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Adapting communications to changing lives

By George Ames

26 October 2018
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Earlier this month saw the publication of the government’s loneliness strategy and there is much to applaud in it. Firstly, it is great to even have a strategy for such a critical public health issue, and secondly, it is fantastic to see businesses such as Royal Mail playing an active role in tackling it.

It’s an issue we are acutely aware of as we recently helped the Campaign to End Loneliness develop the Be More Us initiative, to get more people making simple everyday connections with each other.

We want to see more organisations taking action on loneliness but it is really important to fully understand the issue and the people it affects before diving in. “Lonely people”, like “old people”, are often considered as a homogenous lump, a collective problem to be solved rather than incredibly disparate, diverse individuals with their own specific challenges, beliefs and sense of agency. Being lonely doesn’t define them, it is an outcome of events and circumstances in their lives and their response to them.

We want to see more organisations taking action on loneliness but it is really important to fully understand the issue and the people it affects before diving in.

So the first port of call if your organisation wants to play a role in tackling the issue is to consider the circumstances that leave people more vulnerable to loneliness. A handy tool we use for our clients on issues like this, particularly on issues relating to longevity, is our attitudinal segmentation. We use it to identify priority clusters for clients, develop pen portraits to test and develop through research, and ultimately build narrative, messages, communications programmes and propositions that chime with the reality of our audience’s lives.

For instance, we recently helped Barclays to explore how to take their excellent insights and knowledge around accessibility and customers with additional needs up a notch, looking at how to engage staff on the breadth of vulnerability, including customers who exhibit more challenging behaviour. For Aviva, we looked at which older customer segments could be encouraged to move their financial management online, how to engage with them, and what might motivate them to take action.

When it comes to loneliness, our segmentation highlights the pivotal importance of transition. Or to put it differently, how people adapt to a new life circumstance. When a major issue occurs, such as redundancy, death of a partner, an older parent needing additional care, or a serious health diagnosis, people respond in very different ways – some thrive, some muddle through, some withdraw, some really struggle. We have developed an audience segmentation that identifies these different responses to major life events, which we use to illuminate which audience an organisation should concentrate on and how to reach and engage them more effectively.

The concept of being old becomes much less helpful when people are living 30 or even 40 years after retirement. 

As more and more of us live longer, the consequences of those life changing events increase in significance. The concept of being old becomes much less helpful when people are living 30 or even 40 years after retirement. It is much more effective to consider longevity and consider the communications challenges and opportunities it will continue to throw up as we live longer lives.

Identifying these moments of transition, and building product and communications solutions has huge potential for businesses and charities alike. It also ensures age stereotypes are challenged, that the ageist elephant-traps of autumn leaves, golden sunsets and ‘vintage’ are avoided. It cuts through the preconceptions of what it means to be ‘old’ and puts the audience back into focus. The output is practical, durable and audience appropriate and can be applied to every issue related to longevity, from living with a long term health condition to tackling loneliness and social isolation.

If you’d like to know more about our segmentation please get in touch –