Pull Communications: Having information at your fingertips whenever you need it


If you’ve been following this series, then you have a solid idea of how to conduct interactive communications to get things done and push communications to get your message out there. But even if you are an email hoarder, these kinds of communication can be so ephemeral, so now we look at how to ensure everyone has the information they need at their fingertips with pull communications.

When should I be using pull communications?

Pull communications are typically the least urgent information you need to share. You don’t want to distract your team or workforce from the task at hand, but you want your message to be out there for when they have a minute and can catch up on it. Not everyone needs to see it, it won’t affect the business badly if they don’t, but it needs to be somewhere in case someone wants to find it.

To use an arcane example, lets think of the washroom cleaning logbook. Not everyone in the company needs to know how often the washroom is cleaned, or who last cleaned it, and exactly what they cleaned. But for record keeping purposes, the logbook exists so that if the room is cleaned badly, we can trace back who isn’t such a fan of cleaning the urinals.

Although I hope a janitorial services manager might find that to be a really great example, the reality is most who read this are more likely to be concerned with a modern office example. So to provide a more relevant example, you don’t want to distract them in the middle of their work day with a push message about all of the tasks they have to complete for the week, so you might prefer to list them out somewhere where they can access them by pulling the information themselves.

What are some best practices for crafting and storing pull communications?

Because pull communications are less urgent than the other types, you have the luxury of time to create more comprehensive messages. This could allow you to go into deeper detail, provide a more helpful graphical presentation, and generally provide a piece of content that will cover every question or detail it looks to address.

Generally though, a solid piece of communication always follows the same principles as a newspaper article: Get to the point early and hit it hard, provide a solid summary so someone can get in and out quick if necessary, and spell out the dirty details further into the piece for those who need them. The better crafted each of those things, the better, but that’s the basics.

If you’re afforded the luxury of great tools to do this with, such as a solid Wiki tool, then you’re already way ahead of the curve. For those who really know how to use these tools, you can craft shorter crib notes versions for those who need the basics up front, and more detailed pieces for each hidden away for those who need it. These can also present change histories, so team members can see how a policy or procedure has changed over time.

With a bit of automation, you can really pull everything together. Many call centers have configured their knowledgebases to act as interaction trees, allowing agents to click through different articles as they go through the standard steps a call, email or chat would present.

How do pull communications mix with interactive and push?

As with every form of communication, pull types work best when they are interwoven into a rich tapestry with the other types. When used effectively, they make push and interactive communications so much more effective.

A push communication like an email or a town hall speech can get badly bogged down if they are filled with too much detail. Both become much snappier and more effective when they can be short and to the point. To do that, you give the broad, high level message in the push, and refer everyone to read the pull communication if they need further details.

A great example of this is if you were to roll out a new policy that requires staff to book meeting rooms through a new process. The majority of the organization may never need to use that process, but for those who do, or those who will need to if they ever move up in the organization, they know the policy exists and it can be retrieved when necessary.

On the interactive side, pull communications of course work best as a repository of meeting notes and action items from past meetings. Things can become very muddled when everyone is expected to keep their own notes and action items, and this can result in a game of telephone where team members start working to slightly different goals, rather than a single focused one. By having a single, unimpeachable source of notes and action items, everyone stays on the same page. And many knowledge base tools have templates and features that work to exactly this type of resource.