If your company is made up of more than just yourself, you know that not a day goes by without internal communication. Businesses function because team members collaborate, managers assign tasks, and information and skills are shared. However, getting your business to run efficiently is a different story—one that requires you to choose the right communication channel for every message.
Six Examples of Communication Channels
Not every communication channel is made equally. While each one has its own benefits, there are some forms of communication that are naturally richer and allow you to have deeper conversations, and others that make room for productivity-increasing tools. Below, we’ll give you a thorough look at seven strong channels for business communication and how they can best be utilized.
1. Face-to-Face Communication
No surprises here. The richest communication channel around, face-to-face meetings, is often hailed as the most effective way for teams to interact. This is because it reduces any misconstrued messages by allowing for body language, facial expressions, and other nonverbal communication. It’s also the best channel for lengthy conversations.
Because of this, speaking face-to-face is an excellent way to get complex or sensitive messages across or brainstorm with a group of coworkers.
This channel can be both formal and informal, depending on the manner in which it occurs. You can have a simple face-to-face conversation from your desk, or schedule a formal meeting in a conference room ahead of time.
Be careful though—studies show that only 11% of meetings are productive. Formal meetings should come with a structure and purpose that can’t be fulfilled through other channels. To summarize, if it could be an email (or some other less time consuming form of communication) it might be best to avoid a meeting.
Example use case: When you need to develop a complete timeline for launching a product with members of multiple departments.
2. Video Conferencing
The next most effective communication channel around, video conferencing, retains your ability to read facial expressions while increasing flexibility. You can have a massive group on a video call from anywhere in the world, helping information flow quickly to anyone who needs it.
While businesses often have to pay to use video conferencing tools at a larger scale, they can be extremely helpful real-time collaboration tools. And since the beginning of the pandemic, these kinds of tools have become commonplace and non-negotiable for most businesses. Video calls enable quick screen sharing and reduce travel time, as remote team members can hop on just by opening a new tab on their computers.
Similar to face-to-face communication, video conferencing allows for complex or lengthy conversations, though prior scheduling is usually expected.
Example use case: When you’re calling an all-hands meeting for a remote team.
Suggested tools: Whereby, Skype, Google Hangouts, Zoom.
3. Phone Calls
While video conferences do have more of an impact, they’re not always the most convenient. Even if you’re planning to make an informal video call on your smartphone, minimizing the need for prior scheduling, you can’t depend on the other person to have WiFi or be in a place they can turn on speakerphone.
Phone calls are a great alternative when you need to communicate a sense of urgency and get answers quickly. Calls are a real-time, two-way communication channel that still let you hear tone of voice. Plus, as long as no visuals are needed to convey your message, this channel also allows for lengthy discussion.
Example use case: When an employee unexpectedly needs to take a day or two off and you need to go over what tasks urgently need to be delegated.
When you need a formal communication channel, but don’t want to waste time with scheduling, email is often the best choice. This type of communication is a great way for you to send formal announcements in a structured manner, especially when sending messages down the chain of command.
Emails are a great replacement for outdated written communication methods, like letters and memos, as they offer more security. This is especially important if you want to forward a sensitive document that you don’t want to leave on someone’s desk. Blind carbon copy also lets you protect the identities of people who are receiving your emails (or prevent a reply all).
By using your professional email address to speak to your team, you can often indicate the importance of a message by flagging a message as urgent. However, with 70% of coworkers happy with responses in a four-hour time frame, don’t expect an immediate response.
Example use case: When you need to send onboarding documents and an official welcome message to a group of new hires.
Suggested tools: Gmail, Microsoft Outlook.
5. Text Messages
Just as business text messaging is preferred by modern customers, your modern employees may consider text messages one of the most convenient channels of communication. With a 98% open rate, text messages are a surefire way to get short, informal written messages delivered to employees from anywhere—especially when you need it read fast.
There are two risks when using text messages as a channel for internal communication. First, it can lead to employees being distracted with non-work related conversations. Second, business conversations can easily be sent to the wrong person—we’ve all heard the horror stories—which means secure messages should never be sent through this channel.
Still, this informal communication channel is a great way to quickly get answers or send reminders without being obtrusive or requiring an internet connection. It also allows you to send images, videos, links, and your location quickly from your phone.
Example use case: When you’re looking for an employee at a conference away from the office.
6. Online Messaging platforms
Online messaging platforms that are specifically built to connect internal teams have risen in popularity in the past few years. This unique communication channel functions much like text messaging, as it provides real-time written conversation, but add a level of professionalism to your informal communication. This is because these platforms are secure, and conversations can easily be limited to select individuals as needed. This channel also allows for more complexity than a text.
Example use case: When you want to get an instant second opinion from your direct reports on a flyer you designed.
Suggested tools: Slack.
Communicate in the Right Space
Modern businesses have a long list of communication channels they can pick from. When you’re aware of how you can best use each one, you can improve the flow of information and encourage collaboration within your team. This can lead to direct business results as productivity grows.
Using the right tools also keeps everyone on the same page internally, so you can be confident that your team is meeting customer needs externally.