Regular communication is vital to the success of a global partnership. Groups that communicate frequently are more likely to foster a close relationship and to develop worthwhile joint activities. Here are some simple suggestions, based on feedback from GPTC participants, for maintaining communication between you and your partner:

The Basics - How and When to Reach Your Partner

  • CONFIRM PARTNER'S CONTACT INFORMATION. Is the contact information that your global partner indicated on their sign up form correct? Confirm that the information is up-to-date and typo-free!
  • IDENTIFY BEST WAY/TIME TO CONTACT. What is the time difference between you and your partner's country? When is it most convenient to reach them by phone? If there is a large time difference, do they mind your calling their home phone number in the evening? Do they prefer mail or fax over email? Confirm with your partner how and when is best to get in contact with them.
  • MORE PRACTICAL QUESTIONS. How often does your partner check email? Is it expensive or time-consuming to download? Can they open large email attachments? Is the email address they provided a personal one or the general organization one? How reliable is the mail system? How long does it take for international mail to arrive? Do they have to pay any fees to pick up a package at the post office? How much does it cost to send/receive a fax, make a phone call, or send a letter overseas? This amount represents what percentage of their daily salary? How comfortable are they speaking/writing English or your native language?

Correspond Regularly and Effectively

  • CREATE A PARTNERSHIP FILE. Create a file on your partnership. Include correspondence sent and received, tobacco control materials exchanged, notes on phone conversations, newspaper articles, photos, etc.
  • COMMUNICATE REGULARLY. Partners should communicate on a regular basis. How you and your partner define "regular" is up to you, but we recommend at least 1-3 times a month, depending on your method of communication and the nature of your partnership. Some ideas for maintaining communication: 1) Develop a joint project, so that you have a concrete reason to communicate. 2) Pose the monthly question to your partner, and share answers. 3) If you have a newsletter or listserv, add your partner to the distribution list, to keep them updated on your activities. Ask for their thoughts and suggestions.
  • RESPOND PROMPTLY. When you receive an email, fax, or letter from your partner, do not delay in acknowledging its receipt. A short, simple note of confirmation is fine. If you don't have time to respond in more detail immediately, explain and set a deadline, e.g. "I will get back to you by next Friday." Write the task down on your calendar and make sure to follow through!
  • TRY MULTIPLE MEANS OF COMMUNICATION. In the U.S., email has become the preferred means of communication. It is cheap, fast, and convenient. Not so for many people around the world. Internet connections are often costly. Computers may be unavailable and/or slow. And electricity may not be reliable. Furthermore, it can be expensive to print out emails. If your partner does not have reliable access to email, consider mailing or faxing your correspondence as well. It needn't require much additional time or effort: 1) Write and send an email as you normally would. 2) Print out a copy of the email. 3) Mail and/or fax it!
  • BE PERSISTENT AND PATIENT! In the U.S. there is a saying "if at first you don't succeed, try, try, try again." Perhaps that should be the mantra of GPTC! When you send something and receive no response, don't automatically assume that your partner received it. Emails are easily deleted. Mail gets lost. And faxes can be put in the wrong mailbox. Try again! It is advised that you keep a record in your partnership file of when and how you send messages to your partner, in case any problems arise.
  • PARTNERSHIP COMMITMENT & RESPONSIBILITY. It is helpful for partners to discuss, at the outset, how much time and effort they are prepared to put into the partnership. Be honest, both about your personal limitations and your expectations of your partner. Once a level of commitment is agreed upon, be sure to follow through. In a few cases, main contacts have decided that they do not have the time to communicate regularly with their global partner, and they have delegated the task to a colleague with more time and motivation to follow through.

Keep your global partner abreast of what is going on in your life

  • LET YOUR PARTNER KNOW OF YOUR PLANS. Will you be traveling abroad for work? Going on maternity leave for a few months? Taking an extended vacation? If you will be away from your office for more than a week, let your partner know ahead of time. You may want to provide contact information for a colleague who can handle correspondence in your absence.
  • GOT NEW CONTACT INFO? If your address, email, or phone/fax numbers change, don't forget to inform your partner!
  • ENSURING A SMOOTH TRANSITION. Are you moving on to a new job? Some GPTC participants, who have switched jobs but remained in the tobacco control field, have chosen to maintain their global partnerships through a different organization. Others have opted, instead, to transfer the partnership responsibility to a colleague. In the latter case certain steps should to be taken to ensure a smooth transition: 1) Identify a replacement who is motivated and interested in the partnership. 2) Share GPTC introductory packet, materials, and information with the new contact. 3) Inform Essential Action of the new contact, so that we can add her/his name to our email list and schedule an orientation phone call.

Be aware of cross-cultural issues

  • OVERCOMING LANGUAGE BARRIERS. For most GPTC participants outside the U.S., English is a second language. Likewise, few U.S. participants are fluent in their partners' native tongue. It takes extra motivation and effort to write and express thoughts in a language that is not your own. If language is a barrier for you and your partner, consider using free on-line translators. Essential Action has found them to be a very useful tool. For example, check out a Spanish/French/Russian/English translator at Also, if applicable, sign up to receive Spanish or French versions of GPTC information.
  • TAKE CROSS-CULTURAL DIFFERENCES IN STRIDE. In the U.S., people often address people they hardly know by their first name, and many women prefer not to have their marriage status recognized. In other countries, such practices are deemed disrespectful. We cannot always know or anticipate what may mystify or offend someone in another culture. If your partner communicates to you in a way that seems strange or inappropriate, feel free to contact Essential Action to discuss. We may be able to offer insight into a cultural difference or to tactfully raise the issue with your partner.

Essential Action is here to assist you!

  • SCHEDULE A CONFERENCE CALL. Many global partnerships have found conference calls to be worthwhile. Telephone calls allow for conversation and information sharing that may be more difficult and slow by email, mail, or fax. They are also conducive for going over the details of joint activities and for getting quick answers to urgent questions. Contact Essential Action if you would like to arrange a conference call.
  • OPTIONS FOR RECEIVING GPTC UPDATES. Essential Action regularly distributes information relevant to GPTC participants by email. For groups with no or irregular access to email, we have a mail and fax distribution list. We also provide French and Spanish translations to those who request them. Please contact Essential Action if you or your partner would like to be added to the mail, fax, French, and/or Spanish distribution lists.
  • EXTRA ASSISTANCE. Are you still running into difficulties, after following these communication tips? Essential Action is happy to assist you in overcoming any communication barriers that may arise. For example, we can help you reach your partner by phone or fax. We try to check in regularly with partnerships, but don't wait to hear from us to inform us of some difficulty you are having!


  • USE TRAVELERS TO SEND MATERIALS. Do you know someone traveling to your partner's country? Ask them if they might assist you in transferring materials to your partner, to cut down on international postage costs.
  • GOT ANY MORE SUGGESTIONS? Are there any more tips that you and your partner would suggest? Let us know, and we will share them with other GPTC participants!

Essential Action
Global Partnerships for Tobacco Control

P.O. Box 19405 ~ Washington, DC 20036
Tel: +1 202-387-8030 ~ Fax: +1 202-234-5176
Email: [email protected]