Effective communication is the cornerstone of successful projects and client relationships in consulting and digital communications roles. With so many options for communication channels today, from email and messaging to video conferencing and project management software, maximizing communication channels is essential for working efficiently and delivering results.
This article provides strategies and a communication channels formula for optimizing project and client communication.
Set Communication Expectations Upfront
Clarifying expectations for communication upfront prevents misalignments down the road. During the project kickoff, discuss:
- Preferred channels - Email, chat, video calls?
- Response times - Within 24 hours? Urgent matters?
- Cadence - Daily standups? Weekly status reports?
- Access needs - Require notifications? Off-hours contact?
Document agreed norms in a channel matrix, detailing stakeholder access and preferences. Having clear communication expectations aligns the team and mitigates frustrations.
Match Channel to Message
With so many channels, use the right medium for each message type:
- Email for formal project updates, status reports, and documentation. Allows tracking and reference.
- Chat or message for quick questions and collaboration. It is streamlined and searchable.
- Video chat for presentations, training, and urgent matters needing discussion. Adds visual context.
- Project management platforms to assign tasks, share files, and track project health. Centralized and visible.
Choose the channel that best fits the message, urgency, and audience for strategic communication.
Limit Critical Channels
While having various communication channels has benefits, having an overwhelming number of critical touchpoints becomes counterproductive.
Define the 2–3 most important channels for your project, such as:
- Daily standup in project chat
- Weekly email status update
- Project management platform for task and document tracking
Limiting critical channels reduces noise, keeps key information visible, and improves stakeholder efficiency. Non-critical channels can still add value in the right contexts.
Automate Where Possible
Look for ways to automate communication for improved efficiency:
- Email templates for status updates, meeting notes, etc.
- Project management platform updates on task completion
- Chatbots for common question-answering
- Notices and alerts for notifications and reminders
Automating repeatable communication frees up time and mental bandwidth for more complex project needs.
Clarify Escalation Paths
Despite best efforts, sometimes communication channels break down, issues go unresolved, and situations escalate. Define escalation protocols upfront:
- Start by increasing urgency in existing channels (e.g. chat @ mention)
- CC project manager or appropriate stakeholders
- Switch communication channels (e.g. chat to email)
- Schedule an emergency meeting to resolve
Clarifying escalation paths avoids confusion and frustration and wastes time when urgent action is required.
Provide Omnichannel Access
Enable stakeholders to seamlessly switch between channels for a unified experience:
- Use unified platforms like Slack for seamless email, chat, and video
- Integrate project management with chat and email
- Share content across channels, attach emails in chats, and link project tasks.
Omnichannel access gives flexibility to use the right channel when needed. Maintain connections between channels to keep information flowing.
Analyze Channel Analytics
Leverage data and analytics around communication channels for insights:
- Volume - Which channels have the highest activity? Overused?
- Engagement - Open and response rates for emails and chats
- Usage trends - When and how are channels utilized?
Analyzing channel analytics helps optimize where to focus communication efforts and resources. It also identifies potential issues.
Maintain Asynchronous Options
While real-time communication is often needed, ensure asynchronous channels remain available:
- Email for formal documentation and detailed communication
- Project management platforms for task management
- Wikis and knowledge bases for shared reference
Keeping asynchronous options open accommodates different work styles and global teams across time zones.
Optimize Channel Reach
Maximize the reach of important communications by:
- Using channels with broader access, like email and project platforms, over chat
- Cross-posting critical messages across multiple channels
- Leveraging channel notification and alert options
Expanding reach ensures messaging reaches the intended audience for alignment.
Simplify with Convergence
Where possible, converge communication into primary channels to reduce tool overload:
- Consolidate multiple team chats into a single platform
- Integrate disparate software into the primary project management system
- Limit the number of different video conferencing tools
While some specialization is beneficial, consolidating similar channels provides simplicity.
Refine Based on Feedback
Frequently collect feedback on communication channels to spot issues and opportunities for improvement:
- Survey team on satisfaction with channels
- Monitor tool analytics for usage patterns
- Assess project communications performance overall
Use feedback to refine channel strategy, address pain points, and enhance effectiveness over time. Communication needs to evolve in order to maintain flexibility.
Here is an FAQ section covering those questions:
FAQs on Communication channels:
What are the 5 channels of communication?
The 5 main channels of communication are:
- Verbal (speech)
- Non-verbal (body language, tone)
- Visual (signs, maps, charts)
- Written (emails, documents)
- Electronic (TV, radio, social media)
What is meant by a communication channel?
A communication channel refers to the medium used to send and receive information between parties. Channels include verbal mediums like speech and written mediums like email. The channel shapes the style and effectiveness of communication.
What are the 3 types of communication channels?
The three main types of communication channels are:
- Formal channels are officially designated for work communication, like emails and reports.
- Informal channels are used for personal discussion, like conversations during lunch.
- Grapevine channels are unofficial and speculative channels like office gossip.
What are the 4 main types of communication?
The 4 main types of communication are:
- Verbal communication with spoken words.
- Nonverbal communication through body language, facial expressions, etc.
- Written communication in documents, emails, and chats.
- Visual communication through illustrations, presentations, and videos.
Effective communication does not happen automatically; it requires continuous effort and refinement. As noted in a paper from the Project Management Institute (PMI), "Communication works for those who work at it". This highlights the need for purposeful strategies to optimize communication channels on an ongoing basis.
Optimizing communication channels through strategies like setting clear expectations, automation, escalation protocols, omnichannel access, and ongoing refinement drives project efficiency and engagement.
For consultants and digital communications professionals, mastering project management communication across the spectrum delivers better client outcomes and business success. Matching channel to message, defining critical streams, and providing options give stakeholders what they need while consolidating efforts. Communication is a differentiator; maximize yours.