How do you know who to communicate with?

How do you know who to communicate with?

Identifying target groups and individuals is largely a process of thinking through, as specifically as possible, who you want to reach or influence through the project. You also need to identify the method(s) by which you want to reach them:

  • providing information - making information available for those who seek it out
  • communicating - targeting information at users directly or indirectly
  • engaging - designing research questions with potential users who are involved in the research

Consider too the sort of relationship you have, or want to have, with each group/individual. Is it an impersonal ‘informing’ one-way relationship or a strong interactive ‘engaging’ relationship? The stronger the relationship, the higher the priority of the group/individual.

The table below shows that, for your high-priority target groups/individuals (those you want to engage with), you should use all methods of communication.

 Type of relationship
Priority of groups/individualsInformingTargeted one-wayTargeted two-wayEngaging
High-priority (engaging)HighHighHighHigh
Medium-high priority(communicating)HighMediumMediumLow
Low-medium priority (providing information)HighHighLowLow
Low priority (providing information)HighLowLowLow

Answering the following questions will help you identify the groups/individuals you need to reach. Those groups/individuals that appear in more than one response are particularly important for you to reach.

High-priority groups/individuals (engaging)

Which groups/individuals:

  • are currently involved in your project's activities?
  • are likely to be affected directly by your research outcomes?
  • are likely to be marginalised if they are not consulted or communicated with about the project?

Medium-high priority groups/individuals (communicating)

Which groups/individuals:

  • within your own organisation make decisions about the project?
  • would be helpful for you to communicate with because they might have important information, ideas or opinions?
  • should you involve to make sure that you have a balanced range of opinions?

Low-medium priority groups/individuals (providing information)

Which groups/individuals:

  • may not especially want to have input, but need to know what is happening?
  • belong to networks - particularly local ones - that you need to communicate with?
  • have previously been involved with the project or a related project?

Low priority groups/individuals (providing information)

Which groups/individuals:

  • are interested in the project’s research?

Reality check

Natural resource management projects generally have 3 major types of user—policy makers, planners and practitioners. The wider community may also be interested in the project. The priority you assign to groups/individuals will depend on your project. For example, if farmers are involved through participatory action research, they will be a high-priority group for you to engage with.

Use the checklist provided to help you identify your target groups/individuals.

Then, take a reality check on your list of target groups/individuals by considering the following four questions:

  1. Have you included everyone who is likely to benefit from the research?
  2. Have you included everyone who could ‘lose’ from the research outcomes/recommendations?
  3. Have you included people who could provide relevant expertise and information to the research process?
  4. Have you included people who are important for cooperation in or funding of the research activities?