Winning the Political Game: Choose Communications Channels Carefully

In any communications campaign, it is important to carefully select the delivery mechanisms, or channels, through which your message(s) will be delivered. 

What channels are selected will depend on your target audience(s), timing, resources (money and people), and other considerations. Often, a communications campaign uses multiple channels.

In the old days, when considering delivery channels, most political communicators thought automatically of the traditional news media – either paid advertising on TV, radio and newspapers, or PR initiatives to place stories in the media. Direct mail has also long been an important, albeit expensive, way to deliver messages to the right audiences.

Today, a plethora of delivery channels exist, some of which are very attractive because one's message isn't filtered or diluted by reporters and editors. A news release, for example, may be ignored, delayed or rewritten. Even a blockbuster announcement will be filtered by news people, and there's no guarantee it will be framed as you wish. But blogs and a variety of social media channels enable communicators to reach audiences quickly and cheaply without filtering by the traditional news media.

However, the old tried and true methodologies of good communications are still important in the social media world. There is incredible waste of time and effort in social media because communicators aren’t reaching the right audiences. Communications professionals still need to think: What are my objectives? What are my audiences? What are my messages that must be delivered to achieve my objectives? What channels can I use to best deliver my messages to the right audiences? What about timing, research, and resources?

Just pushing something out on social media doesn’t mean it will hit the right audiences. Social media must be used effectively or it doesn’t mean much.

Besides social media, here are some inexpensive direct-to-consumer channels that you can completely control, target carefully, and avoid news media filtering: E-mail newsletter, printed newsletter, direct mail to homes/businesses, automated phone calls, Web site, Weblog, YouTube videos, speeches, and neighborhood meetings.

“Earned media” channels that are more difficult to control and target include: press releases, press conferences, exclusive release to one reporter/outlet, rallies and other events designed to get coverage, desk-side briefings, letters-to-editors, op-ed essays, and radio talk shows.

“Paid media” channels that can be controlled, but that can be quite expensive and difficult to target, include: television ads, radio ads, newspaper ads and social media/Internet ads.

Bottom line: Know the audiences you are trying to reach. Each communications channel has its place. Choose the delivery channels that are most cost-effective, best targeted to your audiences and, where possible, you can control.