Deciding what channels to use

When choosing which channel to use, there are a number of factors to consider.

Your audience

Choosing the correct channel includes thinking about who your audience or audiences are. Different audiences may need to be reached in different ways. For example, while an email may be sufficient for one group of staff, you will need to think differently about frontline staff without regular access to a computer.

You also need to think about your audience’s level of knowledge and base this on insight, rather than assumption. For example, if you need to let a group of technicians know about a new software package they are due to receive; you might not need to explain technical terms in great detail. However, if you’re communicating to a different department you may need to explain these terms in more detailed, simple terms. There’s lots more information on this in the ‘Audience segmentation and insight’ chapter.

The nature of the message

You will also need to consider the type of message you are communicating. While an email or the intranet is a suitable way of communicating that the canteen is closing early, it is not the most sensitive way to let your staff know about a forthcoming redundancy scheme. Something of this sensitive nature should be communicated in a face-to-face way, taking into account the anxiety this is likely to cause staff. See the ‘Change communications’ chapter

Timing

If your message is urgent – such as in a time of crisis – and you need to reach people quickly and you may be restricted to those channels which are quick to use and which you know people are most likely to see. For example, text messaging staff or an email to a managers’ distribution list, can be quick, easy ways to reach people when timing is paramount.

On the other hand, if you have time to plan and consider what you are want to communicate – where a big change programme is on the horizon for example – you should take time to better plan your use of channels, considering how your audience should be segmented, the channels most appropriate for each and tailoring your message accordingly.

You also need to consider timing in relation to the other internal communications activity taking place. Staff will only have time to see and absorb a certain amount of information at one time. So, if you’re running a campaign around managers’ responsibilities for health and safety, it’s probably best not to run one on managers’ responsibilities for learning and development at the same time. This prioritisation comes back to aligning your communication strategy closely to your organisation’s business strategy. See the ‘Strategy and internal communications’ chapter

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