How Are You Communicating With Your Clients? (Part 1)

Hello, all! First off, I would like to thank all of you for your feedback last week. It’s given me a good idea of what you guys expect from me, so I will adapt the message accordingly. So with that being said, let’s get started.

What do you think of when you think of communication? Speaking to a friend face to face? Texting or sending emails? Interpretive dance? These are all considered forms of communication, and the same principles that guide them are the driving forces of your marketing efforts.

So before we can talk about why certain marketing techniques succeed or fail, we need to break communication down to its base model. This may be new information for some or old news to others, but here is the Osgood-Shramm model of communication.


The first step in communication is that the initiator encodes the message. Encoding a message means taking an idea and converting it into words, gestures, text, or whatever means that you plan to convey your thoughts.

Next, that encoded message is sent through a channel. A channel can be the internet, radio waves, air (if you’re speaking), or just any medium that through which your message travels.

Finally, the receiver (or receivers) decodes your message. This is where they basically process what you’ve communicated to them based on how clearly you’ve encoded the message. After this, the receiver becomes the new initiator, and the process begins again until the conversation is finished.

Now all of that seems like an overly complicated way of explaining something that probably seems pretty common sense to us. We do tend to have conversations with people daily in some form after all, so why bother trying to break it down? Because this model is the basis of marketing and public relations, and if you aren’t thinking about your business communications this way, you will likely run into some problems.

Let’s change the two interpreters in this scenario to “your business” and “your client”.


Now we’ll apply this to the four major PR/Marketing models that have existed over the past two centuries.


Press Agentry Model:

This model is all about creating buzz by creating news. Whether the news is real is irrelevant to those subscribing to this particular method. P.T. Barnum is considered a master of this form of advertising, and would often use half-truths and exaggerations to generate interest in his circus.

For a more recent example of this model, check out just about any tabloid.


How does this model fit in with the Osgood-Shramm concept of communication? It only accounts for communication being sent from one side. The business is essentially talking to the customer without any way (or desire) to listen.

Public Information Model:

Around the early 1900’s marketers began to shift to a more ethical practice of simply informing customers of positive information about their products and  leaving it up to the customer to decide whether or not to buy. This isn’t to imply that they didn’t use any form of  “adspeak”, but a lot more focus was put on the idea of truth in advertising.

While this was a positive step forward in that they were no longer outright lying to their customers, it still is an example of one-way communication. Better intentions, but similar results.

Two-Way Asymmetrical Model:

As the Cold War ramped up, the two-way asymmetrical model sought to use science and psychology to convince consumers to buy a product. Users of this model would conduct focus groups, behavioral studies, or other targeted research to get inside the head of the consumer and find the best way to make him or her behave in a desired manner.

We’re getting closer to the desired model, but still missing the mark. While the customer does get some say in the relationship, the vast majority of the communication is coming from the business. Many marketers today would argue that this is still the best model to use, but it is quickly becoming obsolete with the rise of the internet.

Two-Way Symmetrical Model:

And finally we come to the Two-Way Symmetrical model. This model allows for constant communication with the customer by means of feedback mechanisms. These feedback mechanisms can be branded social media channels, online polls, the comment sections on blogs and videos, or anything that allows direct communication with your brand.

Companies that have adopted this model also face the challenge of having to adapt to the needs of their customers regularly, but that is just a reality of business today. If you are not taking care of the needs of your customers, rest assured that someone else will.

But how does this measure against the Osgood-Shramm model? It actually fits perfectly with business and client being equal participants in the communication process. If you would like to see an example of the Two-Way Symmetrical model in action, just check out the first paragraph of this article.

This model applies not only to B2C companies, but B2B as well. While the communication channels may vary, the principle remains the same.

So what does all of this mean for your business?  How does adoption of this model translate into increased revenue for your company? Stay tuned for part two to find out!

In the meantime, let me know what you think. Post your feedback in the comments section or send me an email, and I’ll be sure to respond.

Thanks for reading!

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