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Lessons for Communicators from the Recently Released 2020 Census Data

The U.S. Cen­sus Bureau recent­ly released results from the 2020 Cen­sus, high­light­ing new changes and trends in com­mu­ni­ties across the country.

While the data will be used to deter­mine leg­isla­tive seats for upcom­ing elec­tions over the next decade, there are plen­ty of insights to be gained from the accom­pa­ny­ing demo­graph­ic data from a com­mu­ni­ca­tions standpoint.

As com­mu­ni­ca­tors, it’s impor­tant that we keep an eye on our audi­ences and how they change over time, so we can review and revise strate­gies to more effec­tive­ly reach the peo­ple we’re attempt­ing to reach both when and how we’re intending.

Here are some key find­ings from the 2020 cen­sus, and some insights pub­lic rela­tions and com­mu­ni­ca­tions pro­fes­sion­als can glean from them:

  1. The U.S. pop­u­la­tion is more racial­ly diverse than ever. Head­lines like this one from the Asso­ci­at­ed Press – “Cen­sus data: US is diver­si­fy­ing, white pop­u­la­tion shrink­ing” – tell the sto­ry of why “diver­si­ty” can­not and should not be treat­ed like a buzz­word, but as an imper­a­tive for all orga­ni­za­tions in order to attract and retain the best tal­ent. That same AP sto­ry includes a quote that “there is now no major­i­ty racial or eth­nic group for peo­ple younger than 18,” mean­ing younger gen­er­a­tions are even more diverse than ever before.
  2. Metro areas are grow­ing – but don’t count out rur­al com­mu­ni­ties, either. In Min­neso­ta, the bulk of the city’s growth came from the Twin Cities metro area, accord­ing to MPR News. That said, exur­ban coun­ties – such as Olm­st­ed Coun­ty near Rochester and Clay Coun­ty near Moor­head – are also grow­ing tremen­dous­ly. We’ve blogged about bridg­ing the urban/rural gap before, and know just how impor­tant our rur­al com­mu­ni­ties are.
  3. It’s Baby Boomers’ time to shine. Low­er birth rates in the past decade mean adults old­er than 18 make up about 75% of the U.S. pop­u­la­tion, an increase of about 10% from 2010. Wash­ing­ton, D.C. had the largest pop­u­la­tion of adults old­er than 18, while our neigh­bor­ing state North Dako­ta had the fastest-grow­ing pop­u­la­tion of peo­ple younger than 18.

So what do these data points mean for com­mu­ni­ca­tors? Over­all, it empha­sizes just how impor­tant it is to ensure your mes­sages are reach­ing a broad, diverse audi­ence and are tai­lored accord­ing­ly – the same mes­sages, strate­gies and tac­tics you’ve been using since the last cen­sus may not be as effec­tive as they were 10 years ago.

Here are a few ques­tions and points to consider:

  • Are you tar­get­ing media out­reach and/or adver­tis­ing in geo­graph­i­cal­ly diverse areas? There may be new areas with grow­ing or shrink­ing pop­u­la­tions you could re-consider.
  • Have you thought of includ­ing spe­cial inter­est out­lets that reach spe­cif­ic audi­ences or cer­tain demo­graph­ics like minor­i­ty inter­est, gen­der inter­est or old­er adults in your com­mu­ni­ca­tions and mar­ket­ing mix? If not, why?
  • Have you reviewed your mar­ket­ing mate­ri­als for acces­si­bil­i­ty, both in terms of design and copy? It’s a good idea to review your online pres­ence (web­site, social media pro­files, etc.) as well. It may make sense to part­ner with a pro­fes­sion­al (we’ve been doing some of this work our­selves with long­time agency friend and part­ner, Smitty’s Work­shop!) to max­i­mize your efforts and increase accessibility.
  • Should you change up your mes­sag­ing or tac­tics when younger or old­er audi­ences may be a specif­i­cal­ly high­er pri­or­i­ty? Con­sid­er shift­ing toward new­er chan­nels if you’re try­ing to reach and engage with a younger audi­ence or more tra­di­tion­al chan­nels if an old­er audi­ence is your tar­get. And make sure the mes­sag­ing resonates.
  • Are you trans­lat­ing mate­ri­als into mul­ti­ple lan­guages, and/or region­al­iz­ing them for spe­cif­ic areas?
  • Have you con­sid­ered the stance of the polit­i­cal major­i­ty or minor­i­ty in the area you’re reach­ing, and cus­tomiz­ing mes­sag­ing accord­ing­ly? Your cur­rent mes­sag­ing could be alien­at­ing cer­tain groups.

These con­sid­er­a­tions only begin to scratch the sur­face of what com­mu­ni­ca­tors should keep in mind as we’re review­ing audi­ences and recent cen­sus data. If not, there could be missed oppor­tu­ni­ties as a result. Did oth­er infor­ma­tion from the recent data release spark thoughts for you? Please leave a com­ment or email us – we’d love to discuss!

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