The Communication Model has been dead wrong all the time

Author: socialseeder

Content. Content. Content. Nowadays you can’t Google social media without stumbling upon tons of articles, blog posts and whitepapers about content marketing. But why is it that so little brands manage to drive traffic (or even interact with the crowd) through their content efforts while ‘content about content’ is so abundantly available? Because there’s something wrong with the mind-set of traditional marketers.

And you can’t blame them. Sure, marketers ruin everything but it’s not their fault that they’ve been using certain media wrongly for decades.

Shannon and Weaver are the ones to blame for the way companies communicate poorly to their online audience. For the record, organizations should communicate with their audience but that’s not the point here. We’ve been learning that communication starts with a source, which produces a message to be received through a channel by a receiver. A very valid definition of communication but at the same time sadly wrong and one of the main reasons why marketers ruin everything. The communication model has been dead wrong all the time when it comes to (online) business communication.


Traditional communication campaigns start from an organizational point of view and are always calling to action. Whether it’s a multinational or an NGO who’s communicating, the main call to action will always be “Buy us!”. And, don’t get me wrong, it should be that way.

The problem is the organizational point of view that forces marketing departments to send the company’s message to all the possible prospects. Most of the time this leads to uninspiring, untailored campaigns that are mass distributed to whole regions on a worldwide basis. It happened with television and radio. It happened with e-mail. And today it’s happening with social media.

But what if we take a look at the nearly 70-year old communication model, switch it and start from the receiver’s point of view? Wouldn’t online communication work better that way?

How is it possible that in an age where data is as available as fast-food and Google knows you better than you do yourself, organizations still manage to create impersonal stories and dull content that nobody wants to interact with? For instance, if you’re a carpenter you should create content that your target audience already is searching for and engaging with. People love DIY, so why aren’t you recording tutorials on how to make birdhouses instead of showing some plain pictures of your recent realizations? Because the carpenter started from the source’s point of view instead of the receiver’s.

So now that you know that your customers love videos of cats drinking Coke with Mentos while Katy Perry is singing in the background, you can start brainstorming on how to mix things up with your call to action.

Write down all the questions that your customers ask themselves. The questions can be very vague and don’t -per se- have to do something with your organization. After this, you look for trends in the questions and start researching what people are generally interested in online. Google Trends can already help you with this. The result of this research is your first circle and includes everything the receivers are actually looking at/for on the web.

Grab another paper and write down all the things your organization does, where it stands for, what it already did, what it wants to do, etc. Similar to your previous research, you summarize everything and look for trends. This is everything you can talk about at this very moment and will be your second circle.

Now it’s key to be very critical to achieve a magnificent content marketing strategy. What you want to do, is look which trends in the circles coincide and create content about this trend from the receiver’s point of view. If there isn’t any similarity, you should think (or hire someone who does) how you can mix LeSean McCoy with the message that your financial institution wants to spread. And it doesn’t stop there. Why wouldn’t you set up a tennis blog if your customers are really into this? Just make sure you do things in a genuine and authentic way.

And then there’s the struggle of picking the right medium. But if you’re really thinking like your audience groups, you probably already know where your audience’s eyeballs are. Are they on Facebook or on Pinterest? Maybe you need to set up a Snapchat account and fool around with it to reach your customers. Did you even know that LinkedIn is as important as YouTube when it comes to influencing the buying behavior of your customer? Every social network has its own language, purpose and demographic. Understand this and don’t be shy to learn every day again.

You need to know what, where, when and how the receiver wants to consume content and give it to them ready-to-eat. It’s about them, not about you. You need to be the source the receiver wants you to be. Not the source you want to be for them.

Author: socialseeder

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