Channels of Communication

Overview

While our primary goal here is discussing the various delivery options for communication, a high-level understanding how the parts fit into the whole can help us in determining the usefulness of each tool in our overall communication strategies. In its simplest form, communication is comprised of four parts: sender, message, recipient and channel and four processes: encoding, sending, receiving and decoding. See Communication 101 for more information.

The important things to remember here are:
  • Every channel has properties like cost, immediacy, distribution and availability that influence it's suitability for a given purpose; and
  • We must know our audience to determine if they have access to a particular channel on which we are broadcasting and how often they are listening, watching or reading.
We're going to look at some of the common communication channels at our disposal. We'll compare the relative cost, immediacy, distribution and availability as well as look at some of the potential use cases for each channel.

Face-to-Face (Formal)

Channel Profile

High Cost (Varies Widely Depending on Venue, Speaker, Travel, etc.)
Low Immediacy (Weeks or Months in Advance)
Low Distribution (Limited by Audience Size)
Low Availability (Limited to Dates and Times of Performances)

Typical Uses

  • Casting Vision
  • Training/Teaching
  • Motivation
  • Collaboration

Face-to-Face (Informal)

Channel Profile

Low Cost (Free)
High Immediacy (On the spot)
High Distribution (Many Micro Audiences)
Low Availability (Limited to Dates and Times of Communication)

Typical Uses

  • Invitations
  • Promotions
  • Reminders
  • Collaboration

Print

Channel Profile

Above Average Cost (Varies Widely Depending on Size, Paper, Inks and Folds)
Low Immediacy (Must Be Planned Days or Weeks in Advance)
Low Distribution (Limited by Number of Pieces Printed and Mailed or Handed Out)
Low Availability (Limited by Recipients' Willingness to Keep Document Accessible)

Typical Uses

  • Identity-Building (Brochures, Business Cards, Letterhead, Envelopes)
  • Invitations and Promotions
  • Guides

Phone (Automated Calling System)

Channel Profile

Average Cost ($.07 - $.10 Per Number Called)
High Immediacy (Up to 5,000 Calls Per Minute, Including Mobile Phones)
Low Distribution (Limited by List of Phone Numbers)
Low Availability (Limited by Recipients' Willingness to Answer Call or Listen to Message)

Typical Uses

  • Emergencies
  • Reminders

Email

Channel Profile

Low Cost (Up to 2,000 Subscribers and 12,000 Emails Per Month Free)
Average Immediacy (Dependent on People Checking Email, May Be Mobile)
Average Distribution (Limited by Number of Subscribers)
Average Availability (Limited by Recipients' Willingness to Read and Save Message)

Typical Uses

  • Announcements
  • Invitations
  • Promotions
  • Reminders

Web Site

Channel Profile

Low Cost (Varies Widely from $15/Year to $Hundreds/Month)
Low Immediacy (Dependent on Frequency of People Visiting Your Site)
High Distribution (Practically Limited by the Number of People Visiting Your Site)
High Availability (24x7x365)

Typical Uses

  • Information Repository
  • Information Gathering¬†
  • Community Building
  • Story Telling
  • Testimonials
  • Call to Action
  • Sales/Marketing/Advertising/Public Relations

Blog

Channel Profile

Low Cost
High Immediacy for Subscribers (Similar to Web for Everyone Else, May Be Mobile)
High Distribution (Includes Both Subscribers and Web Site Visitors)
High Availability (24x7x365)

Typical Uses

  • Story Telling
  • Casting Vision
  • Training/Teaching
  • Motivation
  • Call to Action
  • Announcements
  • Invitations
  • Promotions
  • Reminders

Podcast

Channel Profile

Above Average Cost (Initial Equipment Investment, Production Time and Storage)
High Immediacy for Subscribers (Similar to Web for Everyone Else, May Be Mobile)
High Distribution (Includes Both Subscribers and Web Site Visitors)
High Availability (24x7x365)

Typical Uses

  • Story Telling
  • Casting Vision
  • Training/Teaching
  • Motivation
  • Call to Action
  • Announcements
  • Invitations
  • Promotions
  • Reminders

Social Media

Channel Profile

Low Cost (Free)
High Immediacy (Dependent on Frequency of Feed Checking, May Be Mobile)
Average Distribution (Dependent on Number of Followers)
Average Availability (Dependent on Recipients' Feed Activity)

Typical Uses

  • Announcements
  • Invitations
  • Promotions
  • Reminders

SMS Text Messages

Channel Profile

Low Cost ($.02 Per Message)
High Immediacy (Delivered to Mobile Devices)
Low Distribution (Dependent on Number of Subscribers)
Low Availability (Limited by Recipients' Willingness to Save Message)

Typical Uses

  • Emergencies
  • Reminders

Conclusion

These suggestions and guidelines are based on currently prevailing social norms in the United States. The constant fluctuation of social norms combined with local variability from those norms have a direct influence on the effectiveness of a given channel for a given message in a given location. While understanding the relative cost, immediacy, distribution and availability can help us make informed decisions regarding the best methods of communication for a certain situation, knowing our audience is the primary factor that ultimately determines our communications success or failure.