Communication channels are the routes or methods chosen to reach the target
audiences. Types of channels include mass media, interpersonal
transactions, and community-based interactions. Understanding the
advantages and disadvantages of communication channels can help assure the
best use of each, including the coordination of mass media activities with
other strategies where beneficial. Each channel has its own
characteristics and advantages and disadvantages, as listed here:
Mass Media (radio, television, newspapers, magazines)
- can reach many people quickly
- can provide information
- can help change and reinforce attitudes
- can prompt an immediate action (e.g., calling toll-free number)
- can demonstrate the desired action
- are less personal and intimate
- are less trusted by some people
- do not permit interaction
- offer limited time and space
- offer limited opportunities to communicate complex or controversial information alone, usually cannot change behavior
- can be costly
Community Channels (schools, employers, community meetings and organizations, churches/religious institutions, special events)
- may be familiar, trusted, and influential
- may be more likely than media alone to motivate/support behavior change
- can reach groups of people at once
- can sometimes be inexpensive
- can offer shared experiences
- can sometimes be costly
- can be time consuming
- may not provide personalized attention
Interpersonal Channels (e.g., hotline counselors, parents, health care providers, clergy, educators)
- can be credible
- can permit two-way discussion
- can be motivational, influential, supportive
- can be expensive
- can be time consuming
- can have limited target audience reach
Selecting the Appropriate Channel
The appropriate channel or channels for a specific project can be selected by assessing whether the channel is:
- Likely to reach a significant portion of the target audience. (Local media outlets can provide a demographic profile of their viewers/readers/listeners.)
- Likely to reach them often enough to provide adequate exposure for the message/program.
- Credible for the target audience.
- Appropriate and accessible for the selected HIV/AIDS message.
- Appropriate for the program purpose (e.g., provide new information versus motivate action).
- Feasible, given available resources.
Choosing multiple channels can help combine the best traits of each and reinforce the message through repetition. For example, a major daily newspaper may reach the most people. Adding stories in a local African American newspaper may provide credibility within that community, and publicizing the hotline in these stories can help the reader get more information tailored to his or her needs.
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