Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Communication Theories

Theories of communications have their roots back 2,500 years ago to the classical Greece. The traditional theory was improved by the Romans and remained static until the 20th century. During World War I and World War II communication was developed for propaganda techniques to persuade troops. Later, sociologists entered the field of communications theory.

Communication can be described as information-related behavior which is a necessary life process. There are three common settings of communications: Interpersonal, machine-assisted, and mass communication. Popular theorists of communication are Harold Laswell, Shannon & Weaver, Wilbur Schramm, Katz & Lazarsfeld, Westley & MacLean, and Kincaid.

Model of Laswell

Laswell developed a model in 1948 which focused on verbal messaging. It deals with the question: “Who says what to whom in what channel with what effect?” Thus, it emphasizes speaker, message, and audience and provides a more generalized view of goal or effect of communication.

Model of Shannon and Weaver

The model of Shannon and Weaver was developed one year later in 1949. It measures accuracy of message transmission in a given system, based on a technology analogy. Information is not equated with meaning and therefore, there is an opportunity to reduce uncertainty. Furthermore, noise is overcome by using redundancy of information. However, the limitation is that the model deals only with mechanistic representation of information. It does not deal with meaning, content, or substance. The model of Shannon and Weaver can be regarded as the father of Information Theory and bought all disciplines together to focus on research. The most important contribution of Shannon and Weaver is the concept of information.

Three Models of Schramm

Schramm developed his first model in 1954. It is a simple model of communications where a source encoders a signal, sends it to a destination which has to decoder the signal. In his second model Schramm introduced the “field of experience” on both sides, source and destination, for the correct interpretation. The purpose was to overcome the problem of noise. Communication becomes circular and a relational model is created.
Schramm’s third model is a further development in terms of feedback that the destination sends to the source.

1st model:

2nd model:

3rd Model
Model of Katz and Lazarsfeld

Katz and Lazarsfeld, two political scientists, developed a 2-step flow of communication model in 1955. It includes mass media and links interpersonal dynamics to mass communications. Furthermore, it involves opinion leaders who influence the message on its way from the source to the public.

Westley-MacLean Model

The Westley-MacLean Model states that communication begins with a potential message. Then, an advocate is involved and selects an event to form a new message. The model accounts for both, interpersonal and mass media communication. It broadened and elaborated the feedback concept.

kincaids’s Convergence Model

This model developed in 1979 says that communication is a process in which participants create and share information to reach mutual understanding. Several cycles may increase mutual understanding but do not complete it. Furthermore, communication ceases when sufficient level of mutual understanding has been reached. The dominant components of the model are information and mutual understanding. Human communication takes place in a dynamic, cyclical process over time. Hereby, mutual understanding and agreement are the primary goals.

Personal experience

An example for the application of a communication model with a feedback component would be a class in college. The feedback component could be seen from two sides. The first possibility is to see the professor as a source that sends a message (knowledge) to the students. The students on the other hand give their feedback in tests or assignments to show the professor the understanding of the materials.

Communicating Strategically

This chapter explains the basic theory behind all kinds of communication, ie the way the organizations communicate with various groups of people. A coherent communication strategy is critical for a company to enhance its reputation, to convince the shareholders that the company is still worth investing in, or to get customers to buy more of its goods and services. This strategy depends on the three components of speech as described by Aristotle. They are
1. The Organization

2. The constituency
3. The message
4. The Response

Developing an Effective Organization Strategy

There are various steps involved in developing an effective organizaion strategy. They have to be very well followed in the organization in order to determine what strategy is effective and what is not.

Determining objectives

The first part of an effective organization strategy is to determine objectives as to what the orgnization wants each constituency to do as a result of the communication.

Deciding What Resources Are Available

An organization has to know what resources are available in order to effectively communicate the determined objective. Those resources mostly include money, human resources, and time. Money plays an important role in terms of how to communicate a determined objective. Dealing with a matter like this, organizations should take the long-term objectives in consideration rather than short-term cost savings.Human resources a considerable issue in the setup of an effective communications strategy. How many employees should be work on the communication matters of an organization? Time is another important factor in determining an organization’s communication strategy. The allocation of time for communication should be determined by the long term objectives of the communication purpose and not seek short-term solutions.

Diagnosing the Organization’s Reputation

It is important for an organization to know what reputation it has. Reputation is based on the constituency’s perception of the specific organization. Besides an overall good reputation, organizations can have a limited or lacked/damaged credibility reputation. Limited reputation is the case when organizations are only known in a narrow range of constituencies. A lacked or damaged credibility can occur when certain event s negatively influenced the reputation of the organization among the constituencies. These events can either be in the control or beyond the control of the organization.

Analyzing Constituencies

An organization has to know who their constituencies are, what each thinks about the organization, and what each knows about the organization in question. Depending on size, kind, and nature organizations have different kinds of constituencies. In general we can divide primary constituencies (employees, customers, shareholders, communities) from secondary constituencies (media, suppliers, government, creditors). Sometimes organizations have to wisely choose to which constituency to communicate first. Also, constituencies interact with one another and can have opposing interests.

Delivering Messages Appropriately

A corporation must decide two things when communicating: How to deliver the message and what structure the message should have. When selecting a communication channel, an organization has many choices like Fax, Memo, E-mail etc. It is crucial to find the appropriate medium for the objective to be delivered. Furthermore, it has to be decided whether the structure of the message should be direct (right to the point) or indirect (first explain reasons, and then go to the main points).

Constituencies Response

An organization should give the constituencies the possibility to respond to its message. This is important to determine whether the communication had the desired result.

Personal experience

During my internship in an insurance company, the was a new fund offered to the customers. Many customers complained that all the details regarding the new fund offer was not revealed to them and they were kept in dark. The company had to refund the investment to many policy holders. This is an example of bad communication strategy.

Corporate communication-4th edition, Paul A Argenti

The Changing Environment of business

Today, the business environments have changed from the way it was years ago. The trends of globalization, diversity, networking, changing technology has strengthened the business activities and led the world into what is known as global village. Unlike earlier, the businesses today are more diversified with difference product lines and services. The products now can be marketed in not just a local market, but all over the world. The employers are more responsive, friendly and provide the employees, the freedom to work
independently. More importance is being given to the internal communication, ie between
the employer and employees, among employees, etc.
Attitude towards American business

Businesses in United States had positive as well as negative images. Hazardous working conditions in for steelworkers and railroad builders and the exploitation of young women and children working in factories in the 1860s drove negative perceptions of American companies. Successful businessmen like the Carnegies, Mellons, and Rockefellers were seen as “robber barons”. In the 1920s a rising stock market increased the gap between the rich and the middle-class which created unstable economic conditions. The Great Depression resulted from the stock market burst in 1929 negatively affected businesses and individuals alike. Starting with World War II, American companies could recover in the time of 1940s-1960s, known as the “golden age”. However, even recovering from the Great Depression and driving economic wealth in the United States, American companies suffered from fading confidence from the American population. The Vietnam War, the oil embargo, and Watergate reduced the confidence of the American people in businesses and institutions like the U.S. congress or the Supreme Court. Although the 1980s and 1990s represented the absolute economic boom in the 20th century, this perception of American businesses did not improve much. Several company scandals (Enron, Woldcom, Adelphia) and the burst of the “ bubble” in the 2000s did not help to improve the public negative perception of big businesses in the United States.

The Global Village

The changing technology and the trend of globalization have strengthened the communication channels all over the world. It has disintegrated the national borders for the corporate world to open up and led to the interdependence of the businesses around the globe. This has resulted in liberalization of trade and finance, disintegrating national borders and especially the creation of multinational corporations thThe relocation of work to cheaper countries and the exploitation and (sometimes) inhuman working conditions in low cost production countries has created a hostile attitude towards large global corporations. Technology which also helped globalization to develop now plays a big role in making information about negative conduct of global companies public. This resulted in the “Anti-Globalization” movement which extends beyond traditional union bodies to include young and old consumers, concerned parents and vocal student activists. Therefore, the businesses today should be prepared to handle the international media spotlight but also proacively use today's media environment to compromise their corporate reputation.
How to compete in a Changing Enviroment

Companies have to constantly deal with a changing environment in terms of changing attitudes of people towards their way of doing business. Corporations like Gillette, Nike and McDonald’s have experienced the challenges of increasing customer awareness for social responsibility. The next section provides steps to deal with it.

1. Recognizing the changing environment
2. Adapt to the Environment without compromizing principles
3. Not assuming that the problems will disappear magically
4. Keeping the corporate communication connected to strategy.


The fast pace of the changing technology was identified by Google which helped it to develop constantly and to become the number one search engine in the world.

Personal experience

There have been times when it was difficult for me to find or shop for articles. Now, it is very easy to find, compare and purchase goods and services over internet. This was when, for the first time, i noticed the changing environment of business. Another example from my personal experience is the use of Tally and other accounting softwares for the purpose of recording the accounts and transactions systematically.
Earlier, people used to record manually with journals and ledger books and now, it is very easy and effective to use these softwares.

Corporate communication-4th edition, Paul A Argenti