Effective communication plays an important role in business to inform and influence behavior. Communication channels refer to the medium you use to send a message, such as the telephone or email. Effective communication requires selecting an appropriate communication channel to send your message.
According to the Encyclopedia of Business (ed. 2), up until the 1960s, the belief was the effectiveness of communication relied directly on the word choice used in the message. However, in the 1960s, scholar Marshall McLuhan suggested the medium of communication influences effectiveness as well. McLuhan’s communication theories, like the channel expansion theory, worked to support his revolutionary suggestion.
Communication channels used for business communication vary, but may include:
- phone conversations
- face-to-face meetings
Effective communication relies on selecting an appropriate communication channel for your message. Factors to consider when selecting a communication medium include the need for feedback and the purpose of your message. For example, you need to determine whether the communication is a part of a regular routine or a special need.
The effectives of communication channels can be evaluated based on richness and opportunity for feedback. Richness refers to the depth of your message. For instance, the Encyclopedia of Business names face-to-face communication as the richest communication medium. Face-to-face encounters allow the listener to hear your message, as well as sense your tone of voice and watch your facial expressions to determine the meaning of your message. Face-to-face communication also allows for instant feedback, unlike communication mediums like letters and emails.
Email works well for day-to-day business communications since it is fast and efficient. However, email lacks richness, with few nonverbal communication cues and no opportunity for instant feedback. The Encyclopedia of Business recommends using letters for communicating special messages, such as a job hiring or notifying someone of an honor. Videoconferences work well for avoiding expensive travel costs, as well as catering to immediate needs, such as an emergency meeting.
Selecting the wrong communication channel can cause communication obstacles including information overload and inadequate feedback. Information overload occurs when you receive information faster than you can process. For example, receiving too many emails dilutes the meanings of the emails’ messages. The dilution of messages can lead to messages becoming lost. Selecting a communication method which offers the appropriate opportunity for feedback proves important, as Biz Ed, a UK resource for business studies, notes communication isn’t complete until you receive feedback from your listeners.
Zachary Fenell is a 2009 graduate of Notre Dame College of Ohio. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in communication with minors in philosophy and writing. Fenell has been writing since 2002, when he joined his high school newspaper, "The Arc Light." In college Fenell won awards for excellence in English and communication.