Tag Archives: communication theory

Leverage the Power of the Second Axiom with Customers

The way you look at the world today is not the way you looked at it when you were ten. Back then, the teacher who frowned and ordered, “walk in the hallway” was “mean.” Going back to visit today, you’d probably find that not only is the building a little smaller, but that mean old teacher is, too.

Teacher and Student RelationshipsIf you were to take her to lunch, you might even find her to be rather “nice” and full of interesting stories and insights about you, your family, and the other kids you knew. You had no idea what the principal was really doing or how two of your favorite teachers never really got along. Maybe she’d even share a story about a child who she really helped. Further, as you think about it more, you might discover that child is you!

The second axiom of Paul Watzlawick’s Interactive Communication Theory is:

“Every communication has a content and relationship aspect such that the latter classifies the former and is therefore a meta-communication. Each person responds to the content of communication in the context of the relationship between the communicators.”

Knowledge and experience shape how we see a situation and react to it. Whether we’re young or old, living in a hut or in a mansion, we bring our own worlds to each interaction. Meta communication is the sub-text through which the real message is found. “It is based on the idea that the same message, accompanied by different meta-communication, can mean something entirely different, including its opposite, as in irony.” (Wikipedia)

Watzlawick’s Interactive Communication Theory suggests that:

“Communication happens because all of the communicators are not ‘speaking the same language.’ This happens because people have different viewpoints of speaking.”

Communication BreakdownThis second axiom begins to explain why some customers don’t respond well to certain emails, commercials, websites, or blog posts- yet alone the newest sales guy on your team. Customer perspectives alter your message.

Just like the teacher didn’t seem so mean after the boy grew up and had a perspective change, so your clients might one day appreciate your product, service, brand, or channel when needs or experiences change perspectives. Of course, until then, you might want to further analyze how to alter how you say what you say, so that it’s more favorably received.

Dominos decided to change the perception of its pizza. Executives spent eighteen months perfecting their product before hiring an ad agency reshape the brand’s message and image. According to Adam Toporek, “All of the campaigns mentioned above blended… the three legs of the modern marketing stool: traditional advertising, public relations, and online/social. The Turnaround Campaign did not approach public relations in isolation and made sure all campaign components supported its core messages.”

JC Penny, on the other hand, lost market share when trying to turn around losses in sales. Because of his previous experiences at Apple, the new CEO was out of step with the majority of Penny’s shoppers when he rid the retailer of couponing. Some say that bargain hunting is part of a female shopper’s DNA.

The relationship one has to the content determines how the content is received. What could make your message more effective?

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Filed under Branding, Education Strategy, Marketing

Communication Theory in a Social Media World

by My Web Writers

Social media has changed the landscape of communication redefining how “e-relationships” develop and are perpetuated. Ultimately, we stand at a crossroad facing the choice to use the available technologies of social media to facilitate communication or “miss the bus” entirely. From SEO content specialists like those at My Web Writers blogging about trends in e-commerce to educators debating the role social media should play in the classroom, the basic system still hasn’t changed. Whether written in caves or transmitted electronically, messages have been encoded, sent, decoded, and returned.  Inevitably, theories were developed to study these systems and help explain how and why they function. The means used to accomplish this vary but the road traveled will always be termed communication.

Communication Theory begins Face-to-Face

Basic communication theory focuses on the conversation or “face-to face” interaction.  A person has an idea they want to share. This idea is encoded (put into words) and transmitted through a channel (voice-to-ear) to another. That individual decodes the message and encodes feedback (verbal or nonverbal) indicating their understanding, or lack of it, to return.  This process is repeated until the interaction was complete. Its overall effectiveness is also dependent on noise (physical, psychological, or environmental) and context.

First Impressions of Social Media

Initially, many considered Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and the like had forever changed that. People worldwide believed this “machine system” had altered some crucial element adversely affecting the character and quality of messages being sent and received. Feedback was delayed or simply nonexistent; the channel was comprised of masses of electronically generated “ones and zeros”, and the context was imaginary.  Social media was deemed undisciplined and potentially dangerous.

Positive Impact of Social Media

Social media hasn’t changed communication theory but rather illuminated a different facet.  According to Northern Illinois University’s Dr. David Gunkel, social media “…has returned us to a part of communication theory that we had forgotten about.”  He cites James W. Carey’s opinion that communication isn’t just transmissional, as described above, but also “ritualistic”.  Social media help build, enhance and reinforce the rituals that comprise our “communities” defining who we are with a speed and immediacy that traditional methods can match. Gunkel points to the entomological relationship between “common”, “communities”, and “communication” as evidence of that link.

The photos of family events that once had to be sent through the mail can now be put in a scrapbook on Pinterest or posted on Facebook.  Video of a child’s first steps can be seen on Youtube within minutes. Updates concerning events of every type reach interested people within seconds via Twitter. Resumes can now be viewed by employers all over the world 24 hours a day via LinkedIn.

The Changing View of Communication and Social Media

It’s tempting to focus only on the negatives of social media but it’s also unrealistic.  Educators shouldn’t lament the passing of teaching techniques once employed but rather rejoice in the greater insights it can offer and the benefits it can have for students. Simply plugging in different terms into the traditional communication model shows us that the basic structure hasn’t changed. Substitute keyboard for encode/decode and screen-to-screen for channel. We are still both sender and receiver worrying about correct feedback. What used to happen with facial expressions and body language is now accomplished through emoticons and internet acronyms.

Social Media Conclusions

The emergence of social media is an important facet of traditional communication theory.  We do more harm than good by denying its significance and positive role they play.  Do we exploit the benefits or bury our heads in the sand? Social media will always wield the power to harm, but we owe it to ourselves to at least have a better understanding of its benefits as well as dangers.  Think of what can accomplished not just for how we communicate with each other but how it enhances the rituals of our families and  in turn, society overall. Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook are simply tools in the communication toolbox.  If and how we use them ultimately depends on us.



Filed under Education Strategy, Social Media