October 12, 2021
General vs Targeted Outreach--Both are Important
Planning and conducting great extension programs is at the heart of what we do, and thinking through how we will market our programs can be just as important as planning the program. From a civil rights perspective, outreach activities are essential to ensuring that everyone in your eligible service population has an equal opportunity to benefit from federally funded programs like extension. For this to happen, general outreach efforts need to be effective in reaching everyone, and targeted outreach efforts need to be made to underrepresented groups or historically underserved populations.
When planning general outreach efforts, it’s important to utilize a variety of methods including flyers, radio, newspaper, social media, direct mail or email and newsletters. Using just one form of media can limit the reach of your advertising and inadvertently discriminate against those who may not have access to that media. General outreach methods should use inclusive language, represent diversity and not stereotype or make assumptions about audiences.
Planning targeted outreach will first require you to think about who is NOT traditionally attending your extension programs, why they are not attending and the best ways to communicate with them. This is likely to require working with community partners, allies with the intended target audience and audience members who can help you understand and develop relationships with those you’d like to serve. It will often require personal invitations, and could require you to rethink how, when, or where the program is being conducted. Don’t be afraid to ask the target audience what they need and the best way to meet those needs.
Conducting high quality extension programs requires both general and targeted outreach. We can’t be satisfied to say that we did our best by providing general advertising, and it’s out of our hands that nontraditional extension users didn’t show up. We must go the extra mile and do better. As we begin the new programming area let's all strive to be more inclusive and more intentional at reaching out to non-traditional and underserved audiences.