Being able to communicate effectively with everyone from the project team to contractors and clients is at the forefront of a project’s success.

In fact, according to research by AXELOS poor communication is the primary cause of project failure. So how can you build on your project management skills and ensure you’re effectively communicating with stakeholders?

The PMBOK® Guide outlines three types of communication methods that are essential to know as a project manager:

  1. Interactive communication
  2. Pull communication
  3. Push communication

Using each communication method at the right time and in the right context will help ensure you achieve the desired result of a strong team and a good working relationship with the varying stakeholders to your project.

Interactive communication

Interactive communication is effective in conveying sensitive and important information in a way that can be best understood and acted upon immediately.

Some examples of interactive communication include:

  • Face to face meetings
  • Phone conversations
  • Video conferencing through platforms, such as Zoom and Teams

Interactive communication often means meeting in person, however if face to face meetings are not possible, communicating over the phone or through video conference can help ensure that messages are communicated clearly and will still allow you to use your tone, facial expressions, pitch and visual aids to convey the intended message. Through this method the project manager also has the ability to interpret whether the message has been clearly understood.

When interactive communication is best:

  • You’re gauging the client’s requirements for the project.
  • You’re planning for the next stage of the project with the project team.
  • You require an update from a contractor or supplier.

Push communication

While interactive communication is all about engaging with your stakeholders and receiving a response quickly, push communication on the other hand entails sending information to the recipient while not expecting a response immediately.

Some examples of push communication include:

  • Emails
  • Project newsletters
  • Project documentation

Push communication is useful when you need to convey information to others, however the message is not time-sensitive or urgent. Project managers can use push communication in the form of information updates or reports.

While providing stakeholders with updates on a project is important, ensure that not all your communication is push communication, as it can lead to stakeholders interpreting the project manager as not being receptive to their needs.

When push communication is best:

  • Providing senior executives with an update of the progress of a project through a monthly email.
  • Sending through changes to any documentation to ensure that these changes have been communicated to all relevant parties.

Pull communication

Pull communication is a method of allowing stakeholders to access information at their leisure. Pull communication can provide a sense of trust between stakeholders and the project manager, as it provides transparency.

Some examples of pull communication include:

  • Project website or landing page
  • Project knowledge base
  • Project management software

Let’s use an example to show you the difference between push and pull communication. If you have a dedicated project website, where the stakeholder can search to find the information they are looking for, that would be pull communication. On the other hand if the stakeholder receives a newsletter with the information that would be push communication. Pull communication always comes down to the stakeholder deciding to access the project information in their own time.

When pull communication is best:

  • You want the client to be able to view project information at their leisure, such as the project plan.
  • The information is not urgent, however it needs to be available to other stakeholders, such as contractors or project team members.

It is always best to use a blend of the three methods. Use the interactive communication method where immediate action is required, push communication to convey large amounts of information to stakeholders and pull communication when you want to provide stakeholders with the ability to access information in their own time. Using each communication method at the right time and in the right context throughout your project management career will help ensure you achieve the desired result of a strong team and a good working relationship with the varying stakeholders to your project.