The great communication fiasco

communication,business,public sector,writing

Why do organizations have
such problems in communicating
internally as well as externally?

I shared this article initially on LinkedIn and after only a few days I’d had over 800 reads. Ergo I’m assuming that this communication issue is not just a frivolous figment of my imagination.

Hence, I am now sharing with you the article concerned. (And I tell you what, the comments I received on this article are fascinating, too.)

Apart from my day job as a business writer / blog writing teacher / nonfiction author / chief cook / dog walker / cat servant, I also do an unpaid job leading a large voluntary group working within one of the main public sector organizations in the UK.

Time and time again in my role as Chair of this group, dealing with issues and problems, the same old excuse for minor or even major mistakes comes galloping back … “insufficient communication.” And in my paid work with commercial companies, “communication fails” often crop up in conversations about negative experiences.

Communication isn’t rocket science. So why does it fail?

There are many reasons why business departments fail to communicate with each other, their customers, suppliers, et al. Here are the main ones as I see them:

  • “There isn’t time to share everything with the other departments / suppliers / customers because we’re too busy running the show”
  • “We do send out emails or notices on the intranet but with so much stuff going into people’s inboxes all the time sometimes things go unnoticed”
  • “We find that some other departments really aren’t interested in information we send them because they’re too inwardly focused on what they’re doing”
  • “We send customer updates out on a regular basis but they don’t seem to take any notice of them”
  • …and many more.

Some thoughts on how to get people communicating better in the workplace

There are simple ways around this whether at major corporate level or for a micro-business. It all goes back to the following simple issues which have been around for years:

1.You don’t have time to keep everyone informed about what we’re doing. Oh, yes, you do, because if you don’t eventually you won’t have a business. By all means be realistic about what information must be shared and what can wait, but don’t kid yourselves that this is a low-priority activity. It isn’t. Good communication not only can improve the bottom line in commercial companies, but in many public sector areas, especially, it can impact on or even save lives.

2.What’s in it for the reader? If you get across in the first line what benefit the recipient will get from your information, i.e. how it will make his/her job easier, s/he will take notice. If you spiel a load of bland business / technical information, it will make them close their minds off. People may work for a technical organization, but they’re still people. Appeal to that first, technical second, and they’ll pay attention. Make sure they understand how your message fits in with what they do, and how using its contents will help them do their own jobs better: get that across first.

3.Get your priorities right, especially when you’re communicating with customers. This is an extension of the “what’s in it for me” principle in 2.above, but it relates to the external side of communication. Don’t just send out an email or other communication entitled “Update: upgrade available for the WhizzyBangBang ZX 257” because unless your customer is a prize geek, s/he won’t care. Instead say something like “Latest WhizzyBangBang upgrade ups process time by 200 percent and saves you anything up to 40 minutes’ precious time per day.”

4.People don’t seem to react to your updates although you write them thoroughly. I’m sure you do write them thoroughly but is that far too much? Given that we’re all inundated with information now coming at us from all over the internet, “thorough” information can put people off because they haven’t got time to read it there and then. They may save it to read later, but many don’t bother, or don’t get around to doing it later. Keep your communication to everyone – colleagues, suppliers, customers – as crisp and short as possible. Where more detail is required provide links to your website or intranet where the small print can be read.

blog,writing,news,blogging,business,Suzan St Maur,,how to write betterWhat are your views on the excuses individuals, companies and public sector organizations use to explain away poor communications?

photo credit: TheAlieness GiselaGiardino²³ via photopincc




  1. Good points Suze, thank you. I think I’d start with number 2, if only because far too many people think about what they want to say, not why the other person should listen. That’s not just blogs, articles, newsletters, internal memos (remember then?) etc – but normal everyday speech!

    • Very true, Jon … reminds me of that old joke about the actor on his first date with a new girlfriend who goes on and on about himself for two hours, then says “well, that’s enough about me. What do YOU think about me?”

  2. Forgot to mention, there are 187 Rocket Scientists on LinkedIn in the UK 🙂