How to choose communication channels (1 of 2)
As I’ve said before:
First and foremost, the role of a content creator is to communicate with the audience.
That sounds obvious, but sometimes communicators get so caught up in “what we want to say” that they don’t really analyze the audience or design the communication to reach them. Never take it for granted that people are going to read a communication (internal or external) just because you put it out there, even if you begin by CLEARLY STATING that this is REALLY SUPER-IMPORTANT official wisdom from the most-highest executives or specialists who have the ABSOLUTE CLOSEST parking spots at work.
If people don’t read your stuff, then it doesn’t matter what you say.
I’ve talked about how to analyze your audience, but how do you “design the communication to reach them?” The content certainly plays a role in reaching your audience. But you have to get people to the content. So at a higher level, you have to position and structure the content in a way that targets your audience.
At the very highest level, you have to choose the right channel(s) for your communication.
Like audience analysis, this is an important step that sometimes gets skipped. Communicators are often told “Here’s what we want to say, and the method we want to use. You make the words pretty and get them approved.” The communicator is discouraged from asking questions like “Who all/exactly are we trying to reach, and will this method reach them?” Even asking such pesky questions might require a little diplomacy and salesmanship, but that’s another topic—for now, let’s assume you just need to decide what channel is best for your message.
Sometimes, a particular message (like “How to fix browser problems”) is poorly suited for a particular channel (like a webpage). Sure, you can have a webpage about that topic, since users could access it on other devices. But you should at least have a mobile or printable version too, so people can reference it when their browser isn’t working.
This is to say: You probably can’t meet every communication need with a webpage. Or your organization’s “default tool,” whatever that is. If you really want to reach your audience, and see an impact from your communication, step back and ask:
“Where is my audience when they’re most ready for this information?”
Get a mental picture of someone when they’re ready to receive and act upon your info, and think of any electronic or print channels they want to use at that point (or use in advance to prepare for that point).
Even if your audience will have their browsers open, and you put your message on a webpage, ask “What page(s) are they likely to be using when they’re ready for what I have to say? How can I link from those, or even create a page that incorporates that information with mine?”
Your information might vary in terms of detail, overall purpose, and audience. It often makes sense to coordinate it across various channels, especially if you’re communicating about a big topic over time.
For internal communicators, consider these broadcast channels:
presenter-led class or workshop (presentation series with discussion or break-out activities), individual presentations, video, job aid, intranet site, newsletter article, email, blog, and social media
How do you choose?
I won’t try to map all the factors and considerations to all of the options here, but I will suggest a series of questions that can help you choose channels.
- What is our audience most likely to use, given their physical environment or situation when they most need the information?
- What channels is our audience already using regularly, and how can I use those to direct them to any preparatory information?
- What channels have the most trust and authority for our audience?
- What will be our reference point for “the latest information,” how do we direct people to that, and how do we update it?
- What is our schedule for releasing information (including how we coordinate multiple channels if necessary)?
- What kind of information is this?
That last one is kind of a big question. It’s where you could create a complicated matrix mapping factors to channels. But factors and channels will vary for your situation. So in my next post, I’ll provide some general guidance on factors, channels, and how they match up …