Choosing your communication tools
Defining your options
- Visualise the wide range of communication tool types available to you: print materials (e.g. poster, brochure, flyer), electronic media (e.g. website, clearinghouse, video), and events (e.g. exhibition, workshop).
- The starting point for defining potential communication tools is the target group. Your target group’s communication habits and needs must underpin the choice of your communication channel and tools. What types of media do they use and trust the most?
- Consider the types of communication capable with each tool, and how it relates to your research. Can the topics you are dealing with be effectively communicated visually (eg, in an online video), or do the concepts require the precision of a written explanation (eg, an article)?
- Be careful not to let the availability of an attractive new communication tool determine your choice, as this is a key aspect of your communication.
- Consider that communication channel and tool are a package and can have a leverage effect on each other and on the transmission and reception of your message. Picture your channel and tool as the vehicle that will deliver your message to your target group. The communication tool you choose will impact which channel you choose, and vice versa.
- Find out the key details of potential channels before developing any content for a tool. It may well reveal that a particular tool won’t work e.g. too expensive, too limited, or just not appropriate for the channels realistically available to you.
- Additional elements that will determine the kinds of tools available include:
- The resources (human and financial) that are available to you and that will guide the planning of your communication activities. Consider which tools will provide the most cost-effective impact.
- Synergies with communication tools will be produced in the course of your project anyway or that you can suggest as a deliverable to your sponsor (summary of your results, policy recommendations, workshop, contribution to a professional journal etc.)
Choosing targeted tools
- Once you are aware of your communication tool options list the most fitting tools per target group depending on:
- Their role, tasks and constraints in accessing our processing your message (lack of time, access to certain media etc.)
- The style of communication that they prefer or are used to (you can find out your target group’s preferences through target group analysis)
- The communication message that needs to be delivered or the action that needs to be triggered.
- Pair up tools and channels and consider developing “baskets“ of tools for some target groups that can complement each other and offer the possibility to go through a process of information that increases in focus and depth, for example. Communication will be more efficient if the target group actively decides to learn more or to take some type of action.
- Be careful that your tools do not overwhelm your target group, either in complexity, volume, time or in pre-required knowledge or skills (e.g. fancy technological features of your tool). Try to strike a balance between attractiveness, novelty and familiarity. Target groups are more likely to change in response to a combination of new experience and communication than in response to communication alone.
- Your targeted choice of a tool will also depend on the type and content of the key message to deliver. What tool will best capture and deliver your message? To help you in this you can model how the key message for your target group might work in different tools.
- If possible, test the effect of the communication tool upon a sample audience before finalizing it. Make adjustments based on the receivers’ feedback.
Engaging in two-way communication
- If your key communication message is intended to trigger feedback or action, a tool that incorporates two-way communication more easily should be favoured (e.g. website with features like a forum or commenting, workshop).
- Ensure that you have a good knowledge of and contacts with your target group as a starting point.for Two-way communication or direct contact (within any tool type), although quite time-consuming, is in many cases effective in ensuring that your target group regards your research as credible and useful.
- In case of a topic or problem where divergent interests and mindsets exist, face-to-face communication and consultation can increase the chances of acceptance and of change of behaviour.
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