What does good communication look like?


Communicating Projects – The Series

By Ann Pilkington

The PR Academy

United Kingdom

One of the things that I often hear from fellow communicators is how everyone thinks that they can do communication. Of course we all communicate every day and sometimes more effectively than others. However, this doesn’t mean that everyone understands the best way to communicate within a project or organisation.

The George Bernard Shaw quote – “the biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished” is well worn now, but how many people really understand what that means and use that understanding to inform how they communicate?

What this saying should make us think is two things: what is the best way to communicate and how will I know if it has worked?

An exercise that I love to do with my communication students is to construct a model of communication. We start with the Shannon and Weaver 1946 model which is basic and linear and doesn’t really reflect the complexity of human communication. Perhaps this isn’t surprising given that these two guys were telephone engineers!









Shannon and Weaver 1946 linear model of communication

When we do this exercise we add in factors such as:

  • The receiver’s perception of the sender
  • Culture, both national and local culture within the organisation
  • The “world view” of the receiver
  • The perception of the channel that the message is sent over.

There are lots of other things that influence the way that a communication is received and interpreted. I am sure that everyone will agree with this but it is surprising that despite this, a lot of project and organisation communication works on the basis that once a message has been sent, the assumption is that it has been received and interpreted as intended.

Let’s take each of these influences in turn:

The receiver’s perception of the sender: how credible is the person sending the message? This might be the project manager or perhaps the sponsor.   Perloff (2008 p222-4) argues that there are three factors that position someone as a credible communicator:


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Editor’s note: This series of articles on effective project communications is by Ann Pilkington, founding director of the PR Academy (UK) and author of the book Communicating Projects published by Gower in 2013. Ann is one of the UK’s leading experts on communications; she shares her knowledge with project managers and teams around the world in this series in the PM World Journal.


About the Author

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Ann Pilkington

United Kingdom




Ann Pilkington
is the author of Communicating Projects published by Gower in 2013. She is a founding director of the PR Academy which provides qualifications, training and consultancy in all aspects of communication including change project communication and project management.

Information about Ann’s book, Communicating Projects, An End-to-End Guide to Planning, Implementing and Evaluating Effective Communication, published by Gower in 2013, can be found at https://www.routledge.com/Communicating-Projects-An-End-to-End-Guide-to-Planning-Implementing-and/Pilkington/p/book/9781409453192

Ann can be contacted at [email protected]

To see previous articles by Ann Pilkington, visit her author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/ann-pilkington/