Channels are methods used to distribute information so it can reach target audiences. These can include (adapted from Pata, 2017): face-to-face channels (meetings, presentations, conferences, workshops), print media (brochures, flyers); electronic media (television, radio, podcasts), online media (social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat; e-mails, newsletters) or other types of media (e.g. books, billboards…).
The task of choosing the right channels is a challenging one, as you need to choose wisely. For youth organisations it might mean that you have to think about different types of channels to use, instead of the ones NGOs usually use (e.g. websites or email). In order to choose the right channel, you need to follow these steps:
The type of message you are sending can be a good indicator of what channels to use. If you want to promote your causes, then it would be wise to use the available advertising options, which include Facebook ads, Instagram ads or Google Adwords. Using these ads, you can reach out to a significant number of people who will hear about your project/organisation/cause. Also, many people use social media and search engines everyday, so you can use this opportunity to share your good causes. Be careful when setting up your ads, as the prices can vary across platforms depending on your target groups. If you want to draw attention to a specific cause, maybe you should look to use influencer marketing (finding influencers in your local community who will be advocates for your work). Influencer marketing is a ‘way of getting your brand in front of your target audience by building relationships with influential people within your industry’ (Tachalova, 2020). In short, influencers on social media can talk about your organisation and project. Ultimately, there is a channel for every message; you will use more relaxed messages on social media and be more formal in face-to-face channels.
In order to have the most impact, it is good to conduct a media usage analysis of your target group to see what the best choice would be. For example, if you are communicating with young people, Instagram and TikTok may well be the best options. Instagram is primarily used by the target group of 18 to 30 year olds (Hootsuite, 2020), whereas TikTok is more suitable for the target group of 18 to 24 year olds (Hootsuite, 2020). On the other hand, Facebook and email may suit better if you are working with youth workers. In order to know what channels to use, you need to know a great deal about your target group and their information needs. Use the available data and research on media usage to determine what would be the most suitable for you. A good resource to research is the Hootsuite blog, which gives you an overview on the usage of social media as well as some practical tips and tricks.
The third thing to think about is the response from target groups. Unfortunately, some organisations with few resources allocated to communication only inform their target groups of their activity and use one-way communication channels such as newspapers, posters, television or radio shows. On the other hand, if you want to garner a clear response from your target groups on the effectiveness of what you do, then you will have to use two-way communication channels, such as social media or Yammer, where you can communicate with your team and beneficiaries in an open way. The concept of two-way communication channels was introduced by Shannon in 1961 and it says that communication needs to have some kind of feedback. If you are using social media to communicate, your task is to engage your target groups, ask them questions and interact with them. With this, you will create a loyal fan base and people will be more interested in participating in your future activities.
The piece about the message triangle explained how one leg of the triangle is comprised of the expectations of your target groups – what they need to do, think or feel. Based on what you expect from the target groups, you need to choose the right channel. For example, if you want your target group to have emotional engagement, then you can use storytelling, workshops or Instagram stories, as this creates more engagement. Similarly, if you want to increase knowledge you could use email or posters. Ultimately, if you want to increase ownership of the content by users and have their full engagement, you could use storytelling techniques or personal contact to share good experiences (Miller, 2014). It is important to highlight that engagement is not solely composed of likes and views, but includes real engagement from your target groups in order to advocate for a cause.
If you are interested in finding out more about choosing the right channel in communication, please read more here.