In geometry, two or more objects are said to be concentric when they share the same centre. But why does this mathematical concept matter to digital communications?

The job of communications, be it marketing or public affairs, is to spread information to an audience. More than that, it is to persuade them to accept your messages as valid. Then, increasingly, to move them into action either on your behalf or by your side. To do this, you need to know how information moves among the audience but also the language they respond to.

Roper’s Concentric Circle Theory emerged in the 1940s to explain how political opinions are shared among the populace. Essentially, it says that ideas start with Great Thinkers and spread throughout the population in social circles, much like the ripple effect you see in the water when a rock is thrown in.

1. Great Thinkers – Originators of ideas. Spread ideas to those around them who tend to think similarly.

2. Great Disciples – People with power and influence, but they are not the originators of the idea. Immediately influenced due to close relationships or admiration and compelled to share.

3. Great Disseminators – Moved by the messages and seek to spread them, even though they did not receive the messages as a result of personal ties.

4. Lesser Disseminators – Wielders of localized influence, powerful to transmit messages in niche groups if the messages can breakthrough.

5. Participating Citizens – Those who take an active part in politics or current affairs, but don’t necessarily hold leadership roles.

6. Politically Inert – The vast majority of people who don’t have strong opinions or activist roles, but who still vote, buy products.

This theory was concerned with information spread but I think there is a lesson here for the development of information strategy.

Applied to modern media

Digital like all channels in communication is nothing more than an amplification element in our system of social connection. But it all begins with human nature and understanding people and their contexts is fundamental.

Facebook was not born with a video chat feature, and Google did not even include Google images until J-Lo’s green dress at the Grammy’s broke the internet in 2000. These developments were a reaction to the way humans are and how we seek to communicate. Communications tools are just that, tools. Each has a function and a purpose but they derive their meaning from our usage.

Strategies should grow out of an understanding of human reality because platforms come and go and formats change. Insight-driven advocacy embeds into the right channels, amplifies, transmits and engages.

I do not think digital is the answer to every communications challenge but it can help you plug into human reality to better define your voice and tailor your strategy.

How to build advocacy on insights

So, how can you become more effective and build advocacy campaigns based on audience insights?

Begin with research: Search engines reveal a lot because they work on direct queries. Observe behaviours with Google & YouTube TrendsGoogle AdWords or Answer The Public. These help you understand what is on the agenda and the exact semantics. Social platforms are useful for this too. Native dashboards are okay, but try using something like SproutSocial to review your own audiences or Netbase to monitor others in one place.

Test quickly at scale: From AI-enabled methods to determine public sentiment and likely public responses. To taking advantage of digital ad platforms, from Google to LinkedIn, for rapid testing of different messages. These enable you to cheaply conduct A/B testing through associating multiple text and assets (images, videos, etc.) in different combinations all at no extra cost. Five of each has given you 25 different ways to pitch your message to stakeholders.

Integrate feedback loops: Optimisation should be constant. Take steps to set up Google Analytics and seeing through page views, location and session duration your real relevance. Use traffic analyzers to see what is popular with stakeholders online. Or simply conduct interviews after your campaign to see the recall amongst key stakeholders. Such simple steps are often missed out and so are the opportunities for insights.

Concentric circles are how information moves between groups, not because we can’t access information on our own but because who transmits it to us matters a lot. Connect with a Lesser Dissemintator in the right context and you can really cut through to niche groups. Digital tools can help you figure the out places and people to engage. Then, aid message development, refinement and impact assessment going forward even when campaigns playout offline. Only those smart enough to put it at the heart of their advocacy will reap the rewards.

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