Three fundamentals of effective communication you can't ignore

The cost of poor communication is often far greater than we think. Results from a survey of 400 companies show poor communication cost them a total of more than $37 billion. Other research suggests 30 per cent of projects fail because of poor communication.

" So often a purpose is never written down or agreed upon among stakeholders. The result is a confusing message severely limited in its ability to achieve a positive outcome."
Dave Halls, communication expert, international speaker and best-selling author

Research shows having a scientific approach to good communication can help organisations cut turnover and employee absenteeism, increase donations to non-profit organisations by 40 per cent and outperform competitors by 202 per cent. 

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When I work with businesses I find three fundamental elements people gloss over when crafting messages or communication pieces: purpose, audience and medium. 


All communication in a professional context is purpose driven. Yet so often a purpose is never written down or agreed upon among stakeholders. The result is a confusing message severely limited in its ability to achieve a positive outcome.

When drafting any kind of message, it's essential to write the purpose down so you can reference it throughout the whole process. It will keep you on the right course during the planning and drafting stages. It will also give you something to measure your effectiveness when you have finished.

Be sure to describe your purpose in terms of what you want the communication piece to achieve for those who consume it. Don't fall into the trap of thinking this purpose is the same as the overall project objective - it's not. It is about what you want to achieve by communicating. 

To make your purpose easy to measure, I find it helpful to have three elements – an action word (such as explain, convince, instruct, or persuade), an audience you wish to reach and what you want your communication piece to achieve. For example: “Explain to the sales division why they need to promote ABC initiative”. 

Think of your purpose as being a mission statement for your communication. If you do not have consensus among stakeholders for your purpose, it is best to spend all the time you need to agree on one purpose before drafting your communication. 


Communication does not happen without an audience, regardless of how well you explain or present something. You need to take time to understand your audience.

This doesn't just mean identifying the name or a position of your audience, such as the executive council of XYZ Corp, or the Logistics Division. You need to know your audience well so you can connect with them through your message or communication piece.

At the very least, make sure you know their needs, attitudes and wants. Taking into account your audience's needs in your communication goes a long way to bringing them on board.

Understanding their attitude towards your subject is just as powerful. If you know your audience does not agree with you, you can take steps in your messaging to neutralise this.

The more you know your audience the more successful you'll be when communicating. Consider things like their education, experience, work culture and preferences for receiving information.


How often have you heard someone in communications say "we need to send an email to say…" or "we need an intranet article on…"? Most people start their whole communication thinking with the medium. That's wrong.

If the goal is about getting a message to your audience it's critical to first know what your purpose is and second who your audience is. Then you can decide from the information what will be the best medium to deliver the message. Not before.

For example, let's imagine your sales staff are always on the road and don't have time to stop and read lengthy documents or emails. Sending a message through either of those mediums is going to limit your ability to get your message across.

If you know they like to listen to audio whilst on the road, it would make sense to record a message as part of a podcast for them to listen to on their mobile device as they travel to a client site. 

Also, when choosing a medium, it is important to use the language of the medium. Videos use lots of moving pictures and sounds to keep the viewer engaged. Having a static slide on screen for five seconds will lose your audience quickly. 


It's worth spending at least 30 per cent of your overall time when creating any kind of communication piece planning these elements before drafting your communications. This makes it a lot easier to articulate a clear and effective message.

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Clarifying your purpose, understanding your audience and choosing the best medium to send your message is not rocket science. You have probably heard it before. Yet so many people fail to do this properly when creating a communication piece or sending a message.

Don't be deceived by the simplicity of these three elements. Each takes time and skills to develop and continued practise. 

Anyone can be superficial and pay lip service to using these elements. However, only those who are serious about getting the right message to the right audience will spend the time to cover each element in detail. This will result in effective communication that will save time and money.

Dave Halls a communication expert, international speaker and best-selling author with over 20 years' experience across multiple industries, government, not-for-profits and startups. He is the author of “Bulllseye! - Getting the Right message to the Right Audience”.

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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