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?

Checklist: Who to include in your K&A plan

Policy makers

Natural resource use regulators or policy makers – those with a responsibility for either regulating the resource, developing strategies or policies about the resource, or developing legislation:

  • Federal government departments/agencies/committees involved in regulation/policy/legislation
  • State government departments/agencies/committees involved in regulation/policy/legislation
  • Local government/municipal authorities/committees involved in regulation/policy/legislation
  • Regional natural resource management agencies (e.g. Catchment Management Authorities)
  • Inter-agency or issues-based statutory committees whose findings or deliberations impact on the quality of the resource or people’s use of the resource
  • Other


Natural resource managers – those who directly manage the resource related to the research issue and need information for their planning:

  • Special user groups (e.g. Landcare, integrated catchment groups, indigenous groups)
  • Federal government departments/agencies/committees who directly manage the resource
  • State government departments/agencies/committees who directly manage the resource
  • Local government/municipal authorities/committees who directly manage the resource
  • Quasi-government agencies overseeing specific functions (e.g. water authorities, regional planning commissions, environmental commissions)
  • Other


Natural resource users – those who directly use the natural resources that are being researched:

  • Individuals who use land, water or other natural resources
  • Local council authorities with direct responsibility for the resource (but who may not manage the resource)
  • Regional natural resource management agencies (e.g. Catchment Management Authorities)
  • Industry associations or bodies that may be subject to (a) regulation, (b) modification to access to, or (c) subject to charge for resource use
  • Other

Natural resource use advisors – including both private and government advisors about impacts on or use of the natural resource

  • Local businesses (including agribusiness and banks) that provide advice about the resource
  • Consultants
  • Extension personnel from state government agencies, Landcare and Catchment Management Groups etc
  • Research organisations (e.g. Cooperative Research Centres, state government departments, universities, CSIRO)
  • Trade associations (e.g. Commercial Fisheries Association)
  • Professional scientific/technical associations (e.g. Ecological Society of Australia)
  • Other

Natural resource use funders – those who fund your project

  • Research and development funding organisations (e.g. Land & Water Australia)
  • Government funding arrangements/bodies (e.g. Natural Heritage Trust)
  • Other


The broader Australian community – those with an in interest in the natural resource issue through either their general interest in environmental/sustainability issues and/or their involvement in recreation, tourism or using the products of the resources (food and fibre):

Local residents/community groups

  • Country Women's Association
  • Associations such as Lions, Rotary
  • Associations of senior citizens
  • Indigenous groups
  • Ethnic groups
  • Other organisations or individuals who have stature in the community and can influence opinion

Conservation groups

  • Local conservation groups
  • National conservation groups (e.g. Australian Conservation Foundation, Greenpeace)
  • State-wide conservation groups (e.g. Queensland Conservation Council)
  • Groups related to specific issues (e.g. rainforest protection, biodiversity, limnology)
  • Other

Business groups

  • Manufacturing industries (e.g. food processing)
  • Export agents/companies
  • Real estate agencies
  • Chambers of Commerce
  • Industrial groups
  • Other


  • Colleges and universities
  • Primary schools and high schools
  • Other

Media representatives

  • Local
  • State/national
  • Special media (e.g. rural)
  • Other


Internal – those within your organisation or in collaborating organisations who may need to be involved in the communication


  • Project staff
  • Links with other projects in your organisation
  • Management

Advisory committees

  • Organisational
  • Community reference groups/panels