While old-fashioned face-to-face communication may be preferred, the fast-paced nature of some businesses makes the use of other communication channels necessary or beneficial. Your business likely uses several channels of communication for internal and external message sharing. Each channel has strength and weaknesses that you must understand to optimize organizational communication.

Face-to-Face Communication

Face-to-face is still the preferred communication channel if clarity of message is a primary factor. Communication in person allows you to interact with the listener in a back-and-forth discussion. It also allows you to utilize nonverbal gestures, facial expressions and personal charisma to enhance the message. A drawback is the potential that a conflict could become more heated or emotional in a face-to-face channel. Tension or stress is also more likely if you have personal conflict with the other person.

Telephone Communication

Land or mobile telephones have taken up the communication slack in businesses where distance and travel prevent face-to-face conversation. The telephone still allows immediate interaction between two parties in the communication. Mobile phones also expand your ability to communicate with distant workers or offices. The lack of nonverbal or facial expressions remove those elements from the message. This can inhibit the ability to interpret the context or emotion of a message sender. The phone is also less personal than a face-to-face meeting.

E-mail Communication

E-mail is a vital communication channel in geographically dispersed companies or ones in which employees travel. E-mail allows for more flexible response times. You can send a message one day and receive a response in a few hours or the next day. It allows for conversation that isn't time-pressured, but can serve for fast turnaround times. It also allows for the inclusion of files, such as documents or images. E-mail is less personal than either face-to-face or phone. The missing context of the message may lead to misunderstandings or misinterpreted messages.

Discussion Forums

Many companies maintain internal discussion forums through intranet websites. These are sites with files and other resources available only to employees through personal log-ins. Internal discussion forums allow employees and managers to engage in company-wide or small-group discussions about suggestions, problems and solutions on a wide range of topics. Forums offer a low-pressure way for employees to present ideas and feedback. They allow the company to gain insights in a non-confrontational way. Lack of personal connectivity and the potential for anonymous postings are drawbacks. Similarly, delays can occur between comments and responses.

Social Media

Businesses have taken advantage of social media to promote their products and services through targeted ads, interactive games, and video content that can engage audiences and drive them back to company websites. The immediacy of social media also provides businesses with valuable feedback regarding new products and services. Social media interaction, however, can be impersonal, and there is a much higher risk of miscommunication that can impact a business’s reputation. If a business fails to monitor its social media channel and doesn’t address negative comments, it can create a tidal wave of bad publicity that can take weeks or months to correct.