Skip to main content

Communication Tools

A central step in the communication process is determining which tools will help you reach your target audiences. Given your objectives, budget, and resources available, select the tactics that will impact your audience.

As a guide to planning, the following list of potential communication tools includes a brief description of their use and strategies for implementation. This is not a definitive list, but an introduction to various options roughly divided into three categories.

Public Relations

A thoughtful and consistent plan of public relations can be a valuable asset to an organization. Building a working relationship with the media, community, and other influential individuals can boost your organization's reputation and help protect it from crisis.

Types Key Components Strategies
Media Relations Provide direct and immediate access to news and information for the media, such as television, radio, and newspapers. Key components include regular contact with journalists through news releases, news conferences, media alerts, background information kits, feature articles, editorials, designating a spokesperson, and interviews. See the media section of the toolkit for more information. Set aside time to develop and maintain media relations within your communication strategy. Regular and consistent contact is the most successful long-term approach to building a positive relationship with the media.
Community Relations Sustain regular and ongoing contact with organizations and individuals within the service area of your organization. This includes speaking engagements and presentations, public/civic group meetings, education, sponsorships, personal contacts, or newsletters. Arrange meetings and presentations when appropriate. Include time for follow ups with attendees and community members. Allow for some expense for handouts and printed materials.
Government Relations Conduct regular and systematic contact with public service officials. Efforts may include but aren't limited to mailings, personal contact, emailing, and briefings. Develop relationships with local, regional, and state officials. Maintain contact but don't overwhelm with communications efforts to create positive rapport.
Organization Outreach Maintain an organizational presence at community events such as trade shows, community [health] fairs, or special events. Includes displays, speeches or presentations, and designating a spokesperson to represent the organization. Healthcare facilities are often cornerstones of small communities. Be involved in community events whenever possible to strengthen community ties. Pay attention to community event calendars and assign organization representatives to attend.
Website Create and maintain a website for the organization with information on all program areas and up-to-date news as it relates to the organization. Provide information, education, and links to the organization's stakeholders. Check each webpage regularly to update information. Make sure information is easily found and is communicated in lay terms. See the websites section of the toolkit for more details.

Internal/Employee Relations

Effective internal communication is integral to the success of an organization. If your organization's employees aren't well-informed or engaged, a reevaluation of your communication strategy could be necessary.

Types Key Components Strategies
Internal/Employee Relations Regular staff communication channels may include items such as email, electronic newsletters, an intranet, staff meeting notes, posters, and bulletin boards. For effective communication, follow these guidelines with employees:
  • Always inform employees first.
  • Always provide a key contact person and suggested resources where the employee can find more information.
  • Take the time to answer employees' questions as soon as practical.
  • Include a mix of fun, engaging content with critical information. Employees need to stay informed about company priorities while staying engaged.
  • Don't forget to include remote or dispersed employees! Acknowledging remote employees can strengthen ties with the organization and improve internal communication.

Paid Advertising

There are a wide range of paid advertising options available, all with different price ranges and audiences. When considering your budget, paid advertisements can be an effective tool to communicate. See the advertising page of the toolkit to learn more about each option.

Types Key Components Strategies
Print/Radio/TV Paid ads in mass media can be an effective strategy for an upcoming event or emergency situation. In general, TV is the most expensive and newspaper the least costly with radio in the middle. Magazine or special publication ads may also be a compelling option if it is closely aligned to your audience. Local media can be a valuable resource in rural communities. Thoroughly evaluate your options to find which route is best for your budget, message, and audience.
Outdoor – Billboards, Mass Transit, Other Displays As part of a comprehensive campaign, these advertising strategies can be very effective, but can be difficult to reach a specific target demographic. Instead, outdoor displays aim to reach a high volume of a broadly defined target audience. Brand awareness campaigns are often the main goal for outdoor display advertising. Placing your ad in a high traffic location will give you the best chances of success.
Social Media/Online Digital ads can be incredibly effective due to their ability to reach an audience based on keywords, interests, and other data. They can also be easily adapted to an organization's individual needs. Digital advertising can easily become overwhelming due to the multitude of options available. Start with 1-3 platforms or advertising methods and branch out if necessary. It is better to have a few, well-rounded social media platforms than many inactive accounts.