If you've been following the scandal involving top tennis player Maria Sharpova, you know these essential facts:

  • She took a drug (meldonium) that the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) recently banned.
  • She tested positively for the drug during the Australian Open.
  • And on Monday she admitted to taking meldonium, whereupon all heck broke loose (including sponsors dropping her like a hot rock).

But the most fascinating part of the story to me--because, I confess, I'm a communication addict--is that Sharapova said she did receive an email from WAPA but did not look at the list of recently updated substances.

Believable? Sure it is. Ben Rothenberg of The New York Times walked around at the BNP Paripas Open, asking tennis coaches and players if they read those emails.

The short answer: Nope.

As Czech coach Jiri Fencl said, "No one clicks that link."

Some players said they relied on staff members (including doctors) to convey information about prohibited substances. Rafael Nadal, 14-time Grand Slam champion, said, "You cannot live thinking about all the negative things that can happen. I am 100 percent confident with my team."

Of course, most of us don't have a team. But in my experience, even people without an entourage--say, the average employee--still misses essential emails, even when the topic is vitally important: Like pay. Benefits. Your career.

The fact is, we're just so busy that we're speeding through our inbox, doing triage to try to decide which ones demand our immediate attention. So something requiring a commitment of time and attention--like reading a list--gets pushed aside for later.

And, all too often, later never comes.

If you're charged with reaching employees, how can you overcome this issue?

Here are 3 quick suggestions:

  1. Focus on only one topic per email. If the WAPA's email had this subject line-- "Meldonium Now Banned'--I bet someone in Sharapova's camp would have caught it.
  2. Avoid attachments. They're not only so 2002, they're a burden. You have to download, open, read. Much better to include a mobile-friendly link.
  3. Don't rely on just one channel. Think about your communication system: email, website, social media, workplace channels like posters, even print. Are you reinforcing important information so it can't be missed?

Above all, don't assume that a message sent is communication achieved. That was never a sound philosophy, but in today's information-overloaded world, it's even more flawed.