Who do you think you’re talking to?

When you’re communicating to the public about your plans, it’s important to recognise that not everyone is the same.

A quick look at the Census 2011 data held by the Office For National Statistics (ONS) soon reveals that the population of England and Wales, for example, is very varied.

The Usual Resident Population was 57,075,912. Of this, 49.2% were men and 50.8% women. Given that there are a number of reported sex differences in the way men and women process information, it’s reasonable to conclude from this that if you’re communicating to the nation, you could easily be getting it wrong for roughly half the population right away.

Then there’s age. The single biggest age group in the 2011 Census data for England and Wales was the 30-44 range at 20.5%, the smallest at just 0.8% was the 90 and over. Very often, your age defines the way you view the world because of the level of life experience gained as you get older.

Marital status, whether you have children, your employment status, whether you live in a rural or urban area, your educational attainment and other key differences like these all shape our views and opinions.

We are far from a homogenous audience. And that’s at the country level: the differences can be even more stark at a regional and local authority level.

All of which means that it’s important to take into consideration the different characteristics of key stakeholder groups when communicating with them about your infrastructure development plans.

You may have to nuance your communications and use a variety of channels and devices depending on the specifics of the group you’re engaging with - or risk disenfranchising one or more of them.

When identifying and mapping your stakeholders for a given project, it pays to understand their demographic composition so that you can tailor your communications content and methods accordingly.