Developing Communication Materials and Identifying Communications Channels

A group of people looking at a computer.

Effective communication is necessary to foster trust with a community. It is crucial that all community-facing communication be clear, relevant, easy to understand, and appropriate for the target audience. To be effective, communication must be sensitive to the needs and the experiences of the community. Communication must also be informative, honest, transparent, and use clear writing techniques. Thoughtful, timely, and regular communication, when done well, can help you earn the community’s trust and establish your credibility.

Here are some types of communication materials for reaching community audiences:

  • Fact sheets, consumer summaries, and tip sheets
  • Radio spots
  • Newsletters and updates
  • Websites
  • Fliers, brochures, and posters
  • Advertisements
  • Public service announcements
  • Press releases
  • Presentations
Keep in Mind

Many people remember information for a longer time when it is presented in a visual format. Graphics and visual aids are a great way to get attention and explain complex concepts.

Where to Start
  • Before crafting any messages, refer to the Community Profile you created to make sure you understand the nature of the community’s concerns, their communication preferences, historical components, and cultural sensitivities. (See activity: Developing a Community Profile)
  • Identify key audiences to reach and develop personas for each audience. (A persona is a description of the type of audience. For example, a mother who also works outside of the home and is the primary caregiver for her extended family.)
  • Identify the communication channels and networks through which these personas receive information they trust. If the channels include communication materials, look at how the information is presented.
  • Develop variations of outreach materials to reflect the diversity, culture, and languages of the community. Keep in mind that different sub-groups may exist within a geographical area.
  • Identify existing and influential communication channels. (See section: Communication Channels)
  • Ask stakeholders to leverage existing channels for sharing information.
  • Identify key influencers within the community who can help disseminate information and establish channels. (See activity: Identifying Stakeholders)

*NOTE FOR ATSDR STAFF: All ATSDR media requests are handled by our Center (NCEH/ATSDR) Office of Communication. ATSDR staff should direct requests from the media to the Environmental Health Media mailbox at or by telephone at (770) 488-0700.

Tips from the Field

Make messages as clear and simple as possible. Clear and simple messages improve comprehension across all literacy levels (See resource: NCEH/ATSDR Clear Writing Hub). Consider whether you need to develop written translations of your materials.

When reusing materials, be sure to make updates and tailor them to the needs of the intended audience.

Do not assume that the easiest or most comfortable way of communicating for ATSDR is best for the community.

Communication Channels

Communication channels are the means through which people communicate, learn, and interact with each other. Examples of communication channels include newspaper, TV, radio, social media, email lists, groups and associations, religious groups, etc. Channels are as important as the message your materials contain because the channels you choose have an impact on the reach of your message. Channels may be better suited for specific messages or for specific audiences and should be tailored to the community needs. The table below lists several communication channels and offers suggestions on which channels are best for your communication messages.

Communication Channel Analysis Template
Channel Good for Bad for
Face to Face Deepening trust and relationships Communicating with individuals and community members who are not in the same geographic area
Public Meetings Receiving input from the community One-on-one conversation; People with transportation limitations
Group or association meetings Connecting with a specific type of audience Broadcasting information widely at once; People with transportation limitations
Phone Calls Addressing urgent matters Communicating with more than one person
Videoconferences Communicating with individuals and community members who are not in the same geographic area Communicating with individuals with limited technological skills or equipment; People with limited internet bandwidth
Emails Updating large groups Collaborating on time-sensitive matters
Webinars Fielding questions from the community Communicating with individuals with limited technological skills or equipment; People with limited internet bandwidth
Community Websites Updating large groups Collaborating or two-way communication; People with limited internet access
Reports Summarizing technical information Developing personal relationships
Blogs Good for sharing personal experiences Communicating in a formal tone; People with limited internet access
Additional Resources
Page last reviewed: December 15, 2021