Use the Right Communications Channels

I found out my job was under threat by email!

As communications experts, you know how important it is to select the right communication channel. It is too easy to get so caught up in a busy project that you overlook some of the basics. So while planning your communications strategy, make sure you take time to select the right tool for the job.

Research shows that face to face communication is required if you really want staff to adopt new behaviors. Face to face is also the best channel for planning and dealing with sensitive issues. It allows you to gauge reactions, to get instant feedback and to ensure that everyone has received and understood the message.

You may not want to front up to people when you have to communicate bad news. But if you are honest and empathetic, and demonstrate that you are prepared to listen, to take note of feedback and to answer the hard questions, then you have delivered unpalatable news in the best possible way. They may not like the message, but they will respect you for fronting up.

Even if you are on a mission to save trees, don’t forget about paper. It is still best for complex and lengthy material. It is also very useful to support face to face and phone conversations.

The intranet is great for searching for and retrieving factual information. But take note, the intranet does not change behavior, you need the personal touch to do this.

Email, it is quick and convenient and overused. ‘Communicating change via email or voicemail is like ending a relationship that was – it’s just bad form. It leaves the recipient bewildered and angry, and whom ever is delivering the message looking very bad.’ (Veronica Apostolico, Ref 9). In addition, email is not always considered effective. A District Court ruling in Massachusetts on employee communications found against a company that communicated a change in procedure via email, because the message was not effectively communicated. If you do choose to convey important information via email, make sure you get some acknowledgment of receipt and understanding.

There are now so many channels to choose from, it’s a good idea to list the ones you have available, and then match the message to the channel. Using a variety of channels means that you can repeat messages, without looking as if you are hammering home a point (even if you are). It means that staff can’t ‘escape’ from what’s happening, or deny all knowledge.

There are other issues to consider when devising your communication strategy. What information needs to be pushed out to staff and what should staff ‘pull’ in? If you are pushing information, how can you be sure they have received it? And if you have provided information for staff to find and use as required, do you need to know how many ‘hits’ the information gets, so you can measure how much it is used?

Using project champions can be a powerful ploy. Project champions communicate really strongly by modeling behaviors, through conversing with staff, and demonstrating how proposed changes really work for your staff.

This is part 8 in the 11 part Series: Tips to Communicate Change Effectively to Staff

This series is based on an article by Communications specialist Sarah Perry. Sarah is a Director of Snap Communications,, a company which provides specialist Internal Communications tools and Employee Communications Solutions.

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