How do you throw a ball?


Several times in the last few weeks, I have had cause to explain my playing catch analogy for effective communication. Every time I talk about it, I see people around the room nodding their heads and hear the scribbling of pencils as they make notes to remind themselves. It is such a cornerstone of my beliefs about communication that I was surprised to find that I don’t seem to have blogged about it before now (or so my search function tells me).

I talk about effective communication because I feel strongly that any activity any individual undertakes must be a worthwhile use of their time. This is especially true in busy organisations where everyone already has lots to do.

And getting communication right – making a difference, achieving a desired outcome, starting a conversation, changing behaviours, whatever it is – does take time, make no mistake.

Of course, the activity that uses up precious time without appearing to have any tangible benefit is always the one that gets pushed to the bottom of the ‘to do’ list, rarely seeing the light of day. Sadly, this is often the lot of communication actions.

A game of catch

So how do you make sure your communication is effective? How do you bring about tangible benefits? (Or intangible ones, for that matter.) My suggestion is to think of effective communication as a game of catch.

To be successful in that game, I have to throw the ball AND you have to catch it. And ideally throw it back to me. Then we are playing catch, not just lobbing a ball at each other!

So it is with successful communication.

“I sent the email!”

Many times in my career I have heard the cry ‘I don’t understand why they don’t know about my project, I sent the email’.

Or ‘They’re complaining they don’t know what actions we took after the staff survey, but we put it in the newsletter’. And so on.

But your email means nothing if they didn’t open it; your newsletter piece is pointless if they didn’t have time to read it.

Motivate them to catch the ball

You have to think about how to motivate or engage your audience to catch the ball.

  • That could be through telling a compelling story that they don’t want to miss.
  • Or using an email format that they can view on the bus.
  • Or sending a message from someone they are dying to learn from.

There are many options for making that ball as easy to catch as possible, you have to choose the one that’s right for your audience and your message.

If you want some help to make communication in your organisation like a successful game of catch, please get in touch. Or use the comments box below to share the things that are working for you in your organisation.

Until next time

3 thoughts on “How do you throw a ball?”

  1. Hi Sarah,
    I love this analogy about Communications being like catching a ball. Very true. I am working as Internal Communications Manager for the charity Breast Cancer Care and am doing an audit of internal communications. Do you have any what the average response rate is to as staff survey in the charity sector please?


    • Thanks, Michele, I’m glad you like it – my clients do find this a useful way of understanding what we’re aiming for. Internal comms audits are a great way of finding out whether people in your organisation are catching that ball, especially at a time of such change as you are experiencing at the moment. I tend to be involved more in the qualitative side of audits, but according to Agenda Consulting, who are one organisation carrying out staff surveys in the charity sector, they get an average response of 75% for staff – I think that’s full engagement surveys though, rather than internal comms surveys. If you’d like to discuss more, please feel free to get in touch. And if any other readers have experience of response rates, please let us know here. Good luck!


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