Connecting with ‘hard to reach’ communities

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All local authorities are made up of diverse groups which can make communicating and engaging a challenge. There are some who have historically been categorised as ‘hard to reach’ – whether it be dwelling type, cultural and language diversities, accessibility to services or not digitally connected.

Although we recognise that there are some genuine barriers to connecting, historical challenges associated with engaging these groups can be overcome through new technologies, improved digital access, collaboration and best practices. For example, in February 2020, 96% of households in Great Britain had internet access.

Six proven techniques for your ‘hard to reach’ communications strategy:

1) Broaden your reach through a choice of motivations

By understanding that people have different motivations you can change behaviour. Everyone has a different reason for getting involved and it’s important to find that emotive link.

It could be, what’s in it for me, a community cause close to their hearts, or supporting their local school – making people feel connected, informed and valued will motivate action.

2) Interesting, topical content on social media attracts younger audiences and differing demographics

Connect with your ‘hard to reach’ groups on social media by creating topical content geared towards their demographic i.e. blogs, short-form video. Concerted targeted ad campaigns can pinpoint an audience to maximise their interactions.

Outside a block of flats

3) Use email and personalisation to increase your impact and cut through

Don’t underestimate the power of email. Segmenting your email list into categories, based on location, age, cultural background and even interests will ensure email campaigns land well with your audience.

Personalised emails, written towards residents’ specific needs e.g. living in a flat with different bin services, will be better received than a blanket email newsletter.

4) Partner with community influencers to access their social networks and followers

Identifying and partnering with local influencers from media, business, politics, community groups and the wider public can provide access into their wider social networks.

A local community influencer

5) Support offline events to boost awareness

Partner with local events e.g. as a sponsor, to access a wide variety of demographics. Or arrange with local and national media personalities to run themed workshops, e.g. recycling tips aimed at children, all of which can be shared and amplified by your local influencers in their networks.

6) Bring the community together through a common cause

Enabling primary and secondary schools to benefit from funding for educational and environmental projects is an effective way of encouraging all family members to be involved, and provides another channel to get your messages across and motivate action.

Top tip: Focus on the areas which achieve the greatest return

Whilst it is key to make communications accessible to all, budgets are limited and need to be maximised. For example, it’s not always the perceived ‘hard to reach’ groups where you can make the biggest impact in environmental and financial improvements.

Recent research has shown that committed recyclers are some of the worst offenders for contamination. Therefore, if your goal is to maximise your carbon saving and financial return on investment, then prioritising efforts to change behaviours with some of your most engaged audiences should be considered as a balanced approach, alongside connecting with all ‘hard to reach’ audiences.

Further tips to improve your effectiveness

  • Utilise existing knowledge and data to better understand your audiences and develop insights e.g. Neighbourhood Management and MOSAIC/Acorn data.
  • Align your approach and collaborate with internal departments e.g. Community Engagement, Climate Change and Waste Teams.
  • Use existing networks e.g. faith groups, community leaders, cultural groups, voluntary groups.
  • Support cultural awareness events and create a community engagement calendar, allowing community groups and events to update and add on additional information.
  • Use plain English and visuals/pictures where possible in your communications.
  • Secure the necessary resource to maintain engagement and ensure sustained behaviour change

If you would like any support on how to implement your action plans please contact us.

Motivating hard to reach audiences to recycle more

Need help motivating hard to reach audiences to recycle more?

Case study includes:
  • Increasing participation of diverse communities and transient populations
  • Engaging a high proportion of flatted properties

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