Communicating with a low-income audience

As Relay for Life draws closer, I began wondering: How do low-income cancer patients learn about their resources? My pondering has led to me to various articles discussing how to communicate with a low-income audience.

Health-related nonprofits provide support for many low-income individuals and families. An organization must first understand how to communicate with this audience before creating brochures, posters and websites.

First, here are a few facts about the low-income population:

  • In the United States, 14.7 percent of our citizens live in poverty.

One study I read discusses the use of metaphors to relay a message to an audience. Metaphors are used often in the health field to create a better understanding of what their disease is, or maybe why getting the flu shot is important. Metaphors are an easy way to express a complex idea. There are four important things to take away from the article:

  • Know your audience. Too many times, communications plans are implemented without understanding the culture of their target audience.
  • Going along with the first point, do not stereotype your audience.
  • When you create a metaphoric message, make sure that the target is a known subject among your audience (e.g., the phrase “Cancer is war”, cancer is the target).

The literacy rate at which materials are written at organizations is important. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that cancer was diagnosed later in some patients because of a misunderstanding in the screening pamphlets. There was also a lack of understanding of the treatment options, as well as informed consent documents.

The study further discusses the topic of cancer and how to educate low-income audiences about cancer. Cancer affects everyone and does not care about your socioeconomic status, religion, race, ethnicity, age, or income. It is important for all people to know how to deal with cancer and what a person can do to defeat cancer.

As a public relations practitioner it is our duty to know our audience. Perhaps the most important take away from this post is to never stereotype your audience. Do your research before implementing a plan, and don’t assume you know your audience before conducting any research.