Top tips to reach multicultural audiences

August 29, 2022

With close to half of Australia’s population born overseas or with a parent who was, chances are you’ll need to consider how you’re communicating with multicultural Australia for your communication projects.  

When developing communication and messaging aimed at engaging and changing behaviours of multicultural audiences, here are our top tips to consider.

  1. Consider the individual or the collective. Many Western cultures prioritise the idea of meeting needs at an individual level – valuing things like independence and uniqueness. For many cultural groups, a collectivist viewpoint is the norm with value placed on helping community, co-operation and dependency.

An example of this in practice can be found in our recent work with the National Cervical Screening Program:

  • Materials developed for multicultural audiences carried the key message ‘Cervical screening is one of the best ways to protect yourself from cervical cancer – so that you can stay healthy for yourself and your family.’ The inclusion of ‘and your family’ speaks to the collectivism viewpoint for many cultural groups.  
  • For general audiences the key message was ‘A Cervical Screening Test every 5 years is the best way to protect yourself against cervical cancer.’ The emphasis on protecting ‘yourself’ is more likely to appeal to general audiences.

These messaging nuances were informed by research and community insights. The messages were also supported by visuals illustrating the differences i.e. illustration of families in materials for multicultural audiences, and individuals for materials for general audiences.

  1. Listen and learn with community: Co-designing – or at the very least using community insights to inform and test messaging with multicultural audiences – is important. Community leaders and members can provide a cultural lens to the messaging you’re trying to communicate and offer invaluable insights that can help you get the most out of your efforts.

For example, some cultures may like to receive messages in a more formal way, with detailed information from a respected, trusted community leader. For other cultural groups this formal style of communication may be intimidating and so a more friendly, relaxed tone might be important.

A great resource that can offer some insight into communication styles and considerations for cultural groups is SBS Cultural Atlas. However, this is no substitute for hearing directly from community!

  1. Beyond translations: Translations are a critical tool to reach some multicultural audiences… but there are additional methods to consider.

Some research, and our own consultations with multicultural audiences, has shown that putting things into visual format (video and picture) can be a better way to explain concepts than simply translating large amounts of text.

Simple visuals can be a highly effective way of reaching multicultural audiences. One key tactic is to use storyboards, which have been around for several years and provide a simple way of telling someone about a complex idea or a process. Here is an example of a visual supporting multicultural audiences to understand about family and domestic violence and referral information. We recently developed storyboards to explain cervical screening choices available and the process for self-collection. We used illustrations that reflected the communities we were trying to reach.  

Get in touch and we’ll share our insights and work with your organisation to develop a considered approach to reaching multicultural audiences.

How can we help?
Sandra Jbeili
Senior Communication Consultant