The Public Relations BlogMedia & PsychologyPR TheoriesWhat Communication Is (and Why It Matters)

What Communication Is (and Why It Matters)

Everything communicates, but beware the noise.

Cover photo: @jerrysilfwer

Let’s fig­ure out what com­mu­nic­a­tion is.

Effective com­mu­nic­a­tion goes bey­ond merely trans­mit­ting inform­a­tion; it’s about ensur­ing the mes­sage is received and under­stood as inten­ded, fos­ter­ing a mutu­al under­stand­ing between all parties involved.

Here we go:

What Communication Is (and Why It Matters)

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What Communication Is (and Why It Matters)

At its core, com­mu­nic­a­tion is the pro­cess of exchan­ging inform­a­tion between two or more parties. It can take vari­ous forms, includ­ing verbal, writ­ten, non-verbal, and digital. 

  • Verbal com­mu­nic­a­tion. Involves the spoken word in per­son, over the phone, or through video calls. It’s instant­an­eous and allows for imme­di­ate feed­back, mak­ing clear and con­cise exchanges essential.
  • Written com­mu­nic­a­tion. Includes emails, reports, let­ters, and social media posts. It’s cru­cial for doc­u­ment­ing inform­a­tion and provid­ing detailed instruc­tions or feedback.
  • Non-verbal com­mu­nic­a­tion. Encompasses body lan­guage, facial expres­sions, and ges­tures. It often con­veys more about our inten­tions and feel­ings than words alone.
  • Digital com­mu­nic­a­tion. Encompasses all forms of com­mu­nic­a­tion that occur through elec­tron­ic devices. It’s vital for con­nect­ing with audi­ences glob­ally and instantly.

Why does com­mu­nic­a­tion mat­ter? Well, as opposed to inform­a­tion (one-way), com­mu­nic­a­tions (two-way) are the build­ing blocks of relationships.

Communication:

  • Builds rela­tion­ships. Effective com­mu­nic­a­tion is the corner­stone of strong rela­tion­ships. Whether it’s between col­leagues, cli­ents, or per­son­al con­nec­tions, clear com­mu­nic­a­tion fosters trust, under­stand­ing, and respect.
  • Facilitates innov­a­tion. Open com­mu­nic­a­tion chan­nels encour­age shar­ing ideas and col­lab­or­a­tion, lead­ing to innov­a­tion and cre­ativ­ity. Teams that com­mu­nic­ate effect­ively are more likely to find nov­el solu­tions to challenges.
  • Strengthens crisis man­age­ment. In times of crisis, effect­ive com­mu­nic­a­tion is cru­cial. It enables organ­iz­a­tions to con­vey their responses promptly and clearly, mit­ig­at­ing poten­tial dam­age to their repu­ta­tion.
  • Supports decision-mak­ing. Clear com­mu­nic­a­tion ensures that all rel­ev­ant inform­a­tion is shared, enabling informed decision-mak­ing. It helps in align­ing teams towards com­mon goals and strategies.
  • Promotes engage­ment, brand loy­alty, and sales. Engaging com­mu­nic­a­tion cap­tiv­ates your audi­ence, wheth­er it’s your employ­ees or the pub­lic. It helps con­vey your mes­sage more effect­ively and build a loy­al fol­low­ing — and more customers.

Effective com­mu­nic­a­tion is not just about being heard; it’s about under­stand­ing, cre­at­ing con­nec­tions, and facil­it­at­ing actions that drive pos­it­ive outcomes.

Modern organ­iz­a­tion­al com­mu­nic­a­tion should be man­aged as a social integ­rat­or rather than a mech­an­ist­ic man­age­ment tool, requir­ing a spe­cif­ic concept of inter­per­son­al com­mu­nic­a­tion.”
Source: Journal of Communication Management 1Varey, R. (1996). Conscious cor­por­ate com­mu­nic­a­tion: A con­cep­tu­al ana­lys­is. Journal of Communication Management, 1, 134 – 144. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​1​0​8​/​E​B​0​2​6​040

Learn more: What Communication Is (and Why It Matters)

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Shannon-Weaver Model of Communication

The Shannon-Weaver Model of Communication (Wikipedia).
The Shannon-Weaver Model of Communication (Wikipedia).
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The Shannon-Weaver Model of Communication

The Shannon-Weaver Model of Communication, also known as the Shannon-Weaver Theory, is a found­a­tion­al concept in com­mu­nic­a­tion stud­ies. Developed in 1948 by Claude Shannon and Warren Weaver, the mod­el was ini­tially cre­ated to improve tech­nic­al com­mu­nic­a­tion, par­tic­u­larly for tele­phone and radio tech­no­lo­gies. 2Shannon, C. E., & Weaver, W. (1949). The Mathematical Theory of Communication. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. 3Shannon – Weaver mod­el. (2023, December 21). In Wikipedia. https://​en​.wiki​pe​dia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​S​h​a​n​n​o​n​-​W​e​a​v​e​r​_​m​o​del

Claude Shannon: An American math­em­atician, elec­tric­al engin­eer, and cryp­to­graph­er known as “the fath­er of inform­a­tion the­ory.” Shannon’s work laid the ground­work for the digit­al revolution.

Warren Weaver: An American sci­ent­ist, math­em­atician, and sci­ence admin­is­trat­or, Weaver col­lab­or­ated with Shannon in artic­u­lat­ing the com­mu­nic­a­tion mod­el that exten­ded its applic­a­tion bey­ond tech­nic­al fields.

The Shannon-Weaver Model breaks down the pro­cess of com­mu­nic­a­tion into sev­er­al components:

  • Information Source: The ori­gin­at­or of the mes­sage or information.
  • Transmitter: Converts the mes­sage into sig­nals that can be sent over a com­mu­nic­a­tion channel.
  • Channel: The medi­um through which the mes­sage is trans­mit­ted (e.g., air­waves, digit­al networks).
  • Receiver: Receives and con­verts the sig­nals back into the message.
  • Destination: The inten­ded recip­i­ent of the message.
  • Noise: Any extern­al inter­fer­ence that dis­torts or dis­rupts the mes­sage dur­ing transmission.

The Shannon-Weaver Model is sig­ni­fic­ant for sev­er­al reasons:

  • Universality: It applies to vari­ous forms of com­mu­nic­a­tion, includ­ing verbal, writ­ten, and digital.
  • Simplicity: The mod­el breaks down the com­plex com­mu­nic­a­tion pro­cess into man­age­able com­pon­ents, mak­ing identi­fy­ing and address­ing com­mu­nic­a­tion issues easier.
  • Noise Identification: It high­lights the import­ance of noise in the com­mu­nic­a­tion pro­cess, help­ing com­mu­nic­at­ors to identi­fy and mit­ig­ate poten­tial distortions.

Learn more: The Shannon-Weaver Model of Communication

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Why Communication Is Important

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Why Communication Is Important

Strategic com­mu­nic­a­tion is the delib­er­ate and pur­pose­ful exchange of inform­a­tion designed to achieve spe­cif­ic object­ives. It involves care­ful plan­ning, mes­sage tail­or­ing, chan­nel selec­tion, and feed­back mech­an­isms to ensure the inten­ded mes­sage is received, under­stood, and acted upon effectively. 

Effective com­mu­nic­a­tion involves cog­nit­ive com­plex­ity and social per­spect­ive-tak­ing, which are related to adapt­ing per­suas­ive mes­sages to recip­i­ents.”
Source: Human Communication Research 4Clark, R., & Delia, J. (1977). Cognitive Complexity, Social Perspective-Taking, and Functional Persuasive Skills in Second- to Ninth-Grade Children. Human Communication Research, 3, 128 – 134. … Continue read­ing

Communication is pivotal across all levels and sec­tors of an organ­isa­tion, from lead­er­ship to front­line employ­ees, mar­ket­ing to cus­tom­er ser­vice, and intern­al oper­a­tions to extern­al relations.

  • Leadership and decision-mak­ing. At the lead­er­ship level, stra­tegic com­mu­nic­a­tion is essen­tial for artic­u­lat­ing vis­ion, set­ting dir­ec­tion, and mak­ing informed decisions. Leaders must com­mu­nic­ate with clar­ity and con­vic­tion to inspire and guide their teams. Equally, open chan­nels for upward com­mu­nic­a­tion are vital for lead­ers to receive feed­back, under­stand ground-level chal­lenges, and adjust strategies accordingly.
  • Team-col­lab­or­a­tion and mor­ale. Strategic com­mu­nic­a­tion fosters col­lab­or­a­tion, innov­a­tion, and a pos­it­ive work cul­ture. It ensures all team mem­bers are aligned with their goals, under­stand their roles, and feel val­ued and heard. This align­ment is crit­ic­al for main­tain­ing high mor­ale and motiv­a­tion, which drives pro­ductiv­ity and job satisfaction.
  • Customer engage­ment and repu­ta­tion man­age­ment. Externally, stra­tegic com­mu­nic­a­tion shapes the organ­isa­tion’s inter­ac­tions with cus­tom­ers, stake­hold­ers, and the pub­lic. It is instru­ment­al in build­ing brand iden­tity, man­aging repu­ta­tion, and enga­ging with cus­tom­ers mean­ing­fully. In today’s digit­al age, where inform­a­tion spreads rap­idly, effect­ive com­mu­nic­a­tion can dif­fer­en­ti­ate between a loy­al cus­tom­er base and a pub­lic rela­tions crisis.
  • Overcoming chal­lenges and embra­cing oppor­tun­it­ies. Organisations face an ever-evolving land­scape of chal­lenges and oppor­tun­it­ies. Strategic com­mu­nic­a­tion equips them to nav­ig­ate these with agil­ity and resi­li­ence. Whether respond­ing to crises, man­aging change, or cap­it­al­ising on new oppor­tun­it­ies, com­mu­nic­a­tion ensures that all parts of the organ­isa­tion are informed, pre­pared, and united in their approach.

Communication is not just about speak­ing or writ­ing; it’s about con­nect­ing, under­stand­ing, and achiev­ing togeth­er. That’s why com­mu­nic­a­tion is not just import­ant; it’s imperative.

  • Communications are the build­ing blocks of relationships.

Learn more: Why Communication Is Important

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Communication Definition

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The Communication Definition

Based on the Shannon-Weaver Model of Communication, this is the defin­i­tion of com­mu­nic­a­tion: 5Silfwer, J. (2022, February 18). The Shannon-Weaver Model of Communication. Doctor Spin | The PR Blog. https://​doc​tor​spin​.net/​s​h​a​n​n​o​n​-​w​e​a​v​e​r​-​m​o​d​e​l​-​o​f​-​c​o​m​m​u​n​i​c​a​t​i​on/

Communication = the pro­cess of encod­ing a mes­sage by the inform­a­tion source, trans­mit­ting it through a selec­ted chan­nel, and ensur­ing it is decoded by the receiv­er to con­vey inform­a­tion or achieve understanding.

From a pub­lic rela­tions (PR) per­spect­ive, the inten­tion­al dis­sem­in­a­tion of inform­a­tion to influ­ence and per­suade is added to the con­text, provid­ing us with this defin­i­tion of stra­tegic communication:

Strategic Communication = the stra­tegic pro­cess of encod­ing a tailored mes­sage by the inform­a­tion source, trans­mit­ting it through an optim­al chan­nel to effect­ively over­come noise, and ensur­ing it is accur­ately decoded by the receiv­er to achieve the desired impact on the destination.

As a stark remind­er of the import­ance of con­text, and the fact that “no com­mu­nic­a­tion” also tells us some­thing, PR pro­fes­sion­als often repeat this pop­u­lar mantra:

  • Everything com­mu­nic­ates.

Learn more: Communication Definition

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Signature - Jerry Silfwer - Doctor Spin

Thanks for read­ing. Please con­sider shar­ing my pub­lic rela­tions blog with oth­er com­mu­nic­a­tion and mar­ket­ing pro­fes­sion­als. If you have ques­tions (or want to retain my PR ser­vices), please con­tact me at jerry@​spinfactory.​com.

PR Resource: Free Communication PR Course

Free Communication PR Course - Doctor Spin - Public Relations Blog
Free com­mu­nic­a­tion PR course.
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Doctor Spin’s PR School: Free Communication PR Course

Discover the power of effect­ive com­mu­nic­a­tion in this free Communication PR Course. Explore now to elev­ate your pub­lic rela­tions game — abso­lutely free!

Communication Skills

The single biggest prob­lem in com­mu­nic­a­tion is the illu­sion that it has taken place.”
— George Bernard Shaw

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ANNOTATIONS
ANNOTATIONS
1 Varey, R. (1996). Conscious cor­por­ate com­mu­nic­a­tion: A con­cep­tu­al ana­lys­is. Journal of Communication Management, 1, 134 – 144. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​1​0​8​/​E​B​0​2​6​040
2 Shannon, C. E., & Weaver, W. (1949). The Mathematical Theory of Communication. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
3 Shannon – Weaver mod­el. (2023, December 21). In Wikipedia. https://​en​.wiki​pe​dia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​S​h​a​n​n​o​n​-​W​e​a​v​e​r​_​m​o​del
4 Clark, R., & Delia, J. (1977). Cognitive Complexity, Social Perspective-Taking, and Functional Persuasive Skills in Second- to Ninth-Grade Children. Human Communication Research, 3, 128 – 134. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​1​1​1​/​J​.​1​468 – 2958.1977.TB00511.X
5 Silfwer, J. (2022, February 18). The Shannon-Weaver Model of Communication. Doctor Spin | The PR Blog. https://​doc​tor​spin​.net/​s​h​a​n​n​o​n​-​w​e​a​v​e​r​-​m​o​d​e​l​-​o​f​-​c​o​m​m​u​n​i​c​a​t​i​on/
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwerhttps://doctorspin.net/
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at Spin Factory and KIX Communication Index. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.

The Cover Photo

The cover photo isn't related to public relations; it's just a photo of mine. Think of it as a 'decorative diversion', a subtle reminder that there is more to life than strategic communication.

The cover photo has

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