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Communication Tools

One important step in the communication process is determining which vehicles you will use to reach your target audiences. Given your objectives and the resources available, select the tactics that will most effectively impact your audience. Navigate through the links on the left to get and overview, tips and examples of several communication tools.

As a guide to planning, the following list of potential communication modes includes a brief discussion of their use and value. This is not a definitive list, but a beginning guide for considering options, roughly divided into three categories.

Public Relations
A thoughtful and consistently implemented plan of public relations is the most cost-effective method of communication. Over the long-term, systematic public relations efforts will ensure the organization can survive nearly anything with its reputation intact.

Public Relations Key Components Resources
Media Relations Providing direct and immediate access to news and information for the media (television, radio, 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

Staff time to develop and maintain a system for media relations must be set aside within the agency’s work plan. Regular and consistent contact is the most successful long-term approach to the media.
Community Relations Regular and ongoing contact with organizations and individuals within the service area of the organization.

Includes: speaking engagements and presentations, public/civic group meetings, education, sponsorships, personal contacts, newsletters or direct mail.

Staff time to coordinate and arrange meetings or presentations. Staff time for attendance and follow-up. May be some materials expense for handouts or display boards.
Government Relations Regular and systematic contact with public service officials

May include mailings, personal contact, emailing, briefings

Staff time to develop relationships and maintain contact. Some materials cost for research or printing.
Organization Outreach Maintaining 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.

Staff time to organize a calendar of events and assign organization representatives to attend. Some materials costs for displays, brochures, handouts, giveaways, etc.
Web Site Creating and maintaining a Web site for the organization with information on all program areas and up-to-date news as it relates to the organization and its programs.

Provides information, education and an interactive link with the organization’s stakeholders.

Depending on the capabilities of the organization, may incur design and engineering costs for startup and maintenance. Some organizations have internal IT capacity to support maintenance as well as development.

Internal/Employee Relations
Integral to the success of an organization and its communication efforts is a well-informed employee group. A few simple, low or no-cost tools will enhance your public relations efforts through your staff.

Internal/Employee Relations Key Components Resources
Employee Relations For effective communication, follow these guidelines with employees:
  • Always inform employees first
  • Give employees written and electronic summaries of important information
  • 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
Staff time and a commitment to systematize the flow of employee information.
Internal Communication Regular staff communication channels may include items such as email, electronic newsletters, staff meeting notes, posters, bulletin boards, and pay envelope stuffers. Staff time and minor printing costs; the most important factor is creating the habit and content accountability.

Paid Advertising

Paid Advertising Key Components Resources
Paid ads in mass media can be an effective strategy for a special event or emergency situation. The mantra is to plan the size or frequency and placement for optimal effectiveness.

In general, TV is the most expensive and newspaper the least with radio in the middle. Magazine or special publication ads may be effective if well targeted to your audience.

Out-of-pocket costs are highest for paid advertising, but can be very effective for reaching specific audiences with targeted messages.

Take time to plan the placement and distribution to meet the demographics of your target audience.

Outdoor – Billboards
Mass transit
Mall displays
As part of a comprehensive campaign, these advertising strategies can be very effective. Most importantly, match your ads to your audience to ensure best use of your advertising dollars.