Trust and authenticity key to reaching disengaged audiences, new research finds

A large percentage of the UK population (70%) feel disengaged from, or distrustful of, culture and society, according to a new study from Grayling and Opinium Research. This makes it hard for brands, government, media and others to reach many people with essential health messages.

Unveiling the findings, Grayling invited a select group of experts to discuss how organisations can make sure their important health messages reach the most disengaged members of British society.

The panel was chaired by Grayling’s Head of Health, Kathryn Ager, and included:

Many Brits are switched off from brand messaging

The most challenging group of all to reach is the nearly three in ten (29%) that we identify as the ‘Opt-outs’. This significant portion of the country is less likely to read print news (45%) and online news (39%) than the rest of the population. Seven in ten (70%) of this cohort do not trust what they read in the news, presenting a huge obstacle to organisations who want their message to cut through with the ‘Opt-outs’.

“The Opt-outs feel a growing sense of alienation and they actively lean away from media messages,” Grayling’s Rowlinson explained. “They don’t see the environment as the consumer’s responsibility and take limited notice of messages around sustainability, for example, and that can turn them off from messaging.”

The Opt-outs are not a fringe group; 39% earn more than £30,000, nine in ten make key purchasing decisions, and more than one in five (22%) shop online weekly, so they are a significant target audience. They are more likely to be older and female, and do not see government, brands and organisations as working for them.

“Opt-outs are the most likely to need health support – they’re older and have less disposable income for private healthcare. They could be missing out on key services,” Rowlinson added.

Why are people feeling disconnected?

For Benedict Knox from Healthwatch England, we need to start by asking why people are becoming more disconnected. “There is a lot of doom and gloom in the news agenda, which might result in people switching off. How can we counter that with positive messages at this time?” he asked. Knox said Healthcare England is communicating the value of what they offer by focussing on word-of-mouth marketing. “It’s key that target audiences see people like them, and it takes time to build trust,” he concludes.

Sangeeta Suthar, Director of External Relations, Bupa Global & UK, agreed that it is key to build trust and that it takes time to build, but it can take seconds to lose! “You must be data- and insight-led. What are people asking for? Where is the need?” she commented. “We’re working with social media influencers to make an authentic connection, and running integrated campaigns through lots of different channels helps the message get through.”

Suthar cited a successful campaign that Bupa ran in spring 2021, when many people were not getting checked as they did not want to burden the NHS at a time when it was under severe strain from Covid. “We know that early diagnosis saves lives, so we really focussed on radio interviews,” she explained. “The campaign got 196 airings to reach people at a local level and we saw a 2200% rise in cancer screening bookings immediately afterwards. We saw results by going hyperlocal with a doctor on the radio, who people will trust because they are an authentic source.”

Taking a personal and authentic approach cuts through to key audiences, according to Kiley Yale from TOTM. “We’re building trust by being menstrual experts. With our Period Dignity scheme, we work with employers to bust the taboo around periods. It’s all about building trust with real people, real stories, and experts.”

Remember, it’s not all about digital…

For Lisa King, Director of Communications and Marketing, British Chiropractic Association, brands must avoid the temptation to believing that everyone is on digital channels. “We’ve been looking at building credibility and trust. We asked experts what patients were saying, and that word-of-mouth feedback was very important. This is about your communications meeting your brand promise – the customer/patient experience must be as close to that as possible.”

King added that the British Chiropractic Association is working with ambassadors to build trust and at longer-form content, such as podcasts, for subjects that require more time to explain.

“It’s really important to trust people to do their own research, that’s why it’s important to make sure our website is as helpful as possible; it’s about getting back to basics,” she concluded.

The three pillars of connectivity

Grayling identifies three key considerations that brands, governments, and other stakeholders should focus on to create cut-through with disengaged people across the UK:

  1. Invest in understanding

Some of these audiences feel left behind by contemporary culture. Organisations need to show they are listening to connect and include them in conversations. ​

Cut-through is also challenging with more engaged groups, necessitating deeper testing and research to ensure messages are landing right.​

  1. Building trust is key

Scepticism and cynicism are on the rise amongst disconnected audiences.​

Organisations need to learn how to (re-)build trust to (re-) engage and (re-)connect.​

  1. Don’t see digital as default

Disconnected audiences are not connected to big national issues, so go hyper local, whether advertising in local newspapers or working with micro-influencers who look and feel like your target.​

Also don’t discount radio, it’s undervalued for reaching and connecting with these audiences.

The Dis/Connected Consumer Index

Grayling will soon be unveiling the full findings of its joint study with Opinium as The Dis/Connected Consumer Index report. The report will contain detailed analysis of four distinct types of consumers and their media diet, along with best practice recommendations for brands, media, advertisers and government departments on how to make sure their message cuts-through. Please follow us on LinkedIn to see the report when it goes live.

If you would like to learn more about how we could help you reach your target audiences, do please get in touch.

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