The Best Communication Channels for Businesses

TJ to Update - Communication bubbles.
TJ to Update - Communication bubbles.

How a business communicates with its audience is just as important as what the business says. It’s useless to craft a great message if the right audience won’t see or hear it. That’s why choosing the best communication channels is a key part of your messaging strategy.

A communication channel is any medium that carries a message to an audience. In some cases, that audience will be your own workforce. For example, you might share a company-wide organizational update with your employees. In other cases, the audience will be prospective or existing customers. For example, you may send a marketing message selling a new product to prospective customers. Or you may send existing customers a thank-you message. No matter the message, you need an effective channel to communicate with your audience.

You can choose from a variety of channels of communication. Some are better suited for certain use cases than others. The trick is to find and use the best distribution channel for each message.

Let's review the most common internal and external channels of communication for formal and informal communication. We'll also explore how to use them in your communication channel strategy.

Table of Contents:

Common Internal and External Communication Channels for Businesses

Before we dive into strategy, let’s review some of the most common channels of communication. Your strategy may include some or all these channels. You should think about how to best use each channel before building it into your strategy:

Face-to-Face Communication

Group communicating together.

One of the most common internal communication channels is direct, face-to-face communication. Use this verbal channel for current and prospective employees, vendors, and other organizational shareholders. Use your tone, body language, and facial expressions to support your message. With face-to-face communication, you have the advantage of seeing your audience's reaction. That way, you can gauge your message's effectiveness and ask for feedback during your interaction.

Mobile Communication Channels

Using a phone to communicate.

Use internal and external mobile communication to share quick thoughts and private messages. You can also use mobile to share personalized offers. Retailers can send push notifications to users with special offers or sales. These just-in-time messages encourage retail conversions. Or, to provide private details to a team, you can use quick messaging tools such as Slack or SMS text. This helps you to avoid having to set up a face-to-face meeting.

Digital Communication Channels

Using Computers and phones to communicate.

Digital communication refers to any type of channel that uses digital technology. This includes email, social media, the company intranet, and websites, for example. For message distribution, digital tools are easy and cost-effective. Plus, they allow you to reach a wide audience in a short amount of time.

Social media is an example of an informal channel. It is a great external marketing channel because it helps customers connect with brands on a human level. Consider using discussion forums to hear the voice of your customers. For B2B companies, LinkedIn is the social media platform of choice. You may also find Facebook and Twitter to be useful channels of communication.

Written Communication Channels

Written material is often viewed as a formal communication channel. Communications might include employee handbooks, newsletters & newsfeeds, policies, and notices, for example. Many businesses reserve written material for critical information to save on printing costs.

Why Are Business Communication Channels Important?

Sending a message by the wrong channel or at a bad time frustrates the recipient. Worse yet, it leaves them with a poor impression of your brand. It is not effective communication.

Consider the context of the message you are trying to convey. Which channels of communication will ensure your message has the desired effect? When can you send the message to best meet your objectives?

For example, if your message is technical or lengthy, use a channel that enables the recipient to ask clarifying questions. 

Marketing messages have great potential to shape your brand image. They can also promote your value proposition, boost conversions, and create top-of-mind awareness. You can only achieve these results when your communication is clear. Using the wrong channel might cloud your entire message.

The same holds true with your internal audience. You don’t market to them in the same way, but you do need to keep them engaged with your organization. Your success depends on their buy-in to your mission and company vision.

Any message worth sharing must be shared in a way that will be well-received by its audience.

Tips for Building a Good Communication Strategy

To build a good communication strategy, determine your chosen communication channels. Then, decide when to use each one. Here are some tips to help you build your strategy:

Assign Someone to Be in Charge of Each Communication Channel

To be effective, business communications need governance. Appoint a person to be responsible for each communication channel.

This person can take charge of a specific channel. You might have one person in charge of social media, another person in charge of email, and another in charge of written communications. In smaller organizations, this person might be the same for all channels.

Consistency is important. A designated person for each channel can ensure each message conforms to your company’s brand, tone, and style.

Have More than One Channel

Some channels are better suited for certain communications than others. You wouldn’t want to announce mass layoffs or poor company performance via text or email. But you also don’t need to call each employee to tell them about a changed meeting time.

Having more than one channel in your communication strategy allows you to choose the best fit for the message you need to share. This gives you control over how and when and to whom communication flows.

Create Customer Segments for Your Communications

Some communications are one-size-fits-all, but many messages are not. Employee and customer segmentation should be part of your communications strategy. Effective segmentation helps you send information only to the people who need it.

Assign Someone to Follow Up On Communication Flows

Whether you’re using social media, email, messaging apps, or written documents, make sure to include follow-up in your plan. Sending the message isn’t always the final step.

In some cases, you need to be available to take questions or clarify information for your audience. Track engagement on social media to see how many people your message reached and how people responded. Prepare to respond when necessary to ensure your communication is effective.

Document Your Communication Plan

As you’re developing your communication plan, make sure you document every detail. Don’t leave this step to chance. Your team needs consistent guidelines that align with your brand on how to share internal and external information.

Having a documented plan gives everyone on your team a go-to resource for how to handle business communications. Keep this document up-to-date as you start using new channels or make changes to your comms strategy.

What Are the Best Communication Channels for Businesses?

How will you communicate with your customers, employees, and company stakeholders? The answer depends on why you're sharing information in the first place. For example, channel marketing has different requirements than organizational communication.

The distribution strategy is different, too. Do you need to use formal channels? Should you consider indirect channels?

These key communication channels should be part of your strategy:

Email

Chart showing number of sent and received emails per day worldwide.

Email works well as an internal and external communication one-to-many channel. You can send messages en masse for a very low cost. This method works across many use cases, from your internal sales team to customers to stakeholders. This method works best if you are sending it to people who are familiar with your brand.

The main downside is that your email may get lost in the inbox or go unread. More than 319.6 billion emails are sent each day. Another downside to email is that it is not always an interactive communication channel. You lose the advantage of nonverbal cues when recipients open and read your email without responding.

Interested in exploring new channels of communications? Here's our guide on how to create an internal newsletter.

Social Media

Xbox support page.

A social media channel gives brands a way to meet their audience where their audience already is. Brands like Nike and Xbox use social media as ready-made customer service networks. This aligns with customer expectations of receiving a response from brands within 60 minutes of contact on social.

Social media is a popular internal communication channel to improve employee engagement. Platforms like Facebook and IG are informal channels employees are likely already using for other things. Companies can meet employees wherever they are to increase engagement.

For example, you might create private Facebook groups to recognize employees’ accomplishments. Or you might establish social channels geared toward prospective employees.

Project Management Apps

Honcho Co project management app.

Messaging apps such as Slack or project management tools like Asana and Basecamp can be as segmented or as broad as you need. They make it easy to tailor your internal communications to the right end-user and share information quickly. Send messages to individuals, teams, groups, or the entire company with ease. Plus, these apps are geared toward mobile users, ensuring users get important information as quickly as possible.

Another benefit of project management apps is the cost. Small businesses with small budgets can take advantage of free or low-cost apps and use them throughout the workplace.

Company Website

Employees and customers alike rely on your website as an intermediary of information. Many companies have a portal for employees to view internal communications. Employee communication portals are cost-effective and easy to update. They are also a great single source of information for your workforce.

Customers use your website when they have questions, need troubleshooting, or want help with a product or service. You can create a better experience by having an internal blog, FAQS, or other resources clearly marked and organized on your website.

Your business communications strategy is always evolving. Information becomes outdated, new information becomes available, and new channels emerge. For help fine-tuning your strategy or building one from the ground up, contact Meltwater today!

Loading...