What Is A Medium In Communication? (With Types And Importance)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 20 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A communication medium is a channel through which you can transmit information to an individual or a group of people. The medium can be a one-on-one conversation, a telephone call or an email message. Learning about the mediums of communication can enable you to choose the right channel to share your message with your audience. In this article, we define what is a medium in communication, discuss why they are important and explain some prominent types of communication channels.

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What Is A Medium In Communication?

The answer to the question, 'What is a medium in communication?' can help you understand the importance of selecting the right approach for effective communication. A communication medium is a method or channel through which a speaker or a writer addresses their audience. The medium of communication can be physical or virtual. For example, if you choose to send out a message to your audience on a social media platform, then social media communication becomes the medium of communication, which is a virtual medium.

Organisations also use communication mediums to address an individual, a group of employees or their customers. Physical channels of communication may include face-to-face conversations or public meetings, and virtual channels may utilise social media campaigns, email or online meetings.

Related: What Are Channels Of Communication? (Importance And Types)

Importance Of Choosing The Right Communication Medium

Communication often plays a pivotal role in the success of an individual and an organisation. Knowing the right medium to convey your message can help you communicate clearly. The information you choose to share with your audience is the message. Ensuring that the message reaches your target audience and that your intended audience understands it accurately can depend on choosing the right medium.

Choosing a suitable communication medium allows the receiver to decode the message clearly. For example, having a face-to-face conversation with a person may allow the listener to ask detailed questions for more clarity. This may not be possible in case of an email, and you can use this medium for less urgent and remote communication.

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Different Mediums Of Communication

Here is a list of different mediums of communication and their benefits:

Face-to-face communication

Everyday workplace conversations mostly comprise face-to-face communication. This is a direct communication channel that involves communication between two or more people, typically in conversation with one another. Another aspect of this communication is non-conversational or in-person communication, where a speaker addresses their audience at a conference or a meeting. Face-to-face communication uses verbal and non-verbal expressions to communicate a message in most cases.

Face-to-face communication can allow the listeners to receive the information instantly, which also enables them to respond immediately and share their thoughts, feedback or questions. The benefit of this method of communication is its instantaneity. Since the communication is face-to-face, it offers people a chance to participate in the conversation and exchange thoughts and ideas with each other more effectively. This participation also allows people to interpret non-verbal cues of the speaker more accurately as compared to other mediums.

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Written communication

When you write something to convey a message, it becomes written communication. It can be in the form of written notes, letters or memos. You can use this communication medium when the recipients are at a distance. Written communication may either be formal or informal, based on the context of the message. For example, you may leave a handwritten note for a colleague, which is an informal style of communication. Conversely, a printed letter to a colleague, written to thank them for their support, is formal communication. When the situation is less urgent, you can use written communication.

One of the most beneficial aspects of written communication is the permanency or documentation of the information. With a letter or note, you get a chance to preserve the content as evidence for future use. Written information is less vulnerable to misinterpretation and distortion. This type of communication can help convey lengthy information to the employees of an organisation. Since you can document it, you can also duplicate this information using different methods. This communication medium may also help you present complex information in an easy and engaging manner.

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Virtual remote communication

Remote communication uses technology to send a message to an individual or group of people. There are several types of remote communication methods, including written, verbal and visual communication styles. For example, email is an electronic messaging facility that you can use for remote communication. Sending an email to your colleagues or clients is a quick and convenient way to contact them remotely. Video conferencing, phone calling and text messaging are other channels for virtual remote communication.

One of the top merits of virtual remote communication is that you can instantly send a message to people anywhere in the world. This type of communication in the workplace is usually formal. For example, you may use video conferencing for remote meetings, events and discussions. An employer can also schedule a video teleconference call with a job candidate to conduct a remote interview in place of an in-person one.

Social media communication

Social media communication helps connect with the customers of an organisation rather than the internal employees. This type of communication can help the organisation promote its products and services to existing and potential consumers. Many companies have a digital presence and use social media channels to establish a relationship with their target consumers through advertisements and promotions. For example, some platforms support visual content like images, while others offer sharing audio-visual content. Most platforms allow users to interact in private or public chat messages, which can promote communication between two or more participants.

Some organisations or teams may use social media for internal communication purposes to enhance productivity. For example, a team may use instant messaging applications to send and receive messages quickly to their team. Others may use social media platforms to organise outreach programmes with potential business partners. Social media messaging remains less formal than other types of messaging, but it can be a helpful way to communicate with a large audience.

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Non-verbal communication

Besides spoken and written communication, non-verbal cues may also help convey your message to your audience. You may use hand gestures, tone and body language to communicate with your audience effectively. People often give non-verbal cues instinctively, and understanding them better can enhance your communication and expression. For example, sitting or standing with good posture can help you express confidence during a presentation or a job interview.

Since non-verbal cues rely on body language and physical expression, they can be difficult to express through some mediums. For example, when talking on a telephone call or while sending a text message, these non-verbal cues can be inconsequential. When speaking to someone in person or face-to-face, being conscious of your non-verbal cues and using them to improve the clarity of your communication can help you deliver a positive impression.

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Factors To Consider When Choosing The Right Medium

Here are some factors you can consider when choosing the right medium for your communication:

  • Urgency: This factor helps you decide the medium depending on how urgently a message has to reach another person. For example, if you are trying to reach a colleague outside of the official work hours, a phone call may help you contact the person faster than an email.

  • Formality: Depending on who the recipient is and what the situation is, you can select the medium of communication. For example, if you are sending a message to your manager who is on leave, you can consider sending them an email.

  • Purpose: This factor can help you select a suitable communication method depending on the intention of the message. For example, if you want to advertise your company's product or service, you can use social media channels.

  • Accessibility: You can select an apt communication channel depending on where the recipient lives. For example, you may schedule a video call with your client who lives in a different country.

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Important Communication Systems In The Workplace

Here are three essential communication systems that can help you understand how communication takes place within an organisation:

Downward communication

Downward communication is a frequent form of communication in an organisation. Here, higher-level officials communicate with officials below them in terms of position or title. This type of communication typically uses memos, letters, notices, newsletters, emails and company manuals.

Upward communication

The opposite of downward communication is upward communication. Here, communication follows an upward flow where lower-level employees correspond with managers, team leaders, supervisors or directors. This type of communication typically uses reports, meetings, discussions and emails.

Horizontal communication

Horizontal communication generally takes place between the officials on the same level or position in a company. This communication may also occur between different departments, like sales, production and logistics. This type of communication usually uses meetings, emails, seminars and conferences.

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