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From Cave Paintings to Cyber Communication

Why your channel could be the problem, not the message

According to Adler and Towne (1978), all that ever has, and ever will be accomplished by humans involves communication with others. 

The ability to effectively transfer information, ideas or emotions to one another determines whether you are successful or not. It seems extreme, but everything is communication. Whether it is a caveman brushing pressed charcoal onto rock, or it is the President’s The State of the Union Address streaming from YouTube, communication is at the core of everything we intend and achieve with others. And, it is at the epicenter of how we reach our workforce during a time of crisis.

At a micro but fundamental scale, the communication model’s success hinges on effectively formulating, translating, sending and receiving messages between two ends:

When we communicate during a crisis, it is imperative that we not forget the core process of sending and receiving a message. It is hard to not get caught up in a reactive mode of sending as much as we can when we can, but firing off a plethora of communications to an audience does not equate to a message being received (and heard). 

I will spare you the step-by-step walkthrough of Adler and Towne’s communication model, as the main focus of this piece is to explore something cavemen weren’t too concerned about, but is a communication must these days: channel awareness. You can imagine there weren’t many communication distractions (noise) back when cavemen were blowing dust against their hand onto a cave wall. But in 2020, where children know how to operate cell phones better than some adults, we have to understand that effectively reaching our audience hinges more on the channels we chose than ever before, and that technology plays a large role in that.

If we flash back to 1920, we’d find ourselves huddled around the one radio in our home to receive our most important messages. Come back to 2020, we have dozens of options to choose where we get our information. Why does this matter to you, your workforce, and being in a crisis? Because you can talk until you’re blue, but if you don’t understand who your audience is and how they prefer to receive information, there is a solid chance they won’t get it.

Understanding the demographic of your workforce is the first step. In How COVID-19 Has Impacted Media Consumption, by Generation, Katie Jones beautifully illustrates how drastically different media consumption is based on your age during our current COVID-19 crisis. If you are a ‘Boomer’ in your 60’s, you prefer receiving your information via broadcast television, while a ‘Gen Z’ would prefer an online video. If you sent your message over broadcast television, most of the ‘Gen Z’ would miss it. If you sent your message via an online video, most of the ‘Boomers’ would miss it. But if you sent the same message via printed press, nearly everyone would miss it!

To communicate effectively (that is, to achieve your purpose), you must adapt to your audience. Knowing their preferred method of receiving information is just as important, if not more important, than your message. In a crisis, your biggest hurdle is ensuring that your workforce receives the message. Select a channel that aligns with your audience, the situation and the existing barriers. Don’t find yourself painting cave walls when your audience is watching YouTube.

For tips on articulating your messaging during a crisis, I suggest Jennifer Walsh’s Connecting in a Crisis: It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it.Channel strategy and understanding is what we do. We work with you to ensure your message hits the mark, and doesn’t hit any turbulence. We know you have a choice when you communicate and we thank you for choosing futureAlign.


For more information about communications strategy, contact Nate Schroeder at


futureAlign is a heart-centered communications and engagement company. We work with some of the largest companies in the world to drive effective communications, coaching and branding that leads to greater employee engagement and alignment. Click here to learn how we can align your team to the future that’s possible.

Nate Schroeder

Nate Schroeder

Nate Schroeder, Communications & Marketing Manager

6 years experience managing employee engagement communications and media delivery for global manufacturing and field operations. BA in Business Communications.

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