Developing Communication Materials and Identifying Communications Channels
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
- Fliers, brochures, and posters
- Public service announcements
- Press releases
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.
- 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 email@example.com or by telephone at (770) 488-0700.
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 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.
|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|
- ATSDR Communication Toolkit: Community Concern Assessment Tool (ATSDR). A guide and template for assessing the level and nature of community concern as a result of environmental contamination.
- ATSDR Communication Toolkit: Message Mapping Template, Worksheet and Checklist (ATSDR). Message maps to help health assessors develop messages specific to a community’s situation.
- CDC Guide to Writing for Social Media (CDC). A guide to help health communicators translate messages so that the messages resonate with social media audiences.
- Health Communication Playbook (CDC/ATSDR). A resource for creating effective materials when communicating environmental health information to the public.
- NCEH/ATSDR Clear Writing Hub (NCEH/ATSDR). A website to help you communicate clearly and effectively to all the audiences you serve.