Knocking over the right pins
Communicating through the right channels at the right moment
Hilarious! That’s the feeling you get sometimes watching a group of friends/colleagues who are not professional bowlers as they’re bowling. You will observe that some players can get strikes, knocking over all ten pins. On that same team, you will probably notice some members who are completely unskilled at bowling: they might not knock even one pin over. Some players are so bad that when they throw the ball they break the score screens or punch a hole in the roof. For the record, I have even seen players knock themselves over instead of the pins. However, in the course of the game some of the unskilled players get some insights about playing better.
Can you see the similarity between choosing the right communication channels and the story I’ve just told you? Just keep reading—you’ll see it in just a bit.
In the business world, you decide consciously whether or not to communicate, your message, and your medium. However, the decision to communicate itself is a message. Whatever action you take, it says something about you. Even if you remain silent, you are saying something. From this perspective, it is not possible to not communicate. So, we’re better off if we choose to communicate properly. Now, I’m not here to tell you how to formulate communication messages (at least not this time). This blog is more about the basic factors you need to focus on when choosing communication channels.
The right versus the wrong communication channels
I admire businesses who put a lot of effort into communicating with their target groups. If you know anything about the cost of advertising and communication tools, you know that businesses invest tons of money to communicate. However, it’s sometimes a pity to observe how the effort and money are invested in vain. Some companies are enthusiastic about creating campaigns and media plans, but sometimes fail to choose the right channels to communicate the desired messages to a specific target group. Some businesses can be compared with skilled bowlers, while others are more a reflection of the unskilled players. They communicate without a clear purpose, through the wrong channels, or at the wrong time.
Choosing the right tools to communicate
Choosing the right channel is essential to reach your organization’s goals. The central question is how to choose the perfect channel to communicate what we want. What do we need to consider when choosing the right channel? Think about the following questions. They may seem like cliches, but are regularly overlooked.
Why are you communicating?
Sad but true: some companies choose communication channels before determining the purpose of the communication. How is this possible? Sometimes we have certain habits and traditions in our companies that are difficult to leave behind. We tend to think, I have always communicated this way, or this channel have been always effective, so we conclude that it is an effective medium for all types of messages through all seasons. Wrong!
Before imagining the channel, it is important to first focus on the purpose of communication. Why are we communicating? What do we need to say? What is the character of the message? Is it something that requires delicacy or is it something routine? Is it something we need to communicate immediately or can it wait? Can you say it once or do you need to repeat the message? Do you want to be perceived as a dictator or a negotiator? Do you expect feedback or is it a one-way communication? When we are able to state the purpose of a communication, we can proceed further in the process of choosing the most appropriate communication channel. The next relevant question to ask is, who is our target group?
With whom are you communicating?
When you know why you are communicating, it is necessary to identify your target group. Who are you communicating with? Which group do you need to share this message with? Are we talking about interpersonal, group, or mass communication? What are the basic characteristics of this group? How would you describe their gender, age, job, knowledge level, and interests? Where can you reach this group? How regularly do you need to communicate with this group? These questions help you to bring the target group you are about to communicate with into focus.
Which channels can you choose from?
After determining the purpose of communication and selecting the target group you will communicate with, you’re ready to choose between different types of communication channels. Every channel has its specific characteristics. Some channels are better suited for interpersonal communication, while others are better for mass communication. Some communication channels are shown in the table below. Think through what you want to achieve with your target audience and where they naturally go for information, and choose a channel that suits those criteria best. You may well end up using multiple channels.
Critical Question: How does my target audience consume information?
What is your budget?
Besides deciding the purpose of the message you need to communicate and the target group you will communicate with, you need to consider the available resources you have. Compare the desired goal with the capital you are about to invest. Is it worth it? Ask yourself, how can I make the best use out of the money I am planning to invest? Deciding on your budget and thinking about your financial investment helps you to stay within your financial boundaries. It can also help you to make the best profit out of your investment.
When is the right moment to communicate?
Being aware of the characteristics of the message you are about to send out, knowing the target group, establishing the goal you want to achieve by communicating, and knowing the channel you will use are good guides to help you choose the right moment to communicate. When is it more suitable to communicate the message? What are the consequences of communicating this message at the wrong time? The key to choosing the right moment is to always be on time, neither early nor late.
After choosing the most appropriate communication channel, it is time to communicate. Afterward, be prepared to evaluate the effectiveness of the communication channel by formulating measurable communication objectives. For instance, at the outset you will need to estimate the reach or the return of communication you expect, to compare with the results. As an example, a client wanted to increase sales from 500k to 1000k; after his campaign he found that he approached 900k. Therefore he was able to conclude that his channel was effective. Of course, in order to measure these outcomes, you must have a system that tracks whether your communication has helped you to reach your desired goal.
Sometimes we are in a hurry to communicate, but take this advice to heart: It’s worth it to stop and think, and work out which channels will support the business objectives you’re trying to achieve. Through all the steps, think about the purpose of your communication—am I reaching my goal? If not, how can I reach my objective? If not, do I need to readjust my objective? What are the consequences of readjusting my objective? By all means, do not rush to communicate. In Papiamentu there is a popular saying: Sòpi purá ta sali salú. As Murphy’s law says, Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.
We would be happy to help you assess the effectiveness of your communication channels and make suggestions that will help you knock over all the right pins and get a strike.