Choosing the appropriate medium (oral – written – hybrids)

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by Anna Bjørn Reland



Communication is a key pillar in a project, and it has a great influence on the success of a project. A typical project manager uses around 80 percent of their time on communication, and the performance of the communication itself plays a big role in the quality of the projects and the project management [1] . One of the essential things to understand and master as a project manager is how to create a communication that thrives throughout the project. The project manager needs to excel in choosing the appropriate ways of communicating based on what messages they are sending and on who is receiving a given message and finally on how the receiver perceives the communication. [2]

The communication processes always go through a medium – different people respond better to different forms of communications and to the medium it is delivered through. The chosen medium therefore also contributes to how the messages are delivered, understood and perceived by the receiver. Assessing the people involved in a project and determining the appropriate communication media based on this, can therefore have an effective influence on how the messages are perceived and also avoid miscommunication.

Not two people are alike, and that extends to each individuals own learning style [3], the way they receive and interpret messages and information. Some might need to hear the hear message where others want to read the messages in order to better process what is being communicated. The above taken into consideration, the ideal choice of medium is not based on the senders' preferences alone but must include the receiver as well. This takes personality into consideration and does not only focus in their role as a stakeholder in the project

This article seeks to further investigate the different mediums through which a message is delivered; what are the characteristic of these; and how do they benefit or compromise the messages being sent. Furthermore, this paper delves into the concept of applying a deeper understanding of mediums within:

  • Peoples perspectives
  • Understanding how to choose the most appropriate medium, based on the perception of the person receiving the messages and their learning styles
  • Implementing the knowledge in project management

The overall aim is to equip the project manager with knowledge on how to choose the appropriate communication medium for effective communication.

The Big Idea

Choosing and applying the right medium for the message is a strong asset for the project manager to master. By applying the most effective communication medium, the project manager can strengthen the communication with the involved parties in a project. A great part of the communication is also the way, the messages is delivered – in this case, the medium. Some messages are better suited for being delivered through specific mediums, and some mediums work better because they are leaner to apply. Communication through specific mediums for specific messages makes the communication for your message effective and efficient.

This article also wish to investigate, how a project manager can deliver a message in the most effective and efficient way. A part of this is to understand, how different people in the best way are presented to new knowledge and information. By looking into VAK learning as a complementation to the theories about choosing the appropriate media, this framework provides the project manager with the tools to both choose the appropriate medium to send the messages, and to reconcile it with the receiver and finally to reconcile it with the different styles of learning.

As a project manager is it important to have a strategic approach toward communication, this must be related to all people involved in the project. Successful communication is when: Communication is about sending the right message to the right audience at the right time through the right channel in the right context for the right purpose. There are many factors to comply with, and one of the more interesting ones, are the channel or medium used for the communication. [4] Throughout this article, medium will be used as the overall term for the different ways to send messages, and media can in this case cover verbal, nonverbal and written communication. Within these three media types, there are different channels or forms. Basically, it is quite simple, the best medium to use, is the medium, that effectively delivers the messages as the sender intended [5] .

Communication mediums

In the communication process, the medium is the system or the channel of the message – this could be looked at like the medium, the way the information/messages is transmitted to the receiver. The medium is the transport station device of the information from sender to receiver. [6]

The variety of medium fall into three main categories: Verbal, non-verbal and written.

Verbal communication

Verbal communication or verbal is probably the most obvious communication form that comes to mind, when we are first off thinking about communication, we might image two persons speaking to each other. This category of verbal communication includes speaking and listening. The sender communicates a message through speech to the receiver.

In this case, the messages can be influenced by several things: The tone, the wording and the formality of the words. Different tones have a great influence on how the message is received – a tone can be kind and understanding while delivering a message. The tone can also be pointed and determent, to emphasize the messages and indicate frustrations. Where the influence on the messages from the wording and the formality is already made by the sender, the tone is a bit different, because the influence tone has on the messages that can be determined can only be obtained by verbal communication. [7]()

Verbal communication is also the way, we interact as a receiver in communication. To success as a project manager active listening in verbal communication is essential, this article will not go into further to this, but it is worth mentioning

Channels with verbal communication in project management can be face-to-face conversations, meetings, virtual meeting or phone-calls.

Non-verbal communication

Verbal communication is in many cases supported by non-verbal communication. A study led by Dr. Mehrabian concluded that 55 percent of the interpretation of a message comes from the nonverbal part of communication. Non-verbal communication includes our body languages, eye contact, facial expression, posture and even smell.


The big difference to verbal communication is written communication. A written messages is sent and received in textual form. It might be handwritten notes or letters, e-mails or even PowerPoint presentations. In contrast to verbal communication that often take place in real-time, written communication can be constructed over a longer period of time, and since the message is written, it can be reported over and over again. The written message does not transpire.

Below the different advantages and disadvantages is listed:

Mediums [8]
Oral Communications Build relationships and trust; accelerate decision making due to immediate feedback. Spontaneous nature may lead to unwise statements; people are unable to refer to the communication once it is said, unless a record is made.
Written Communications Message can be revised for exactness; can be archived for reference; can be studied. Appropriate for legal and formal business functions. Message is static; the sender does not receive immediate feedback. Hard for the sender to gauge if the receiver has understood.

Media/Channels richness

Media richness[9]

The theory that addresses the channel or the medias’ ability to transmit the incident message is based upon Daft and Lengel's theories about "information richness and how organization process information" in the project organization this also applies. The richness of a given media is determined thought its ability to deliver the message without uncertainty and possibilities for misunderstanding - the more effective on delivering the intended message the richer the media is[10].

A media is judged by the following criteria:

  • Personal focus - The medias ability to capture personal focus where also emotions and personal feelings can be included. An example of this can be face-to-face communication, where is possible to use body language to accentuate the message
  • Feedback - the medias ability to get feedback. Communication is considered complete when the necessary feedback has been given. Feedback contributes to aligning the communication transmitted if there should be any miscommunication. This criterion addresses the medias capability to provide immediate feedback
  • Conveyance of multiple cues - the medias ability to utilize both visual or auditory communication.
  • Language carried- the medias ability to includes different languages. This regards the medias format to include a variety of language. Like both including numbers, graphs and normal language.

Judged by these criteria the richer medias/channels are the channels that gives a face to face combination and that comes close to it like videoconferencing – some of the most ineffective way of communication is the unaddressed written communication. The richer media are also the most time demanding medias, it therefore important as a project manager to consider when to apply which medias. This will be considered later on in the article

Peoples perspectives and VAK learning styles

Fundamentally; as a human being, we are all different, we look different, we act different and actually the way we learn an receive information is also an individual thing, and it varies from person to person.

Projects are often of high complexity and contains an excessive amount of information. As a project manager an understanding of how to communicate, but also considering people way of receiving new information are important skills to have. Whether they prefer new information coming to them through writing or by having it presented to them, will be different from project member to project member. For a project manager, understanding the different ways of receiving information, will optimize the communication and contributes to more efficient communication with fewer errors due to miscommunication, and it might contribute to fewer repetitions. [11]

The concept of VAK is to understand how people are learning in the most optimal way [12].

VAK is an acronym for Visual-Auditory-Kinesthetic:

  • Visual learning style involves seen observations including diagrams, pictures, demonstrations or events
  • Auditory learning style is learning thought listening. It involves the transformation of information thought listening to oneself, or others and also with the inclusion of sound/noises Is mainly just verbal communication
  • Kinesthetic learning relates to physical experiences like touching, feeling hold or doing

People often have a preferred learning style but it can just as well be a mix of different styles. Maybe in some specific cases, one style is preferred and in other cases another learning style is preferred.

Characteristics of each learning style and preferred channels

As a project manager it is crucial to adapt to different learning styles, to ensures that messages are widely received when commutation to a whole team, to a steering committee or maybe even to costumers. Below is listed characteristics on how to spot the preferred learning style for people involved in the project and how to take this in consideration.

Based on understanding visual learning style an overview of communication media suitable for each learnings style

Style Characteristics
Style Characteristics Preferred Channels
Visual Learning 60%-65% of the general population learn best by visually recalling information they have seen

Visual learners associate information with pictures and techniques.

They are more likely to be note-takers to structure and remember their interpretation of the given message/information. This also makes them great with decoding maps, graphs or charts.

Usually, such persons are very organized and observant.

They have a very visual way of view of understanding things, and they will often use a visual case when they have to explain content themself

In a meeting setting, they prefer a small yet informal setting, they are observant but easily distracted in a room with many people doing different stuff.

When communicating with a person with a visual learning style, it will be beneficial to strive to write down key points and incorporate visuals in meetings/presentations or when explaining new stuff

Written communication is preferred

Decisions made in a conversation should be put in writing afterwards

  • Face to face talk but include visual – like drawing on the whiteboard
  • Emails
  • Graph and diagrams
  • PowerPoint
  • Direct messages
  • Written communication
Auditory learning About 30% of the population prefers Auditory learning

Absorbs new information thought the sense of hearing, the most will therefore be able to hear clearly what messages are being communicated – it is important to create an environment for communication with no interfering noise

Auditory learners might have challenges with only getting instructions through written materials

They use response and repeat key points of the information to sort through information given in a conversation

They often communicate very well orally; but might experience troubles with communication in written form

Auditory learners enjoy discussions and enjoy to explain their learnings verbally to others

When working with people with an auditory preference, verbal communication should be used first

Auditory learners will often be very engaged and verbally present within meetings and discussions

  • Face-to-face conversation
  • Meetings
  • Discussions
  • Phone call is preferred over e-mails
Kinesthetic Learning 5% of the population are Kinesthetic learners

Learn better by actually carrying out a physical activity and learning by doing

They absorb learnings by doing, experiencing touching and moving

Are stimulated but feelings and activities

They memorize physically meaning, the they memories the best, when they have actually performed the activity

They only demand very little instruction before performing a task

  • Roleplays
  • Demonstration
  • Simulations

Including mediums when planning communications in your project

As a project manager, you will need to establish a way to communicate with the people in your projects. The people involved in your project would be your stakeholders as the DS 21500 on project management defines: “a person, group or organisation that has interests in, or can affect, be affected by, or perceive itself to be affected by, any aspect of the project” [13]

Stakeholder map including medium application guideline

The PMI Standard on project management states the following in regards to Project: “The first part is developing a strategy to ensure communication is effective for stakeholders. The second part is carrying out the activities necessary to implement the communication strategy.” Especially the first phase f project communication management is there you as a project manager should include the previous describes mediums and learnings styles into consideration. In the first phase, the medium should also be decided on in regards to the different stakeholders involved and the project managers stakeholder engagement plan. This mean settings some rules for how you, as a project manager communicate with your different stakeholders throughout the project and how you keep their interest in the project.

The PMI standard: “Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) (6th Edition)” only briefly touch upon the planning of communication and does not includes guideline on how specific medium should be applied for different types[14] of stakeholders. This is up to the project manager to decide on in their own plan of how to send their messages and thought what medium. They need to decide on what is the most effective for their identified stakeholders.

What can be used in this case, is to have a standard way of which mediums to be used depended on their interest and influence in the project.

The very common stakeholder mapping matrix can be combined with a guideline for choosing a communication medium. Looking back to both the section about information richness where there could be a correlation: The more influence and interest a stakeholder has, the medium should include more information. The richer the medium the more effective communication and the possibility of miscommunication is more limited. On this basis it makes great sense that the stakeholders with both a high interest and high influence in the project is addressed by a rich medium. In contract, the stakeholders with low interest and influence should be addressed with a learner medium. The combination of the stakeholder mapping and choosing communication medium can be seen in figure 2 [15]

Not only in the planning phase of the communication should the project manager consider the medium, but doing a project the effectiveness of the chosen mediums and the connect channels should be monitored and adjusted if necessary.

Final remarks

Working with understanding what medium to uses in project management contributes to efficient and effective communication in a project. By understanding what contributes to a good deliverance of a massage the medium contributes but does not make up the whole exchange. As a project manager it also important to master the other disciples within their communication to achieve the ideal way of communication.

Annotated bibliography

Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) (6th Edition)

  • Chapter 10: “Project Communications Management” talks about the phases in communication within a project and in chapter 13: “Project Stakeholder Management page” the communication plan is mention in regards to stakeholder management – Both chapters touch upon a planned strategy for communication, but the including of mediums is briefly mentioned as something, that should be taken into consideration

Abudi, G. (2013). Managing communications effectively and efficiently. Paper presented at PMI® Global Congress 2013

  • This paper makes a good and brief presentation of what makes communication effective and efficient, meanwhile still highly what can go wrong in project communication. This creates a good understating of why choosing the appropriate medium is relevant.

BusinessBalls: An Introduction to VAK Learning Style

  • This page provides a good rundown on the concept of VAK learning styles. This includes both going into details in regards to the different styles, but they also provide the option to self identify your own learning style(s).


  1. Geraldi, J., Thuesen, C., Oehmen, J., & Stingl, V. (2017). Doing Projects. A Nordic Flavour to Managing Projects: DS-handbook 185:2017. Dansk Standard.
  2. Abudi, G. (2013). Managing communications effectively and efficiently. Paper presented at PMI® Global Congress 2013—North America, New Orleans, LA. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute
  3. Fleming, N., and Baume, D. (2006) Learning Styles Again: VARKing up the right tree!, Educational Developments, SEDA Ltd, Issue 7.4, Nov. 2006, p. 4-7
  4. Brainery(2017).Selecting Your Communication Channel Retrieved: 21-02-2021
  5. Principles of Management:Channels of Business Communication. Retrieved: 21-01-2021
  6. Nordquist, Richard. (2020, August 29). What Does Medium Mean in the Communication Process? Retrieved: 28-02-2021
  7. Communications: Choosing a Communications Channel.Retrieved 21-02-2021 /
  8. Principles of Management:Channels of Business Communication. Retrieved: 21-01-2021
  9. Za, Stefano & Braccini, Alessio Maria. (2012). Designing 3D Virtual World Platforms for E-Learning Services. New Frontiers of Organizational Training. Lecture Notes in Business Information Processing.
  10. Communication Theory: Media Richness Theory. Retrieved: 21-02-2021
  11. SS K, Sree Nidhi & Tay, Chinyi. (2017).: Styles of Learning Based on the Research of Fernald, Keller, Orton, Gillingham, Stillman, Montessori and Neil D Fleming
  12. s BusinessBalls:An Introduction to VAK Learning Style Retrieved: 21-02-2021
  13. Guidance on project management, DS/ISO 21500, Danish Standards, 2013 . p. 13
  14. Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) (6th Edition) p. 512
  15. Change doing the project Program Management: "Managing Successful Programmes (2011 Edition) p. 66
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