A communication medium is the way in which you choose to distribute your message to others. Choosing the right medium is important to communicating your message effectively and efficiently. With the rapid growth of technology, now we have even more options to choose from so the process can be confusing and even frustrating. The general categories to decide between are: oral, written, visual, and electronic.
Let’s start with oral communication. This particular media includes face-to-face conversation, interviews, speeches, and presentations/meetings given in person. All of these require you to actually be in the room with the person you are communicating with. This could be used when you want to civilize your presentation and communicate care and commitment to employees.
- Pro: This type of communication is the most personal so it is best used when you are showing emotion or want to encourage interaction and immediate feedback. A lot of people prefer this over other mediums because it shows you are putting your full attention and personality into the presentation of your message.
- Con: Your audience is limited to the physical space so it is best when only communicating with a small group. You also have the least amount of control over the message since you can’t control how your audience interprets the message along with your body language and tone. Also, when speaking in front of an audience, there is a degree on spontaneity that can keep you from being able to perfect your message.
The next medium to consider is written medium. This form includes memos, reports, and letters recorded to paper. These documents are not used as often since electronic software makes creating digital forms of the same reports easier, but they still have their place within a company.
- Pro: Written media allows you a great deal of control over the message you want to communicate and reduces the risk of misrepresentation. It also allows you to distribute the message to a larger audience while creating a permanent record that can be accessed at a later date.
- Con: Electronic media have replaced day-to-day memos and reports in a lot of companies. Written forms are now mostly reserved for more formal reports and letters sent outside of the company.
Visual media is the next medium and increasing in population. This includes messages that involve graphs, charts, and diagrams that help you illustrate your message. In professional settings, it is more common to see primarily text with visual elements to support the written message.
- Pro: Visuals can be effective at showing more complication concepts within a diagram that is easier to understand. It is also a nice way to let an audience understand you message quickly and easily with pictures and symbols.
- Con: This medium works best when used along with text. It also takes more time and creativity to create an original graphic to display your message clearly.
The last major medium to consider is electronic media. This category is the most complicated because the options electronically to send messages continue to grow. Some of the possibilities include phone calls, online blogs, email and text messaging, audio and video presentations. Here are some guidelines on the use of electronic media.
- Pro: Electronic media is most widely used in modern times and has almost replaced printed messages entirely in many companies because it delivers messages so quickly. Using animation, sound, and video elements in presentations creates an entertaining and interactive experience for the audience.
- Con: Electronic media is still a fairly new invention and requires someone with knowledge of the medium to use it successfully.
Now that you have a better idea of the options on how to distribute your message, it’s important to think about a few factors. One question to ask yourself is “How formal should my presentation be?” A printed document or personal presentation is more formal than an email or electronic message. Another factor that is essential to consider is the cost. Obviously, extravagant visual and electronic presentations are more expensive than a printed document or text message. Time and media limitations should also be noted. Written documents take longer to send than an email and don’t allow feedback easily, but not everyone has access to internet. The most important thing to ask is “What does my target audience expect?” Taking them into consideration ensures that your audience will be receptive to your message.
Jennifer Scheck is a professional writing student at the University of South Florida. She is in her senior year studying Corporate Communication.