Are we getting it right?

browningyork Communication channels

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“How do I make sure that people read my newsletter?” “How do I make people look at my website?”

These are questions which I hear time and time again from charities and universities that I work with. And I usually have to answer with another question – how sure are you that you need a newsletter or a website? You can’t make anyone read anything, but you can align it so closely with what they need that they want to take a look.

It’s very easy when you are using a particular method of communication to think that if you could just make it more interesting/put more pictures in it/make it more accessible, then suddenly your audience would be hanging on your every word and doing everything that you would like them to do. But even if a staff magazine was exactly what you needed 5 years ago and everyone read it from cover to cover, that might not still be what you need today – as your organisation and the people in it have changed, so have their communication needs and preferences. In the same way that your business goals and plans need to be regularly updated, so your communication strategies and plans need updating too.

There are no right or wrong communication methods, just more or less effective ones for different organisations and given scenarios. An online forum will be great for gathering views from your back office people who have constant web access (providing you have a culture that allows them to use it), but when will your shop floor employees have opportunity to access it? If they have regular team meetings or ‘stand ups’ before the shop opens, asking for their opinion then will be far more effective (assuming you have a culture where they are happy to speak up).

When you are selecting the best method of communication for your project or organisation, you need to be really honest with yourself about the ‘providing….’ and ‘assuming….’ parts of that last paragraph. Effectiveness of communication is always influenced by context, so think about what you’re trying to achieve, what situation your intended audience are realistically working with and what do they want to hear about, not just what you want to tell them. What are life and communication at your organisation really like?

It is possible to have a rough guideline of which channels will be best for a given outcome (for example, SharePoint is good for collaborating, newsletters are good for providing updates, team meetings are good for discussing local impact), but I urge you to use them as guidelines only and not the whole story. Take what you know and add it to the advice and guidance of others to create the most effective way to communicate for your organisation.

Until next time
Sarah