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Nearly a Third of the British Public is Beyond the Reach of Communicators. Here’s How to Make Sure Vital Messages Cut Through

Laura Thomas

Around three in ten (29%) of the UK public are detached from the messaging of governments, media, and brands, according to new research conducted by Opinium Research and Grayling. This group feels disconnected from mainstream communications, presenting a challenge for organisations who need to reach them – especially with health-related information.

As communicators, we always highlight the importance of understanding our audiences - what they read, what they search for online, who influences them, where they are active on social media, and their fears and desires. At Grayling, we wanted to go even deeper and look at how people across the world – including 2,000 Britons – feel about media and government messaging and how it influences them.

What we uncovered enabled us to identify four distinct groups based on their behaviour:

The Opt-Outs (low consumption, low trust)- those below the median value for both consumption and trust in their market

The Plugged-In (high consumption, high trust) – those above the median value for both consumption and trust in their market

The Loyalists (low consumption, high trust) – those below the median value for consumption but above the median value for trust in their market

The Informed Sceptics (high consumption, low trust) – those above the median value for consumption but below the median value for trust in their market

Why the Opt-Outs matter

The Opt-Outs are the hardest segment of the British population to reach; they have largely tuned out from government, media and brand communications and messaging. They eschew the media where possible and are mistrustful of communications when they do engage.The Opt-Outs feel a growing sense of alienation from the wider world.

Yet, it’s a significant group. The ‘Opt-Outs’ group of UK citizens - 29% of the population - is two-thirds female (65%), mostly aged over 55 (53%), and more likely to be median income professionals and retirees. This group is a target audience for many businesses and government bodies. Nearly four in ten (39%) earn more than £30,000 a year, and more than one in five (22%) shops online.

The Opt-Outs have low rates of engagement with - and trust in - media:

-        Just 27% watch television at least once a month

-        60% never read a print newspaper

-        36% never read online news sites

-        26% say that social media can never be trusted at all

Regarding public health messaging, failure to hear important messages could have profound implications. One in five (20%) claim they ‘never’ receive public health information via any channel, while 25% say they ‘never’ receive government communications.

Clearly, there is an audience of millions of Britons untouched by communications on a variety of vitally important issues. The Opt-Outs are sceptical about the government, disconnected from their local community, and potentially more vulnerable to scams.

How to engage with the Opt-Outs

The Opt-Outs present a unique challenge, as they’re sceptical about newspapers and television and do not trust social media. These people are outside the national conversation, but we do know that the price and reliability of products matters to them more than brand purpose.

The Opt-Outs are less likely to be connected to the significant national issues than other groups, so organisations that want to reach them should go hyper-local, working with microinfluencers who look and sounds like their target audiences. Local radio could be a valuable channel, and organisations should always use down-to-earth language and imagery that feels right for that audience.

Organisations must seek to understand them better, for example, by running local focus groups to learn the issues that matter to them, which channels they trust and engage in, and the messages that will resonate with them.

By meeting this particularly difficult-to-reach group on their terms, brands and organisations with essential messages can create that all-important cut-through at a challenging time for everyone.

For more on how to reach the Opt-Outs and the other three groups we identified, please download our the full Dis/Connected Report here.

Laura Thomas is Head of Strategy at Grayling