Skip main navigation

Effective communication

Article introducing important points for an effective communication
Illustrative image with the word
© Canva

As the world becomes more integrated, the threat of disease outbreaks has become an increasing public health concern.

The widespread availability of media and communication platforms and tools risks worsening this threat by creating conducive conditions for the spread of misinformation, conspiracy theories and cynicism about public health messages. Scientific evidence and data are important to overcoming harmful information and other barriers that impede communication on health behaviours. This week we will cover the skills required for effective communication of scientific evidence and how to apply them to engage different audiences. We will address topics such as understanding effective communication, preparing to communicate with different audiences, crafting messages according to purpose, choosing channels for different purposes, and dealing with the media.

What is effective communication?

Communication is best positioned to achieve its purpose when the communicator understands:

  • The meaning of effective communication.
  • The interdependent roles of senders and receivers in ensuring meaning is mutually understood.
  • How to anticipate and overcome barriers to effective communication of scientific evidence.

Preparing to communicate with different audiences

Effective communication requires an understanding of how unique characteristics inform the information needs and response behaviours of different audiences. The communicator must be aware of the importance of audience segmentation, the information and media habits of different audiences, and how their beliefs, perceptions, knowledge, and attitudes inform their responses to health recommendations.

Crafting messages according to purpose

Different audiences have different needs when it comes to messaging on scientific data of public health importance. It is essential that the goal or outcome intended informs the nature and content of messages. Effective communication will incorporate different types of messages, including informative, persuasive, and instructional. The communicator also needs to understand the importance of matching audience needs to message types and the complementarity of verbal and non-verbal cues in ensuring message clarity and effectiveness.

Choosing channels for different purposes and audiences

Different audiences have different information habits and practices that determine the channels and platforms they prefer to receive and send information. Individual channels also have different characteristics and capacities that will make some better suited for a specific communication activity than others. When selecting the appropriate channels, the communicator should consider the strengths and weaknesses of the channel, the importance of matching audience habits and needs with channel characteristics, and making channel choices based on the goals underpinning the communicative action.

Dealing with the media

The media are a double-edged sword, with the power to both help and hurt the realisation of public health outcomes. Scientific data and information must be used to leverage the opportunities that the media offer. Thus, it is important to understand how the media work and its implications for the effective communication of scientific evidence, and learn how to both engage the media as allies and use the media to reach public audiences.

Let us know in the comments what platforms you use to search and share information, and discuss what are the pros and cons of these platforms.

© COG-Train
This article is from the free online

Pathogen Genomics: A New Era in Global Health Surveillance and Strategy

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now