and consultation, Haringey Council; Danny Rogers, editor, PR Week; David Bowles, head of external affairs, RSPCA; David May, head of strategic communications, BBC; Jenny Hampton, communications and marketing manager, London Borough of Lambeth; Louise Ansari, head of communications, Lambeth Council; Lucian Hudson, director of communications, Department for Constitutional Affairs; Paul Mylrea, director of group media relations, Transport for London; Sarah McGregor, head of corporate communications, Surrey Police; Steve Jones, director of communications and marketing, Help the Aged; Tom Berry, head of campaigns and marketing, the Disability Rights Commission; Sam Conniff, director, Livity and Live Futures; and Ross James, managing consultant and head of inclusivity, COI Communications.

To book a delegate place
Tel 020 8267 4011


Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus
Brand Republic Jobs

subscribe now


Lynx tells men not to leave love to fate
HBO captures awkwardness of watching sex scenes with parents
Primark to open first US stores with Boston chosen as flagship location
Marketing spend on the up but a reality check is needed before celebrating
Top 10 ads of the week: Jackpotjoy and BT Broadband fend off Kevin Bacon
Lidl beats Tesco to 10m Facebook fans
Center Parcs ad banned for encouraging parents to take kids out of school
Coca-Cola, Cadbury and Amazon named top brands for targeting youth market
Leaked document shows Nokia to be rebranded as Microsoft Mobile
Nike lays-off hardware staff in move that casts doubt on future of FuelBand
Greenpeace says save the bees or humans will die
What brands need to know about changes to VAT and online downloads in 2015
Jimmy Savile victims urged to claim compensation in new ad campaign
UKIP launches biggest  ad campaign and stirs up 'racist' accusations
Apple boss Tim Cook provides voiceover on ad touting firm's renewed green commitments
John Lewis walks consumers through its history to celebrate 150 years of business
Waitrose boosts content strategy with 'Weekend Kitchen with Waitrose' C4 tie-up
Hottest virals: Cute puppies star in Pedigree ad, plus Idris Elba and Fruyo
Amnesty International burns candles to illuminate new hope
Toyota achieves the impossible by calming angry Roman drivers
Tom of Finland's 'homoerotic' drawings made into stamps
YouTube reveals user habits to appeal to 'older' marketers
Ex-M&S marketing chief Steven Sharp consulting at WPP
Wolff Olins reveals new CEO after Apple poaches Karl Heiselman
Glasgow offers £30,000 prize to best digital idea for 2014 Commonwealth Games
Google's revenues surge but shares drop as it grapples with transition to mobile
Facebook beats Twitter to most 'marketing friendly' social media site crown, says DMA
Fableists believe children like Finn should be outdoors enjoying life
Homebase, Baileys and Camelot join the line-up at Media360
MasterCard renews Rugby World Cup sponsorship to push cashless message