Even if you don’t like football you should, at least once, watch how Barcelona play the game. They make it look so easy but they can only do this because they have learned, practised, refined and when they play everyone does their job to the required high standard. OK, so what’s this got to do with communication?

The other day I was talking to someone about good communication and I likened it to a pass in football – check out the statistics on a Barcelona match to see how good their passing is – for the communication to be good not only does it have to be sent correctly and at the right time but the person at the other end has to be ready for it and able to receive it. It is this second aspect I want to concentrate on in this article.

Communication can take many forms and we are very lucky these days to have so many different methods available to us. The challenge is knowing when to use each one and understanding the needs and expectations of the recipients. By the same token your people and stakeholders need to understand which communication methods will be used in different situations. It’s no good them looking for an email if you have decided to present the information via your Intranet pages.

Some time ago I witnessed an IT Helpdesk send out an email to users explaining why the network was down at some of the sites and advising when the problem would be fixed. Not much good for the staff at the affected sites because of course most of them could not receive it.

Clearly some education of potential recipients is required so that people know what to expect. Agree and publish your protocols. Practice using each method so that people become familiar with the look and feel of your communications. ‘Brand’ them if you can so that people can prioritise them amongst all the other communications they are receiving.

It is unrealistic to expect that just because you have pushed out a communication everyone has got it, digested it and acted on it. Help your recipients by explaining when, what, how and why they will receive communications in different situations. The guy receiving the pass can do a lot more with it if he’s ready!

Using structured tests will also help you check your coverage – is everyone receiving the messages they need? If not why not and how do we fix it?

Often organisations have good tools, for which they are paying good money, but which are often underutilised, and in some cases are unknown to most of the people. The risk is that if you send a communication people are not expecting or that they do not immediately recognise they may not trust it and therefore may not behave or respond as you hope. Anything out of the ordinary may be challenged or worse still be ignored.

Barcelona win because they have refined what they do and everyone involved knows how the system works. It looks easy, it looks good and it is very effective.  Some simple preparations and practice will help you achieve your communication goals.