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Guidebook 17 The Communication Process Communication be received. As our population grows and technology evolves, these communication Channels channels will change as well. There are four basic types of channels: What Are Communication Channels? Printed or published materials. Communication channels are the modes Oral channels (e.g., personal contacts). or pathways through which two parties communicate. When we watch late-night comedy Broadcast media (e.g., radio, TV, videos). shows, television delivers or communicates Electronic or Internet and computer-based the message. A live audience has the added modes. benefit of being a part of the setting in which the communication takes place and may react Why Are Communication Channels differently from a TV audience at home to Important? the content because of this advantage. This example illustrates the idea that the selection The choice of communication channels is of communication channels impacts how extremely important because it affects both the the message may be framed and how it may content and the impact of the communication. Use Multiple Communication Channels Our best practices review of non-transportation organizations that are successful in communicating their research show they deliberately use multiple channels and tools to communicate and involve audiences in their research. See Appendix 2 for summaries. St. Jude Susan G. Communication Children's Format Komen CGIAR AFWA Channel Research for the Cure Hospital Print Publish in Journals, Trade Brochures, Reports, Newsletters, Fact Sheets Oral Champions/Ally Program Sponsorships and Partnerships Workshops, Conferences, Meetings Speakers Program Broadcast Video and PSA Media Radio Interviews/PSA Electronic or Website Internet-based Media Center Message Boards, Blogs, Forums, RSS Key: = Primary tool (heavily relied upon) = Secondary tool (occasionally used) = Little or no use CGIAR (Consultative Group on International Agriculture Resources) AFWA (Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies)

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Guidebook 18 Communicating the Value of Transportation Research The four communication channels differ in levels Printed materials are less interactive than other of formality, immediacy, and interactivity, and channels of communication. As the sender, you each of the broad categories of channels has have one chance to create the most focused and advantages and disadvantages. It is important intriguing message possible and to distribute it to to have specific communication goals set in your audience. While written communication may advance so you can direct energy and resources be somewhat limited in this sense, it also ensures toward the most appropriate channel for your consistency in your message across audiences message, audience, and budget. Based on your and time. communication goals and the characteristics of each channel, you may decide to select only Oral Channels one channel or incorporate a variety of channels into your communication planning. Each of the Depending on context and channels are described below to help guide this audience expectations, oral channels decision-making process. of communication may vary in their level of formality. When asked to Printed or Published Materials make a presentation for a program or project, you may wish to use more formal Written communication is inherently more formal language than when discussing the project with than spoken communication--anyone who has a champion over lunch. ever read an interview transcript can attest to this fact. Incorporating printed materials into a communication plan can be extremely helpful in "Face-to-face communication sending the same message to as broad or as targeted is the most immediate of all an audience as is necessary. communication channels." Printed materials in the forms of fact sheets or press packets are also beneficial However, oral channels do not widely vary in their because they provide level of immediacy. Face-to-face communication congressional staffers and media representatives is the most immediate of all communication with the appropriate talking points when channels; you, as a participant in the exchange discussing your project or program. of information, are sharing the physical space with your audience and can adapt your message What printed materials lack in verbal immediacy to help fill gaps in knowledge, to fully explain a is often made up for in visual immediacy. While complex point, or to respond to the questions we discuss the concept of packaging more fully and feedback of your audience. in the next section, it is important to note that the visual appeal of a message through type, Conversations conducted over the telephone graphics, and color will affect both the willingness have many of these qualities as well, but they lack of your audience to read a message and the rate it nonverbal feedback; you cannot see a furrowed retains that message. brow over the phone. What you can do is ask the audience if the message is understood and "Printed materials in the forms of clarify points where necessary. In this sense, verbal communication is often highly interactive. fact sheets or press packets provide More formal verbal communication contexts appropriate talking points when (e.g., speeches or panel discussions) often have question-and-answer sessions built in to discussing your project or program." accommodate the interactivity.

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Guidebook 19 The Communication Process Broadcast Media with public relations and communications professionals who have the expertise to help you Mediated channels of maximize the impact of your messages when communication (i.e., television using these media. or radio media) can vary widely in their formality and immediacy. A television spot Electronic or Internet and may be conversational in tone and make use Computer-Based Channels of visual and vocal impact to communicate the One of the most important developments in message. These components of campaigns can be communication over the last two decades has another way to communicate the focused, "sticky" been the advent and message that was created for a printed piece. growth of the Internet. Through the Internet, It may also provide the audience with a literal messages can reach a picture of the need for change and put a face global audience and on the problem or solution at hand. Through help you to identify and an interesting mix of vocal, visual, and audio connect with funders, cues, messages may come to life for the target researchers, practitioners, developers, media audience who views them. Videos have the outlets, and community groups, to whom access added benefit of accomplishing more in less was previously limited at best. Web pages and time: they can thoroughly explain the importance email have particular relevance in today's world of and relevance of a project and complement a globalized communication. sticky message. In addition, while radio spots depend on voice and audio cues, they can be an inexpensive way to reach your audience in specific and/or broad geographic areas. "Through the Internet, messages can reach a global audience Although broadcast media may be more and help you to identify and immediate than written communication (the audience actually hears a voice or sees an image connect with funders, researchers, in front of them), they are not as interactive practitioners, developers, media as face-to-face communication or other oral channels. Because of this, it is essential to work outlets, and community groups." Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Press Room Web pages are unique because they may incorporate virtually all of the features of the other channels. Their content may be formal, but many also provide a chat function that allows your audience to connect with experts for resources or information. Videos may be embedded into web pages to provide a variety of message formats in one central location. Interactive tools may be integrated into web pages to give the user a sense of connection to the message that does not exist in other mediated Accessed: October 13, 2008 formats. With such importance placed on

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Guidebook 20 Communicating the Value of Transportation Research graphics, sound, organization, and accessibility, Email is also complicated by the fact that it the best step a professional researcher/manager, removes visual cues from the communication, who is a web design novice, can take is to connect which can make the intention behind messages with web professionals who can realize (and difficult to understand. Make any messages perhaps improve) the vision you have for your communicated through email as unambiguous as project or program's web page. possible. Email, on the other hand, Email, like much web content, is highly is a computer-based mode interactive--so much so that it is virtually of communication that is instantaneous. commonplace and essential for Email can include a today's world. With that, there link to a website or can are both advantages and disadvantages to email be used to transmit in comparison to other available channels. attachments (such as one-page summaries, First, the formality of email is often fuzzy. slides, or reports). It may When communicating with local champions or also serve as a platform governmental backers, it may be better to treat for interactive surveys regarding message email as a letter rather than as an online chat. strategies, may be an essential component of Because professionalism is always a concern, err data collection, or may provide consistent links on the side of formality rather than informality. between interested parties through listservs or newsletters. While designing a web page is highly complex, maintaining a listserv can be an easy and convenient way to create and maintain a connection to your audience. Web 2.0 Technologies Most public agencies have been online since the late 1990s, and their presence on the Internet has grown in step with the growth of the Internet. From Wikis to blogs to online expert discussion panels, transportation research programs are incorporating Web 2.0 technologies into their programs as important communications and collaboration tools. Work with your agency's Public Information Officer or communication professionals to find the right fit for the following Web 2.0 technologies in your research program communication plans: Blog--Short for web log, a type of website that hosts discussions by one or several people known as bloggers. Wiki--A web application that allows any number of users to directly create and edit content (e.g., Wikipedia, MediaWiki). Podcast--A series of audio or video digital-media files that are distributed over the Internet by syndicated downloads to portable media players and personal computers. Online Forum--A bulletin board system in the form of a discussion site in which panelists communicate with each other using messages (posts). YouTube--A video sharing website where users can upload, view, and share video clips.

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Guidebook 21 The Communication Process How Are Communication Channels Used Effectively? In a world where we are constantly bombarded with messages, it is important to have a communication strategy that is specific and goal driven. In addition, the communication channel must match both the message and the audience. Consider the following when making use of communication channels: Personal, face-to-face communication is Keep audience characteristics in mind often essential to build support and trust when choosing a communication channel. among community champions, legislative While access to the Internet is common, backers, and technical experts. While it is not ubiquitous. Rural or economically attaining your goal for funding or research disadvantaged areas may not have the is important, there is also unquantifiable opportunity or the connection speed to value in the relational element these access large files or web pages filled with connections can provide for future graphics and interactive tools. Similarly, interactions. Once you have established written materials must often be directed these relationships, work to keep them. toward a broad audience, and the reading Do not overlook the value of broad-based level of the material must be neither too communication. When awareness and technical nor too simple for the target education are the goal of communication, audience. Work with your communication use a wide variety of channels to reach and public affairs staff to research the as much of your audience as possible. audience to help determine the most Consistent and continuous communication appropriate channel for them. will help develop a solid knowledge base among your target audience. With these considerations in mind, you can make sound choices regarding the logistics, frequency, content, and duration of your communication throughout the research process. You will likely use more than one communication channel--e.g., a face-to-face meeting, where written material is presented, with email follow-up. The next step is to consider how that information will be presented--the style of your communication.