Magazine article Marketing

Public Sector: Forum - How to Embrace Diversity

Magazine article Marketing

Public Sector: Forum - How to Embrace Diversity

Article excerpt

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 pounds 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. …

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