What is Berlo’s SMCR model? Berlo’s SMCR Model In A Nutshell

Berlo’s SMCR model was created by American communication theorist David Berlo in 1960, who expanded the Shannon-Weaver model of communication into clear and distinct parts. Berlo’s SMCR model is a one-way or linear communication framework based on the Shannon-Weaver communication model.

Understanding Berlo’s SMCR model

Like most communication models, Berlo’s SMCR model argues the sender and receiver must be synchronized for communication to be effective. Synchronization occurs when a clear and concise message is transmitted by the sender which is then actively heard and interpreted by the receiver. In this way, Berlo saw communication as a linear process made more successful when the skills of the receiver complemented or matched those of the sender.

However, Berlo’s model is one of the earliest such frameworks and is a little less refined as a result. For one, the model does not consider the impact of noise on communication effectiveness. Nor does it consider feedback, which means the sender and receiver do not receive important information regarding how their messages are perceived and conveyed.

The four components of Berlo’s SMCR model

Berlo’s SMCR model is so named because SMCR is an acronym of four key components. Berlo believed each component and a collection of associated factors was essential to any communication process.

Let’s take a look at them below.

1 – Sender (S)

The sender is the person who transmits the message and initiates the communication process. Here, Berlo identified five factors related to the sender:

  1. Communication skills – or the ability to utilize speaking, writing, listening, reading. Nonverbal cues such as body language, facial expression, intonation, and gestures are also used to increase communication effectiveness.
  2. Attitude – what is the attitude of the sender toward themselves, the audience, or the subject? Attitude influences the meaning and effect of the message sent.
  3. Knowledge – or the level of subject familiarity the sender possesses when sending the message.
  4. Social systems – or any values, beliefs, laws, rules, or religions that impact the way the sender communicates.
  5. Culture – a difference in cultural background between the sender and receiver can influence the way messages are interpreted.

2 – Message (M)

The message is the information sent from the sender to the receiver and may take the form of audio, text, video, or voice.

The key factors affecting the message include:

  1. Content – or the information contained in the message from start to finish.
  2. Elements – any non-verbal factor that accompanies the content, such as gestures and body language.
  3. Treatment – how the message is passed on or delivered.
  4. Structure – the way the message has been structured to increase its effectiveness.
  5. Code – how is the message sent, and in what form?

3 – Channel (C)

Channel describes the communication medium. During mass communication, the medium may be a radio, television, or the internet. In a general conversation between two people, the five senses play an important role:

  1. Hearing – used to receive and interpret messages.
  2. Seeing – used to perceive non-verbal communication.
  3. Touching – some non-verbal communication is also sensed by holding or shaking hands and hugging.
  4. Smelling – for example, through perfumes, flowers, or pheromones. 
  5. Tasting – when an individual tastes food, they then communicate positive or negative feelings via facial expressions.

4 – Receiver (R)

The receiver is the person who has to interpret the sender’s message and then respond accordingly in a process called decoding. 

The receiver is characterized by the same five factors as the sender. In theory, these factors should match or at least closely align for the message to be interpreted successfully.

Berlo’s SMCR model example

Now, let’s describe Berlo’s SMCR model using the hypothetic example of a presentation where a company sales rep is pitching a new laundry detergent.

1 – Sender

The initiator of the communication process in this example is the sales rep. Like most sales reps, the individual is a skilled, confident, and persuasive public speaker. Body language, facial expressions, voice intonation, and gesturing are used to convey the important points of the pitch. For example, the rep may raise their voice to emphasize that the detergent is made from 100% environmentally friendly materials.

It is clear as the rep presents that they know the product back-to-front. In other words, they communicate the main features and benefits of the detergent without referring to notes or tripping over their words. 

The rep is also cognizant of the contextual social systems, cultures, rules, and laws that influence their communication and the reaction of the audience. For example, they do not make claims about the product that cannot be verified by hard data or approved studies.

2 – Message

The message is a PowerPoint presentation that takes the form of a product pitch. It includes an attractive cover slide, value proposition, compelling brand story, solutions that are backed by proof, and a clear call to action.

Again, the rep uses verbal and non-verbal communication to complement the written message. The message is also conveyed with a mockup of the physical product as it may appear once on sale in a retail outlet.

3 – Channel

The primary channel in this example is the projection of a computer screen on the wall. The audience, who are key decision-makers at a supermarket chain, primarily use the hearing and seeing senses to receive the message.

At the end of the presentation, however, the sales rep invites the audience to a tactile experience of the detergent. They touch the packaging to assess its weight distribution and ergonomics. The detergent also contains an added fabric softener, so the audience is able to feel clothes laundered by the detergent compared to another brand. Some individuals also smell the clothes to determine whether the fragrance is something consumers will ultimately find desirable.

4 – Receiver

In Berlo’s model and indeed all other communication models, the receiver is the person or people who are sent the message.

In this case, the receivers are the supermarket chain employees whose primary role is to source new inventory for stores. If the sales presentation has its intended effect, the employees can decode the message and take a desirable action.

As we noted in previous sections, the receiver and sender must share some commonalities in communication skills, attitude, knowledge, social systems, and culture. The supermarket employees present are cleaning product experts who understand industry jargon and can quickly assess the potential product-market fit.

Since both communicators are on the same page, the sender’s persuasive message is heard and understood by the supermarket that decides to try the laundry detergent in its stores.

Key takeaways:

  • Berlo’s SMCR model is a one-way or linear communication framework based on the Shannon-Weaver communication model.
  • Berlo’s SMCR model is an early communication model with a few limitations. It does not consider the impact of noise on the communication process. What’s more, it makes no allowance for feedback and its ability to alter the sent or received message.
  • Berlo’s SMCR model is based on four components: sender, message, channel, and receiver. Each component – and its various sub-factors – must match or closely align between the sender and receiver for effective communication.

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