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C.3 Audience Profile and Inclusive Communication

Audience profiling is the process of describing each audience segment, who and where they are, their needs, current behaviours, knowledge, values, aspirations and emotions. The purpose of audience profiling extends beyond collecting statistical data aiming to tailor communication to the needs of people in a community. 

An understanding of the existing behaviours, knowledge, aspirations and emotional status of an audience can help to tailor approaches, key messages and activities that resonate and motivate behaviour change.

An assessment should be carried out to ensure inclusive communication and map the stakeholders. Assessments may include questions such as: who are the primary (priority) and secondary (influencing) audiences (include the range of different stakeholders in the given context)? What are their specific needs? What existing communications channels and processes can be used? What are the issues/problems confronting the audience? Are there existing geographic, cultural, socioeconomic and political barriers to engaging with the audience? 

With the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, the ‘leave no one behind’ principle has been widely adopted in the WASH sector to ensure that the most vulnerable populations have access to basic needs. It is therefore seen as an important part of hygiene initiatives. Communication plays an important role in reaching out to vulnerable populations and programmes must plan for the dissemination and exchange of information with everyone affected. 

Omitting a group from an audience profile can lead to implementation problems later on and reduce the effectiveness of a hygiene intervention. Two-way communication should always pay special attention to marginalised or disadvantaged groups in society. Gender issues E.3 are always a primary concern in emergencies, as well as those related to the poor, or any other vulnerable group.

Process & Good Practice

  • Identify the range of different WASH stakeholders in a specific context and consider their information and communication needs.

  • Use the community assessment data and analysis (chapter  A ) as a basis to identify:

    • Socio-demographic characteristics such as sex, age, language, disability and religion
    • Geographic characteristics such as where the audience lives and how that might impact behaviour
    • Psychographic characteristics such as needs, hopes, concerns and aspirations
    • Audience thoughts, beliefs, knowledge and current actions related to a health or social issue 
    • Barriers and facilitators that prevent or encourage audience members to adopt the desired behaviour
    • Gender and how it impacts audience members’ behaviour and ability to change
    • Effective communication approaches and channels for reaching the audience
  • Analyse and segment the different audiences to understand and determine the primary (priority) and secondary (influencing) audiences to inform the communication strategy. 

  • Review and update the audience profiles regularly as new information becomes available to ensure they continue to be representative of the audience.

  • Tailor communication to the needs and preferences of children of different ages, older people, persons with disabilities E.5 and vulnerable groups (e.g. people with underlying medical conditions).

  • Increase the accessibility of communications by using multiple formats. Consult the audience on their preferred methods of communication (e.g. audio messages, print media, braille, simplified language, pictorial or sign language).

  • Be as honest as possible with people; be prepared to admit that you do not know something and then return to them with an answer (if there is one). 

  • Ensure that the facilities which are promoted in key messages are accessible to everyone (chapter  P ).



To develop tailor-made communication strategies to increase ownership, inclusivity and the participation of multiple stakeholders.


  • Communities are composed of many types of people and each group or individual understands and perceives information differently. Hence, no one size fits all in communication design. Key messages should be tailored for specific audiences depending on their age, gender and sexual orientation, religion, origin and culture, language and disabilities (A.7, E.3, E.4 and E.5).

  • Different audience groups may prefer different communication channels and understanding their preferences before communicating with them is important. For example, older people may prefer face to face communication while younger audiences may be more interested in Social Media T.44.

  • Some audiences have specific needs so multiple formats should be used to make communication accessible to all (e.g. persons with disabilities may require the use of sign language or pictures).

  • Mass communications through digital platforms can create a space where everyone can find the information they need. However, information intended for wider consumption should be carefully presented. Social Media T.44 can often be misused and the information may be misconstrued - unwittingly or intentionally.

  • Focused programme objectives enable the target groups to be more easily identified and enable the risk to be communicated more specifically, e.g. if Menstrual Health and Hygiene P.7 is the focus, then the communications can be designed for a target group of women and other people who menstruate.

  • Important audiences to target are not exclusively those who are most affected by the situation, but also those who have influence, power and resources. 


Inclusive communication strategies and principles (including audience profiling)

WHO (2017): WHO Strategic Communications Framework for Effective Communications

Compass (2013): How to Do an Audience Analysis, USAID

Audience segmentation, profiling and communication channels

Health Communication Capacity Collaborative (2016-2020): SBCC for Emergency Preparedness I-Kit

Communication with neglected groups during an emergency

Inter-Agency Coordination Lebanon (2020): Communication and Engagement with Older Persons, Persons with Disabilities, Persons with Underlying Medical Conditions and their Caregivers during COVID-19 Response, UN