C3PO Teaches Us About Proper Communication

By Gordon Donovan.

Image: Zaidi Razak / Shutterstock

Uncle Owen: “What I really need is a droid who understands the binary language of moisture vaporators.”
C-3PO: “Vaporators? Sir, my first job was programming binary load lifters very similar to your vaporators in most respects.”
Uncle Owen: “Can you speak Bocce?”
C-3PO: “Of course I can, sir. It’s like a second language to me. I’m a-”
Uncle Owen: “Yeah, alright. Shut up. I’ll take this one.”

So Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens soon (or has opened – depending on where and when you are reading this!) and following my article about change management one of the drivers (or stoppers) of change is communication.

Tony Hadley sang that communication lets us down, and in procurement it’s so true. How many of us plan our communication strategies, what we are trying to do, how are we are trying to say it, who do we actually want to speak to?

This article then is designed to give you a road map and some pointers for planning and executing your communication activities. There is a lot of advice out there on the internet, and a quick analysis of them leads me to summarise them thusly;

A simple communication plan should cover the following:

  • Who do you want to communicate with?
  • What’s the purpose/objective?
  • What is the key message?
  • How will this be delivered?
  • Who will deliver it?
  • How often will this be delivered?
  • Specific content

Who (audience)

A good place to start is to define who it is you’re trying to communicate with. Is it a person or a whole department, a key internal stakeholder or external supplier? A good piece of advice that I received was, to consider who influences this person? It may be that if we couch what we are trying to say with an analogy of the persons mentor or influencer then we may be more impactful.

For example, if the individual likes Richard Branson, we may start our messaging (see below) with an analogy of something that he did or said and how it relates to our points. This will help identify your history with this person and therefore will start to influence the overall purpose and objective


So what is this piece of communication trying to do? Is it for information, or trying to persuade? Is it simply just to change a perception of someone about you or the whole department? Are we trying to get someone to be influential on our behalf, or are we actually trying to influence them?

Key Message

What is the overview or key message that you want to leave the person being communicated to with? By focusing on the end result we can then shape the actual message to ensure we deliver it accordingly. For example, “We want the supplier to consider us a potential strategic partner” means that the messaging and the method need to be aligned, and it’s likely to be a campaign of communication rather than a one off.

How (Delivery)

So now we come to deployment, the “nitty gritty” of communication. Face to face, telephone or email (letters anyone?)? Well it depends on what the purpose is, and importantly how the person being communicated to wants to be communicated with. Finally you need to consider the how impactful of the method.

Lots have been written about Albert Mehrabian and his study into communication. Essentially what he said was we get most of our clues of the emotional intent behind people’s words from non-verbal sources. And when the two are in conflict, we believe the non-verbal every time.

When you write an email there is no emotional intent that is being able to be read (even with emoticons), it also becomes easier to ignore. Have we ever read an email that in a way that is different than the sender intended? Emails are an essential part of our communication, as we use them all the time, but they are flat pieces of communication, if we want to become more impactful using our tone of voice, and being aligned with our body language will do this in our communication and therefore we need to plan for delivery.

Who (Delivery)

So who is the right person to deliver the key messages? Here’s a thought – does it need to be you? This is where your earlier planning will come in. We may not have access to the person we are trying to communicate with, it may be that others have an easier time to get this persons time, or alrerady have a degree of influence? (see the first who).

Suppliers use this strategy to influence decision makers when they are not readily available to be influenced directly. They identify an internal person who could be utilised as an internal brand advocate.


How often will you need to communicate with this person? Is this a campaign or a one off? This will link back to the purpose, if we are trying to turn a detractor into a supporter, its unlikely that we accomplish this with just one meeting. Its more likely to be a concerted campaign and the messages may well change as we move them along our supportive line. On the other hand, it could be just for information only.

Mind your language

Finally it’s critical to use the language of the person to whom you are communicating with. All the planning in the world will not overcome the basics of not being understood.

Consider where the individual works, how will they be able to understand our acronyms, short cuts or techno babble?

So we need to consider changing our language and speaking theirs.

Unless of course, you really do speak Bocce…..

Happy Christmas, and may the force be with you.