Science in Society

Who is my target audience?

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Your target audience may include parliamentarians, policy makers, government departments, donors and funders, diplomats, other research organisations, academic institutions, secondary schools, the media or community representatives. Many of them aren’t science experts, or at least not in your field of science. Consider the following examples:

The news media may only pick up on content they regard as newsworthy ― your output may be worthy research but not newsworthy enough to compete with the news of the day. The media has lost many of its beat specialists. Therefore, the journalist attending/reading may be a generalist who misses important nuances of your work.

Your response: Keep it short and simple, explain jargon, anticipate and welcome questions and prepare answers.

The policy maker may want to use your findings or expertise for policy development, but these must be timeous, relevant and clearly communicated.

Your response: Your timing must be right and your message clear. During the early stages when a specific policy review process kicks off, the policy maker wants evidence-based guidance. You may need a relationship with certain individuals rather than rely on your work to filter through systems via the media or policy briefs.

Watch the webinar below on social science communication with a strong focus on reaching policy makers:

How to communicate science targeting a broader audience?​​​​​​​

  • Fellow-academics, informed readers and students may want to access your original journal paper after reading your popular article or hearing your presentation.
    Your response: Remember to provide links to original journal articles and your contact details.
  • The general public may read your articles in The Conversation, the Daily Maverick and on other platforms. This audience is limited to those who have a fairly good command of English but may not be experts. Your response: Explain all jargon, avoid acronyms and check your word count.
  • The HSRC consults with communities and has embarked on participatory research methods. Community members may include people who don’t speak fluent English but have valuable ― and often untapped ― knowledge of your area of work. Communication often comes down to a two-way process of science engagement, rather than dissemination. Your response: The same principles of science communication apply when you communicate with people verbally or using video clips: avoid jargon and acronyms, remember the human angle, tell stories, listen and welcome questions.
  • This is a useful link to consider the difference between science engagement and science communication.​​​​​​​


  • Keeping text concise and lively and using simple English will help make your content accessible and engaging.
  • Good photography, video clips, podcasts and simple infographics may do more to reach certain audiences than a complicated graph or dense text. Ask the HSRC photographers and designers for advice or invite them to join photo opportunities.

Link to the next section:

  1. Who is my target audience?
  2. What do I want to share?
  3. What should my word count be?
  4. How do I structure an article?
  5. How can I use stories in my communication?
  6. I need help with language and style
  7. What about footnotes/bibliographies/references?
  8. Tick box
  9. Talking about the HSRC: Are we diluting our brand?
  10. Focus on the researcher: Conveying the So What? and writing a short biography
  11. How do I structure a PowerPoint presentation?
  12. How do I take a useful photograph?
  13. How do I plan the structure of a short video?
  14. Useful links on science communication
  15. I am no digital native and need help with these: ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​creating hyperlinks, tracking edits in Word, making edits in Pdf, sending large documents and folders via WeTransfer
  16. Visualise your communication for impact
  17. HSRC events: Requirements for drafting and sending invitations

This toolkit is designed to help HSRC researchers to communicate information about their research effectively to maximise impact.​​​​​​​