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Choosing the Right Communication Channel

It pays to stop and think, and work out which channels will support the business objectives you're trying to achieve

Habits are among the most powerful forces in society. Once people get stuck into a groove, it can determine their behavior for years to come and can make a big difference to their life – positive or negative. As Charles Duhigg points out, businesses have made and lost millions based on this observation.

Often, there is little need to critically analyze our routines – the sites we usually check when we first get to work in the morning or what time we run out for coffee, say – as changing these is rarely going to make a big difference.

But people’s professional lives will often benefit from a dose of this questioning. For example, internal comms teams can often fall into a trap of trying to get an important message out quickly rather than taking a bit more time to think how best to convey it.

If there has been a senior leadership change in one area of the business, say, instead of asking “How do I make sure employees are informed in the right way and feel equipped to to deal with this leadership change?” it can be all to easy to think, “I’ll just write a quick post on the intranet”.

The Four Steps

If you want to select the most appropriate communication channel – that is, the most effective one to promote and encourage a specific behavior or outcome – this four-step process can help.

  • Step 1: Add channels into the mix as necessary, to reach specific audiences: Think about which non-traditional channels are best for different employee audiences, such as remote employees.

  • Step 2: Add and use different channels more frequently as they become more popular: Do your research on current stakeholder behaviors in new channels, such as social media — i.e., what channels they use and which are influential.

  • Step 3: Experiment with new channels to determine their effectiveness before starting to use them frequently: Measure the use of these new channels as you experiment with them.

  • Step 4: Evaluate your channel options and select the channel mix that is most appropriate for your objective and target audience of the message. Use the channel selection guide in chart 1 to identify which channels are best suited for your communication objectives.

    It’s easy to fall back on certain preferred communications channels. The guide will help you think about selecting a channel based on the purpose of your communication and your understanding of the audience. It will also help you to consider what information is best communicated through different channels and weigh the pros and cons of each. You can also download the guide in pdf format.


    Channel selection guide

    Chart 1: Channel selection guide  Source: CEB analysis

    Click chart to expand


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