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June 24, 2019

Moving away from the Shannon and Weaver model

Understanding how to communicate using the Shannon and Weaver model

So much of one’s daily life revolves around communication. Throughout history, communication has been studied thoroughly, with a number of experts positing models and theories about what encompasses this often-elusive activity.

Here, we explore perhaps the most well known of these schools of thought – the Shannon and Weaver model – what it is, how relevant is it in today’s context and how it can be improved.

What is the Shannon and Weaver model?

Developed by Claude Shannon and Warren Weaver in 1949, the Shannon and Weaver model is very popular when it comes to communication theory, and can be traditionally illustrated by a simple telephone conversation.

For example, let’s say Person A (Stacy) wants to call her friend Person B (Laura) to invite her to go swimming. When Stacy picks up the phone to make the call to Laura, she becomes the sender (or the source). The transmitter, or encoder, will be the telephone which Stacy speaks into, and the channel is therefore the telephone’s cable, which makes it possible for the two girls to communicate. Laura’s phone picks up the message from Stacy and, in doing so, becomes the receiver. Finally, the message reaches Laura, who is the destination.

Today, however, these components may no longer be valid. The question we’re exploring is: why?

Issues with the Shannon and Weaver model

Most of the issues with the Shannon and Weaver transmission model stem from the belief that “the context for the model had nothing to do with human communication.”

Many claim that the model doesn’t leave room for simple human nature, like using the wrong choice of words or the nuances of today’s technological world, which carries with it a variety of inherent consequences.  

Critics also say that “you cannot reduce or isolate the elements of a communication situation and make any sense out of them, because communication is a ‘big picture’ that is greater than the sum of its parts.”

In other words, the Shannon and Weaver model isn’t extensive enough. It focuses on linear communication when, in reality, it might take a sum of back-and-forths before a message’s meaning can be deciphered. The roles of receiver and decoder continually alternate, and there is no better example of this than the digital media revolution and its effect on the news.

How can the Shannon and Weaver model be improved?

The Shannon and Weaver model is not as easily applied to the communication systems of today, which are much more complicated than the operation of a simple wired telephone.

In the internet age, information is no longer spread in the traditional source-to-destination fashion. Considering the complexity of the internet, and the millions of people and components that form its infrastructure, the Shannon and Weaver model starts to look extremely simplistic.

Consider how a modern online news outlet communicates to its readers. Starting with a source – such as a news article, a tweet, a photograph and so on – where then is the transmitter? Is it the keys on the author’s keyboard that encode the typing to a digital signal? Is it the antenna in the laptop that sends the article to the Wi-Fi router in the office?

And what about the channel? Is it air between the sender’s laptop and the router? Is it the infrastructure of network cables, computers and exchanges between the computer and where the website is hosted?

What of the receiver and the destination? It’s taken for granted that everybody is free to access a news website and to share them with others via links. Not only can people consume this content, they can react to them on social media, creating a dialogue that leads to the further transmission of messages, and so on and so forth.

The Shannon and Weaver model doesn’t account for the public — who were once primarily the receivers — becoming the sources. According to the Guardian, in today’s context there is a “tsunami of primary source, on-the-spot reporting going on all over the planet. It just needs to be focused, edited and published.”

For any communications model to be considered reliable in the digital age, it needs to take into account the millions of possible news sources and the fluidity within modern messaging processes used in modern times.

Therefore, all components of the Shannon and Weaver model are — in modern reality — operating interchangeably. The model should be updated to a branching parallel system, where information spreads out in an undefined and uncontrolled way.

To find out more about communication on social media platforms, read our post on tips to consider when putting together a Social Media Campaign. 

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As the spotlight on sustainability intensifies year by year, it has become a focal point for legislators, media entities, and audiences worldwide.

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Explore over 20 beautifully crafted pages of data visualisation that illuminate audience insights sourced from social media, news outlets, and search engines. Gain valuable perspectives on how one of the defining issues of our time is being discussed and understood.

Our exploration of this crucial topic delves deep into uncovering insights that are indispensable for crafting effective strategies, both tactical and long-term:

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data-driven PR

Data-driven PR is a key driver of targeted communications strategies, but the strategy isn’t solely dependent on the large volumes of data being hosted online. The real challenge lies not in quantifying the abundance of information but in our ability to unearth actionable insights from this virtual goldmine. In this web of stakeholder engagement, the true art lies in analysing and applying the wealth of intelligence buried within.

Data lakes are essential for tech businesses but don't get bogged down by the amount of information. The goal is to sort through the maze of data, merging different sources and perspectives using media and stakeholder intelligence. These intelligence tools uses data mining and data science to analyse public, social, and editorial media content. It refers to marketing systems synthesising billions of online conversations into relevant information. When communicating with data, it’s beneficial to keep the following approaches in mind to effectively achieve your objectives.

Unlocking Data's Capabilities

Contrary to popular belief, the volume of data isn't the priority. It's the strategic application that truly matters. For organisations deeply entrenched in the tech sphere, data lakes have become foundational. Yet, let's not get caught in the vortex of sheer volume. Our purpose lies in deciphering the data labyrinth, piecing together the global and the hyperlocal, infusing social and political insights, and fusing disparate data sources. This means blending research surveys, online feedback, web searches, and in intriguing cases - insights from the elusive dark web.

Media and stakeholder intelligence allows clients to discern the intricate narratives woven by their audience.

Consider the following approaches:

  1. Segmentation Strategy: Divide data into stakeholder groups to tailor messaging and strategies effectively.
  1. Strategic Metrics: Define key metrics aligned with goals (e.g. sentiment and engagement) for actionable insights.
  1. Holistic Insights: Combine global media trends, local narratives, and social data using visualisation tools.

Deciphering Stakeholder Dynamics

To unlock the potential of stakeholder engagement in your PR and communications strategies, it’s essential to follow a multi-faceted approach. 

Start by categorising your stakeholders strategically, as this segmentation forms the foundation for creating tailored and impactful engagement strategies. Additionally, keep a close eye on social conversations and online communities, as these platforms provide valuable insights into emerging trends and sentiment. Adaptability is key when it comes to messaging; personalise your communication to address the specific needs and concerns of each stakeholder group. By aiming for authenticity, you can build stronger connections and foster trust.

To unlock stakeholder potential, apply the following:

  1. Stakeholder Map: Categorise stakeholders by power, influence, and relevance to create focused engagement strategies.
  1. Narrative Tracking: Monitor social conversations and online communities to uncover emerging trends and sentiment.
  1. Customised Engagement: Craft messages aligned with stakeholder concerns to enhance authenticity.

Embracing Stakeholder Advocacy

On the journey to authenticity, harnessing the potential of stakeholder advocacy emerges as a vital strategy. This is particularly potent in areas like environmental, social, and governance (ESG) and diversity and inclusion (DNI), where credibility isn't instantaneous but a journey. Collaborating with stakeholders who share similar objectives creates a powerful ripple effect. Their advocacy becomes a strong ally, propelling organisations toward credibility. It's a co-creation of value that resonates and reverberates. 

Harness the powers of stakeholder advocacy with the following:

  1. Advocate Identification: Find stakeholders who share values, especially in ESG or DNI areas.
  1. Partnerships: Collaborate with advocates on initiatives, content, or events for credibility.
  1. Co-Creation: Share narratives with advocates to build trust and resonate with stakeholders.

Turning Theory into Practice

Putting these principles into a tangible context, consider the hypothetical case of an Australian non-profit organisation during the pandemic. As traditional face-to-face engagement became impractical, the organisation could have identified an opportunity to leverage online platforms.

Recognising the increasing digital engagement among their target audience, the organisation explored social media groups dedicated to mental health support. These are opportunities to join conversations and foster authentic connections with individuals seeking guidance during isolation.

By embracing this new avenue, the organisation can not only maintain their engagement but also expand their reach through solutions like virtual support groups, the sharing of helpful resources, and even organised online events to address the community's pressing needs. This adaptability not only showcases their commitment but also demonstrates the power of stakeholder-centric content in an evolving landscape.

Sailing Toward Success

In PR and communications, data is crucial, and insight is valuable. Prioritise stakeholder needs with strategic data segmentation, aligned metrics, and a combination of global and local data. Understand stakeholder dynamics to engage with them effectively. Advocacy and collaboration can build credibility and trust. This discussion empowers PR professionals with tools to translate insights into action.

Ready to turn insights into impact? Enter Isentia's research solutions and media intelligence platform. Seamlessly tackle data segmentation, decode stakeholder dynamics, and embrace authenticity through advocacy. 

Unlock Your Communication Potential with Isentia Today.

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data visualisation of Bluey content

Drawing from the trajectory of Bluey, a children's TV show that has captivated audiences across the globe, we delve into the realm of reputation management, unravelling the complexities that PR and communications professionals encounter in today's dynamic landscape. 

In today's digital era, where people can freely share their opinions about a brand anytime and anywhere, maintaining a positive reputation means protecting your image and meeting the expectations of your audience, by staying aligned with the values of the communities you engage with.

Looking at four years of web search, online news coverage, and Twitter mentions, we uncover why this kids' TV show, grounded in family values, has drawn widespread curiosity. Observing how audiences engage with Bluey content across social platforms, we can see a significant pattern emerging.

Amidst the limelight, how has Bluey navigated scandals and pitfalls while holding to the public's high standards of family-friendly content? The power lies in understanding the needs, interests, and motivations of various community segments. Delving into these aspects, can help proactively sidestep the potential pitfalls encountered during brand reputation management and development, a lesson gleaned from Bluey's journey.

Strategic Balance: Bluey's PR Approach to Family Values Amidst Modern Critique

Data visualisation of reputation crises for Bluey

The program promotes education and emotional development through family-oriented activities, aligning with the brand image of family values in today’s world. However, some viewers have criticised the show for not representing a ‘“typical” modern family. As seen in the data above, some of the biggest blunders involve bullying, body shaming and whether it’s appropriate to mention sensitive issues around pregnancy, toilet talk, and men’s health concerns. 

One specific incident being Chilli's decision to pursue a career instead of being a full-time stay-at-home mum which was  deemed as mum-shaming by some. The lack of same-sex marriages represented in the show, and its soft approach to disability have also been topics of contention for the show.  

News article about Bluey representing family

Fans have raised concerns about body shaming and the topics of vasectomies, premature births, and miscarriages. Some episodes distributed to the US, UK and even Australia have required editing or complete cancellation altogether, like the episode where the family jokingly uses the term “ooga booga”. The Macquarie Dictionary defines its meaning as “A stereotypical rendering of what the speaker regards to be the language of those deemed by them to be African savages."

https://twitter.com/CashForBones/status/1647026309082628098

Gaining a profound comprehension of the audience and their values empowers brands to craft content that resonates, forming a robust bond with consumers. In an era where consumers readily scrutinise brands for authenticity, often challenging the sincerity of "purpose-driven communications”, this understanding becomes paramount. Such initiatives, without genuine action, risk being seen as mere gestures and unauthentic. 

In the face of online scrutiny and media attention, as seen with Bluey's occasional controversies, upholding the essence of an authentic family environment stands as a pivotal commitment. However, a question lingers – does Bluey accurately perceive the nuances of authenticity within the context of a contemporary 21st-century audience?

What goes into the making of brand reputation? – Acknowledging your community

Utilising our sister company Pulsar's audience intelligence platform, we can effectively identify the most active viewer groups within a conversation, like family-oriented music fans within the Bluey topic, and better understand how they integrate or fragment. This knowledge allows for timely and strategic responses to viewer discussions that may impact reputation.

It's important to recognise that Bluey's audience extends beyond just kids; parents and childfree adults are also avid viewers. However, these diverse communities hold varying values and connections that significantly shape the brand's reputation. While Bluey's focus is evidently on family and parenting, it also traverses through themes of relationships, self-image, representation, and emotional intelligence. 

The crux lies in how these distinct groups engage with Bluey's content and branding and then interpret and share their perspectives. This dynamic interaction places the reins of reputation management firmly in the hands (or paws) of the brand.

Among these communities, family-oriented fans resonate with Bluey's adventures, sparking discussions that delve into the complexities of parenting. Their connection with the authentic family portrayal is a pivotal element. 

On the other side, American LGBTQ+ furries advocate for inclusion and authenticity without gender labels. Young Australian news enthusiasts align themselves with events impacting the show, especially those related to censorship. Meanwhile, the Gen Z segment of student Netflix obsessives enthusiastically binge on the latest TV trends, underscoring the importance of staying current with zeitgeist fandoms. 

By comprehending the priorities and dialogues of these diverse groups - as is the case with Bluey - messaging and content can be crafted to uphold positive brand reputation management from the audience's vantage point.

Bluey's Intergenerational Appeal – knowing how your communities perceive you

In the realm of modern public relations, brands are under growing pressure to embrace societal issues and adopt a meaningful purpose. This expectation extends even to children's TV shows, adding a layer of viewer complexity to consider in messaging; the show's messaging has to take into account all viewer group perceptions. And this gets more complex as more groups are identified and their perceptions are categorised. 

Although family is the most significant theme for all the viewers listed on the chart above, different communities have distinct priorities. Fans of family-oriented music tend to focus on themes related to learning and education, while younger groups, LGBTQIA+ artists, student Netflix obsessives, prioritise mental health themes. By observing the ‘thickness’ or strength of the connection between audience and theme, we can see how the narrative flows into different audience types. 

This prompts a crucial consideration: Is it appropriate to introduce weighty mental health themes to young minds and influence their formative years? While this inquiry is pertinent, it's worth noting that some experts recommend that parents engage with such shows to gain valuable insights into these themes from a child's perspective. 

News article about Bluey
https://twitter.com/deadspacedog/status/1666183899813142529

On the other hand, some adults use the show to heal from their own past traumas. While younger generations feel a sense of pride and responsibility when watching it with their younger family members. 

Understanding varying perspectives presents a challenge and often carries significant weight in strategic PR decision-making, but by using research, we can observe differences and overlaps among different groups. How different communities engage and share bluey content, highlights the varying ways content can spread, and take on new meaning. 

Your reputation changes your brand but how do you respond? “I’m not taking advice from a cartoon dog” – Bandit, Bluey’s Dad (episode 24, season 2)

Although your community and stakeholders can influence your reputation, it's important to remain proactive. In today's digital age, brand values must be adaptable. For example, a scene from the "Exercise" episode was removed due to concerns from viewers, including single childless families, who felt that it could be viewed as fat-shaming and negatively impact viewers. 

Additionally, an apology was issued after brand content was released that was seen by viewers as  "mum-shaming" Chilli for not being able to spend as much time with her kids as a full-time stay-at-home mum. Viewers disagreed with the brand content's judgmental and outdated portrayal of family roles.

Bluey Tweet
Bluey Tweet response

The Heelers aren’t perfect, and they’re not pretending to be

Converting reputation into numerical data makes it clearer and easier to understand and interpret as it's based on input from the communities that shape it. The challenge for Bluey's brand reputation management now is to accurately portray family life in today's social climate and respond to feedback from everyday viewers. 

In our constantly evolving world, the standards for children's TV shows are shifting. A carefully planned reputation strategy is crucial for everyone impacted by fluctuating expectations. By analysing what your target stakeholders value and identifying how that’s projected onto your brand, we can measure what was previously unquantifiable.

Reach out to our team for advice on utilising research and monitoring solutions for their reputation management needs. 

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Keeping up with the Heelers – brand reputation management using insights 

Drawing from the trajectory of Bluey, a children’s TV show that has captivated audiences across the globe, we delve into the realm of reputation management, unravelling the complexities that PR and communications professionals encounter in today’s dynamic landscape.  In today’s digital era, where people can freely share their opinions about a brand anytime and anywhere, […]

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