The message is now the medium

Shannon Weaver Model of Mathematical CommunicationJournalism school taught me many communication theories. In the late forties, Claude Shannon and Warren Weaver developed a  basic information theory, the Shannon Weaver Model of Mathematical Communication. The premise of this theory was that most human communication would be interpersonal and linear. A source would send out a message using a transmitter that would send signals to a receiver and finally this would reach a destination. This linear model emphasized noise and there was no feedback loop.

This communication theory has relevance today. We receive deafening noise from multiple communications sources. Our feedback loops are weak or nonexistent because sending more messages and creating louder noises symbolizes the way society works.

Take political messaging as an example. There are so many sources from the President directly on Twitter, White House officials, the opposition, media, propagandists and myriads of people and technical gadgets. The end result is a deafening noise. The message is plundered, distorted and twisted in multiple ways. The poor receiver gets either suspicious, confused or totally one-sided.

Shannon and Weaver predicted a lot of what was coming. There is more linear communication, so many messengers and so much noise. The receiver is thoroughly confused on what to believe and what not to believe. The feedback loop is nonexistent or inconsequential in today’s world.

The message is now the medium.


An ode to mass email

Mass email is yielding me nothing. All I get is low data capture and abysmal return rates. Here’s what I found:

  • The lure of mass email is dead. It is neither enticing nor promising.
  • My messages get lost in spam.
  • My audience finds it irrelevant.
  • I can’t fool my audience anymore. Cute, catchy subject lines have become passe’.

So, why is mass email not working? Here’s why:

  • My audience wants personalized text messages and instant communication through social networks.
  • My audience is afraid of blanketed, unpersonalized emails.
  • My audience has become desensitized to mass email and they don’t want it anymore.

What are my options?

  • Segment my audience.
  • Make messages informative, personal and relevant. If you want to invite someone to attend an alumni reception, tell them what’s meaningful to them. They can hear the Dean speak, they will learn new things, bring a prospective student or a family member.
  • Use text after getting permission.
  • Use social media instead of mass email.
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