Business communications take the form of either internal communication or external communication. Internal communications occur between colleagues or management and staff, while external communications occur between the company and its customers, suppliers and the media. Several different models of business communication exist, based on theories presented by communications experts over the years. These include the Shannon and Weaver model, the Lasswell model Newcomb’s model, and Berlo’s model of the five senses.
Shannon and Weaver devised one of the most common models of business communication, which dates back to 1948 when Claude Elwood Shannon and Warren Weaver co-authored a book on the mathematical approach to communication. The model works on the assumption that eight key elements are necessary for communication to occur. These include the source of the message, the encoding or format of the message, the message itself and the channel by which the message is transmitted. Noise or interference may be present which can distort the message before or as it reaches the receiver, or the person for whom it is intended. The receiver then attempts the decoding of the message, and once he or she provides feedback, the loop is closed and communication has occurred.
One of the simplest models of business communication was identified by political scientist Harold Lasswell in the 1940s and is widely adopted in business. The model describes a process consisting of four components, which are the speaker, subject, listener and channel. Lasswell’s theory was that for true communication to have taken place, it must produce an effect, and this is summed up in the widely quoted sentence “Who says what in which channel to whom with what effect.” This is particularly relevant in the business environment, where instructions to staff are commonplace and where communication skills play an important role.
Newcomb’s model of communication focuses on the social purpose of communication and the manner in which it sustains relationships between people. It shows the message as being of less importance than the interaction between the sender and the receiver. One of the more common models of business communication, Newcomb’s model is seen more in the informal methods of communicating used in small businesses, rather than in the corporate-speak found in large companies.
More complex models of business communication include the theory presented by David K Berlo, which takes account of the importance of the five senses in the process. Berlo believed that the meaning of the communication was not present in the message, but in the interpretation of the message by the receiver. The interpretation is influenced by the presence of the five senses, which help the receiver to identify nuances in the meaning. This model affects business communications by emphasizing the need to be very clear about the message and to use established communication techniques, to avoid inaccurate interpretations that could lead to costly mistakes.