How Audience Characteristics Can Affect Communications


Education level

Education is related to reading skills and health literacy. However, having a more educated audience doesn’t mean you can jump directly to the more complex topics in the Communication Materials. Many of the topics addressed in the Communication Materials are new and unfamiliar, regardless of your audience’s education level.

When thinking about literacy, be aware that it can be difficult to use written materials with an audience that has limited literacy skills. One employer that used the Toolkit with their lower literacy employees discovered that the best way for them to communicate was via oral presentations.

Age range

The Communication Materials are relevant to people of all ages. However, the age of your audience may affect your communication format or distribution channels. For example, text messages may be more appropriate for providing information to a younger audience.

Race and ethnicity

It is important to design the graphics and photos in your materials to reflect the demographics of your audience.

Primary language

If English is not the primary language for your audience, you may need to translate the Communication Materials, which are available in English only. Learn more about translating materials.

Health status

People with chronic health conditions tend to be more informed health care consumers who have a greater awareness of issues within the health care system. This level of awareness also means that they tend to be more receptive to the messages in the Communication Materials. For individuals with chronic conditions, make the Communication Materials even more personally relevant by linking the materials to information on specific health conditions.

Job type

The types of jobs your audience has can affect the format of materials and the distribution methods available to you. For example, if your employees do not have access to their own computers, disseminating the materials through an intranet site or email messages will be ineffective.

Information sources

When planning the format and distribution of your materials, it helps to know where the people in your audience typically get health-related information and who they trust. For all organizations, it is beneficial to state and demonstrate to your audience that achievement of desired goals is a shared responsibility – not just something you expect them to do.

Employers and other organizations need to be aware that many employees do not understand the role employers or purchasing organizations have in providing or paying for health care. This lack of understanding makes it even more important to alleviate distrust by being transparent about your organization’s reasons for communicating about health care topics.