C is for engagement – Part 2 of 4

Channels

If you are waiting at a bus stop, in the rain, you don’t jump on the first bus that comes along just to find shelter. Nor would you choose a bus because it was the biggest, or the shiniest. You would always choose the bus that takes you to the place you want to get to. Choosing the best communication channel to get to the right audience is no different.

The complication is there are now so many to choose from.

Remember when cinema sounded the death knell of theatre; television killed off radio? Vinyl was rendered obsolete by CD, which itself was obliterated by streaming.

Actually, none of this happened. While each medium was disrupted, it found a place within a broader landscape, offering choice and helping to increase overall consumption.

What does this mean to us, as corporate communicators? Put simply, it means more than ever that we need to understand:

  • How our audiences consume media
  • What the strengths and weaknesses of each are.

How many of us have a channel map for our organisation, and how many use it as a foundation stone of any campaign? How many of us, faced with the pouring rain of the latest corporate crisis, simply jump on the first bus that comes along?

We believe that a living, breathing channel map is fundamental to the success of corporate communications. It is not difficult to do, but as long as you complete it objectively and revisit it periodically, it will be worth its weight in gold.

The channel map follows a simple formula, plotting available channels against potential usage and likely effectiveness. At a glance, it gives you a reassuring guide of what will work, when.

But remember, it is not static. The first map I completed looked like a copy of the Radio Times from the 1980s. It had four channels in it (face-to-face, magazine, intranet, email) and repeated the same schedule ad infinitum. The trick now is to be discerning, appreciating that you cannot use every channel available to you and acknowledging which are likely to be give you the best penetration.

This is the best way to prevent you spending months of time and energy creating a YouTube channel or a bespoke app on the whim of a member of your senior leadership team. Instead, you’ll be able to inform him or her that your research indicates the best channels to develop for your audiences are personalised emails and podcasts, for example.

To finish, here are a few things to bear in mind next time you review your channel map:

  • Email is by far the most used communication channel on the planet. There were 144.8 billion emails sent and received daily in 2012 (mashable.com), this had grown to 182.9bn by 2014 (sourcedigit.com) and reached 205bn by March 2017 (lifewire). Up to three quarters of this traffic is thought to be spam.

Coupled with this, the introduction of General Data Protection Regulation in May 2018 will place far greater restrictions on electronic communications, and could lead to a fine for breaches of €20million or more.

So, do not take it for granted that launching an e-newsletter will be the automatic panacea.

  • Within internal communications, IOIC reports that face-to-face remains the most trustworthy of all channels, and that trust is the single biggest driver of engagement and influence. While budgets may have curtailed your plans for lavish town hall gatherings, the investment in face-to-face is most likely to give you significant returns.
  • Evidence is growing that print, so often derided as the dinosaur of modern communications, not only stubbornly retains a place, but that its place may be growing. Several online only publishers have recently launched paper products, acknowledging their unique qualities and exclusivity. Research indicates that consumers – faced with a barrage of free content – are prepared to pay for premium content and that they value the tactile luxury of a magazine. Advertisers, too, have been reassured that their messages are most trusted when delivered via magazines as opposed to online, or even television.
  • Mobile (smartphone) usage overtook desktop browsing as the most popular means to access digital material in 2014. 56% of the world’s population now have a smartphone, 80% of UK adults own one (2016). 85% of smartphone users prefer native apps to mobile internet.

Mobile, and particularly apps, cannot be ignored.

To find out more, email Daniel Lambie or call 0141 560 3040