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Keys to Communication Success

Know your audience

Are they internal or external to the University or Physical Facilities? Does it include students, faculty or staff?

  • Consider behaviors: reflect how the audience communicates, thinks, responds to suggestions, reacts to change, and moves to action. By knowing who your target audience is, you can then determine the behaviors of your specific group, you can communicate your message in ways that are easy to understand and embrace. Best of all, this analysis helps you anticipate what motivates, and discourages, your audience so they will listen and be compelled to act.

  • Evaluate needs: vary by audience, and audiences are best served by a presentation that targets their needs. Keep in mind how the information will be used ultimately. Financial backers need to see numbers, while staff working at their peak appreciates a concise message. Make your communication as ready to pass on to others/share beyond initial audience as possible.

Know your message

  • Be concise while fully addressing the topic: Keep things to the point, but don’t leave out any pertinent information.

  • Introduce main points early: Don’t bury your lead!

  • Be specific about necessary follow up: If multiple people receive your email, be clear about who is in charge of what items.

  • Use attachments and visual aids as appropriate: Remember “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

Communicating "Good" or "Bad" News

This conversation will likely be face-to-face.

  • Be Prepared: Make sure you look the part and know the facts of the situation so that your message is as clear as possible. Rehearse so you know your points forward and backward and be prepared to answer difficult questions. Consult subject matter experts beforehand for clarification and to vet your message. Also, possibly have someone not closely involved review your message beforehand to assist with clarity.

  • Be Honest: Hiding your bad news may make you seem dishonest or not in touch with the reality of the situation. Don’t blame others for the situation. Get right to the points and state them clearly and honestly. Overstating good news can give your staff a false sense of security and make you once again appear out of touch with reality.

  • Be Appropriately Upbeat: No cheerleaders or a musical act, but praise the achievements and efforts expended by the individual or group (despite the possibly negative result). Be respectful that a negative message may have a material impact on your audience: financially, socially and/or professionally. Don’t let these actions overshadow your overall message though.

  • Show the Light: What is the most important thing at the end of the day? It is very possible that there may be negative resulting actions (possibilities include layoffs, closings, etc.), but there may be positives as well (maybe a stronger resulting business, more focused initiatives, etc.). Show your audience the light at the end of the tunnel, and then follow up with them to share progress and updates.

Delivery methods


  • Face to Face: This can be in a group or on a one-on-one basis
  • Telephone: These two methods are ideal for complex or lengthy discussions. It’s easiest to read tone in person, and over the phone is second best.


  • Email: Use only when appropriate and consider who should be included (copied) and how quickly to expect a response.

  • Text: Be careful with this mechanism. Be sure you know your audience first. Perhaps make this an option your employees can use to contact you if they are notifying you of an illness or situation that will cause them to be late or miss work.

  • Memo: Similar to an email.

  • Article: Purdue Today or all PF staff.

  • Website: Know your audience.


  • Every communication has an expiration date.

  • Be reasonable in expectation for others and hold yourself accountable.