The Medium is the Message

Is the right communication channel the key to effective communication in the workplace?

Effective communication is at the heart of an effective employee engagement strategy. Research has shown that where internal communications enhances the flow of information within an organization, collaboration improves and productivity is boosted by between 20% and 25%. It’s no wonder that organizations expend so much time and investment in ensuring their messages are written for their specific audience.

Yet, despite the focus on content of messaging, many of the mistakes made in organizations are blamed on poor communication. In addition, if your message doesn’t resonate with your audience, it is likely to be ignored. This will harm transparency and trust, damaging employee engagement and productivity.

Could it be that your message isn’t being received because of the medium you use to send it? Let’s look at the keys to effective communication in the workplace.

The importance of communication medium

How you communicate is as important as what you communicate. The medium you use says much about you. It also affects how your message is received – or, indeed, if it is received. In the digital age, there are many methods you could us to communicate internally and externally. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, and each is favored by a different audience.

The medium you use to send messages can also affect the message you send. Consider the difference between an email and an SMS as an example:

·         Email

Seen as formal by younger employees, but does not limit you to the length of message that can be sent. It’s not immediate, but does allow deep-dive detail to be shared.

·         SMS

Everyone carries their phone with them, and SMS messages offer immediacy and urgency. However, it is impractical to send detailed messages, and so the information that can be shared is limited.

Medium and message translation

If your message is not composed effectively, its meaning can be lost in translation. However, the medium you use can express message itself. You can accentuate this by including it in your internal comms processes – for example, by ensuring that employees know an SMS message is urgent and important.

How you send messages also impacts on the receiver. It’s crucial that you consider your audience’s ability to receive and interpret the message you send. If someone doesn’t own a cell phone, they won’t receive your message. If the recipient doesn’t have the time to read a two-page email, it won’t be read.

Similarly, the language you use in your communication is important. Technical language must be broken down to simple language to be consumed by a non-tech audience. Always break down your messaging to the simplest language you can. Thus, it will be understood by the widest audience.

Your message is transformed by the media you use

Much research has followed up on the original hypothesis that the medium is the message, as put forward by Canadian communication expert Marshall McLuhan in 1964. Most agree that the media greatly impacts the message, and that it can also transform the message you send. Not because the medium you use has some magic quality to change the message, but that (and as mentioned above) you must reconstruct your message for the different media you use to disseminate it.

Used effectively, each media allows you to reach a different audience, in a different way. Utilizing omnichannel communication enables you to communicate with audiences that would have been inaccessible only a few years ago.

Despite the media, a weak message is a weak message

Understanding that the medium we use to send the message affects how it is received leads us to conclude that we must consider the audience and the medium to use before we send our message. However, if the message is composed poorly, it is likely to be poorly received and misinterpreted. The message itself is critical.

In other words, our first focus must always be on the message. Only then can we tailor that message to be sent to our audience across multiple media.

In brief, your messages should guide your people. To do so, they must be created and tailored to speak to each demographic of your audience. Then you can decide on which media to use to communicate most effectively.

To learn more about developing an effective communication strategy, connect with Forward Focus today.

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