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.
|Berlo’s SMCR Model Key Elements||Description||Analysis||Implications||Applications||Examples|
|Source (S)||The Source in Berlo’s SMCR Model represents the sender or communicator of a message. This element includes the person or entity originating the communication, their attributes, credibility, and characteristics that influence how the message is crafted and delivered.||– Analyze the communicator’s credibility and expertise in the subject matter. – Assess the communicator’s ability to establish rapport and connection with the audience. – Consider the communicator’s communication style, tone, and nonverbal cues. – Evaluate the context in which the communicator delivers the message and its impact on the audience.||– The source’s credibility and expertise significantly influence the audience’s perception and acceptance of the message. – Effective communication requires the source to adapt to the audience’s preferences and expectations. – Source characteristics such as trustworthiness, authority, and likability impact message reception. – Understanding the source’s role in communication helps tailor messages to achieve desired outcomes.||– Crafting persuasive marketing messages by selecting credible spokespeople or brand ambassadors. – Training employees to enhance their communication skills, especially in customer interactions. – Identifying and leveraging influential thought leaders and experts in content marketing. – Evaluating political or public relations strategies by considering the credibility and trustworthiness of spokespersons.||Example: A health and wellness brand selects a well-known fitness influencer as the source for its new product launch campaign. The influencer’s credibility and expertise in the fitness industry enhance the message’s effectiveness, leading to increased consumer trust and engagement.|
|Message (M)||The Message is the information, content, or idea that the source intends to convey to the audience. It encompasses the language, structure, format, and elements used to communicate effectively. Crafting a clear, relevant, and engaging message is crucial for successful communication.||– Evaluate the content of the message to ensure it aligns with the communication goals. – Analyze the language and tone used in the message and its suitability for the audience. – Consider the message structure, including the order of ideas and supporting evidence. – Assess the use of visuals, storytelling, or persuasive techniques to enhance message impact.||– The message’s clarity and relevance directly influence the audience’s comprehension and retention. – Effective messages resonate with the audience’s needs, interests, and values. – Tailoring the message to the audience’s preferences and characteristics enhances message reception. – Message structure and presentation impact engagement and persuasiveness.||– Developing compelling advertising campaigns with messages that address consumer pain points and aspirations. – Creating informative and engaging educational content for online courses or training programs. – Crafting persuasive sales pitches with clear value propositions and compelling storytelling. – Designing public awareness campaigns with emotionally resonant messages to drive social change.||Example: An environmental organization uses powerful visuals and emotional storytelling in its message about the impact of plastic pollution on marine life. The message resonates with the audience’s values and concerns, resulting in increased support and engagement in conservation efforts.|
|Channel (C)||The Channel refers to the medium or communication channel through which the message is transmitted from the source to the audience. It can include various forms such as verbal communication, written documents, digital platforms, face-to-face interactions, or multimedia presentations. Selecting the appropriate channel is crucial for effective message delivery.||– Evaluate the choice of communication channel and its suitability for the message and audience. – Consider the accessibility and convenience of the chosen channel for the target audience. – Assess the potential for feedback and interaction offered by the selected channel. – Analyze how the channel may influence the message’s reception and interpretation.||– The choice of communication channel affects message reach and accessibility. – The channel’s interactivity and feedback capabilities impact audience engagement and participation. – The channel’s characteristics may influence the message’s emotional impact and retention. – Understanding channel dynamics helps adapt communication strategies for optimal outcomes.||– Selecting the right social media platforms for targeted digital marketing campaigns based on audience demographics. – Choosing face-to-face meetings or webinars for interactive training and workshops. – Using print or digital media for mass communication of important public announcements. – Leveraging multiple communication channels to reinforce and amplify key messages in a public relations campaign.||Example: A tech company launches a new product and uses a combination of online video tutorials, social media announcements, and email newsletters to reach its diverse customer base. By utilizing multiple channels, the company ensures broad coverage and maximizes message visibility and engagement.|
|Receiver (R)||The Receiver represents the intended audience or recipients of the message. Understanding the characteristics, preferences, attitudes, and needs of the audience is essential for effective communication. The receiver’s background, culture, and psychological factors influence how they interpret and respond to the message.||– Analyze the audience’s demographics, interests, and psychographics to create audience personas. – Consider the receiver’s prior knowledge and familiarity with the subject matter. – Evaluate the receiver’s communication preferences, including language, tone, and communication style. – Assess potential barriers or biases that may affect the receiver’s reception and interpretation of the message.||– Audience characteristics play a pivotal role in message reception and interpretation. – Tailoring messages to align with the audience’s preferences and values enhances message effectiveness. – Recognizing potential barriers or misconceptions helps address them proactively. – Understanding the audience’s level of interest and engagement informs communication strategies.||– Designing marketing campaigns that resonate with specific target demographics and segments. – Customizing educational content to match the learning styles and preferences of diverse learners. – Crafting persuasive speeches or presentations that consider the audience’s cultural background and values. – Conducting audience research and surveys to gather feedback and insights for message improvement.||Example: A healthcare organization tailors its patient education materials differently for various age groups and language preferences within its patient population. By considering these receiver characteristics, the organization ensures that patients receive relevant and accessible health information, leading to improved health outcomes.|
|Analysis (AN)||Effective communication using Berlo’s SMCR Model involves continuous analysis and feedback loops. This includes assessing how the audience receives and interprets the message, identifying areas of miscommunication, and making necessary adjustments to improve future communication efforts. It also involves monitoring the source’s credibility and adapting communication strategies as needed.||– Collect and analyze feedback from the audience regarding their perception and understanding of the message. – Assess the audience’s behavioral response to the message, such as actions taken or decisions made. – Continuously evaluate the source’s credibility and trustworthiness to maintain effective communication. – Use data and insights to refine message content, channel selection, and communication strategies.||– Regular analysis of audience feedback helps identify areas of improvement in message content and delivery. – Adapting communication strategies based on audience responses enhances message effectiveness. – Maintaining and enhancing the source’s credibility ensures continued trust and influence. – Continuous analysis promotes a culture of learning and improvement in communication practices.||– Conducting post-campaign surveys or assessments to gather audience feedback and measure message impact. – Implementing A/B testing for marketing messages to determine the most effective content and format. – Using analytics tools to track online engagement and response metrics for digital marketing campaigns. – Conducting focus groups or interviews to gain qualitative insights into audience perceptions and preferences.||Analysis Example: A nonprofit organization launches a fundraising campaign and analyzes donor feedback and response rates. Based on the analysis, they identify that a specific messaging approach resonates more with their audience, leading to increased donations. They continue to adapt their messaging to align with audience preferences and maximize fundraising efforts.|
|Implications (IM)||Berlo’s SMCR Model underscores the importance of tailoring communication to meet the needs and expectations of the audience. It highlights the significance of credibility, effective message design, and channel selection. Recognizing the influence of source attributes on message reception and continuously analyzing communication effectiveness are key implications for successful communication strategies.||– Effective communication requires a deep understanding of the audience’s characteristics and preferences. – Audience-centric communication strategies lead to increased engagement and impact. – Maintaining and enhancing the source’s credibility and trustworthiness is essential for sustained influence. – Continuous analysis and adaptation are critical for improving communication practices over time.||– Implementing audience research and segmentation to tailor messages for maximum impact. – Investing in source credibility through thought leadership, expertise, and transparent communication. – Prioritizing audience feedback and insights to drive message improvements. – Building a culture of communication excellence and learning within organizations.||Implications Example: A global corporation recognizes the importance of audience-centric communication and invests in cultural sensitivity training for its international marketing teams. By understanding and respecting the diverse cultural norms and preferences of its global audience, the company ensures that its messages are well-received and culturally relevant, leading to increased brand trust and customer loyalty.|
|Applications (AP)||Berlo’s SMCR Model can be applied in various communication contexts and industries to enhance message effectiveness. It is relevant in marketing, public relations, education, healthcare, interpersonal communication, and more. Organizations and individuals can use this model to optimize their communication strategies, build rapport, and achieve desired outcomes by ensuring that messages are well-received and understood by the intended audience.||– Apply Berlo’s SMCR Model in marketing campaigns to create audience-specific messages that resonate with consumers. – Use the model in public relations to maintain and enhance the credibility of organizational spokespersons and leaders. – Incorporate audience analysis and feedback mechanisms in educational programs to improve learning outcomes. – Implement the model in healthcare settings to ensure clear and patient-centered communication between healthcare providers and patients.||– Effective communication strategies lead to higher audience engagement, brand loyalty, and desired behavioral outcomes. – Applying audience analysis and feedback loops enhances communication relevance and impact. – Berlo’s SMCR Model is adaptable to diverse communication contexts and industries. – Prioritizing audience-centric communication fosters positive relationships and trust.||– Designing and delivering targeted advertising campaigns based on audience demographics and preferences. – Conducting media training for spokespersons and executives to enhance their communication skills and credibility. – Incorporating audience surveys and feedback mechanisms in online courses to improve instructional content. – Training healthcare professionals in patient-centered communication to improve patient satisfaction and healthcare outcomes.||Application Example: A nonprofit organization uses Berlo’s SMCR Model to tailor its fundraising appeals to different donor segments. By analyzing donor preferences and adjusting messaging accordingly, the organization successfully increases donor engagement and contributions, leading to greater fundraising success.|
Understanding Berlo’s SMCR model
Berlo’s SMCR model was created by American communication theorist David Berlo in 1960. His interpretation of the communication process was incorporated into a book titled The Process of Communication which became widely referenced in academia.
The model itself – which is sometimes referred to as the sender-message-channel-receiver (SMCR) model – is the result of Berlo’s work to expand the Shannon-Weaver communication model into clear and distinct parts.
Berlo studied psychology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) and worked under Wilbur Schramm to pursue a doctorate in communications. Schramm is credited as the founder of the field of communication studies who developed his own model in 1954.
Berlo’s model and synchronization
Like most communication models, Berlo’s SMCR model posits that the sender and receiver must be synchronized for communication to be effective.
Synchronization occurs when clear and concise information is transmitted by the sender and then actively heard and interpreted by the receiver.
As a consequence, Berlo saw communication as a linear process that was successful when the skills of the receiver complemented or matched those of the sender.
Berlo’s emphasis on this important relationship differed from other transmission models of the day and as a result, the SMCR model is based on dyadic (two element) communication.
The idea that the receiver was integral to the success of communication was first proposed by Aristotle over 2,000 years previous.
However, it also should be noted that communication can be asynchronous when the receiver is unable to provide direct feedback on a message or confirm that it was understood.
Communication is often asynchronous when it occurs in television advertisements or some digital channels such as email.
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:
Communication skills enable the individual to encode and decode messages and will vary according to each person or context.
In the case of verbal communication, Berlo noted that encoding skills such as writing and speaking and decoding skills such as reading and listening were important.
Nonverbal cues such as body language, facial expression, intonation, and gestures are also used to increase communication effectiveness.
Thinking and reasoning are additional skills used to establish the purpose of communication and devise a plan to enable it.
To ensure the purpose of a message can be easily deciphered by the receiver, the sender must be an effective decoder.
What is the attitude of the sender toward themselves, the audience, or the subject of communication?
In his book, Berlo defined attitude as “some predisposition, some tendency, some desire to either approach or avoid” a certain entity.
Unsurprisingly, communication is more effective when the sender/source has a positive or confident attitude toward themselves.
The sender’s attitude toward the receiver also determines the receiver’s attitude toward them and is often based on prior interaction.
Attitude has important implications for the fidelity of communication.
In this context, fidelity means the receiver understands what the sender wants to express without any decay in meaning or authenticity.
When the attitude is negative or otherwise adversarial, communication suffers.
For example, a salesperson who is unconvinced or unenthused when pitching a product will likely find it more difficult to convince the prospect and close the deal.
Attitude is also related to the subject matter and is a key driver of an individual’s prejudice or interest in the topic at hand.
Suppose a person is in a discussion about the transformer architecture but is not acquainted with the jargon. In that case, they’ll likely be disengaged with the subject and not receive the communication in the way it was intended.
Knowledge is a communicator’s familiarity and understanding of the subject matter and the other person or entity.
Inadequate knowledge renders effective communication almost impossible – particularly when the sender knows more than the receiver about a topic.
Teachers, salespeople, and other educators commonly find themselves dealing with this imbalance and must be able to converse in such a way that the receiver understands them.
Ultimately, however, knowledge is a complex mix of the sender’s knowledge of:
- Attitude – if the sender is aware that a certain attitude may raise the ire of the receiver, they may determine it important to conceal if the communication is to be successful.
- How they produce or treat messages – the sender must also be aware of the options and possibilities available to them.
- The choices they can make about channels – for marketers, this means discovering where the ideal buyer hangs out online and developing tailored campaigns, for example.
- The subject matter – the most obvious source of knowledge in communication. The Mac user with little knowledge of computer terminology may find it difficult to relay a problem to technical support staff.
Social systems comprise the values, beliefs, laws, rules, or religions that impact the way the sender communicates.
Berlo was a firm believer that no sender/source communicates information without being influenced by some position in a social-cultural system.
One’s social class (and the groups one belongs to) also impact communication and define acceptable topics of discussion and forms of behavior.
Social systems also impact:
- The way the message is encoded or decoded.
- The purpose of the communication.
- The meaning someone attaches to words.
- The choice of receiver, and
- The channels they use to transmit messages.
This is most obvious in the difference between certain nationalities or how an employee speaks to a co-worker versus their boss.
In the former, an obvious cultural difference is the way the French use more touch in communication when compared to the British.
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:
Content is the information contained in the message from start to finish. In other words, it is the material the sender selects in their message to express the purpose of communication.
Like code, which we’ll explain below, content has both structure and elements.
If the sender wants to make three assertions, they must necessarily order or arrange them in some fashion.
By extension, the way the assertions are arranged determines the content’s structure.
How the message is passed on or delivered in terms of the decisions that influence the selection and arrangement of code and content.
For example, journalists structure their content in such a way that it interests the reader and uses terms or language they understand. Assertions are also structured in ways readers prefer to increase newspaper sales or, increasingly, online subscriptions.
Similarly, the editor, marketer, or copywriter will make decisions regarding the font size, style, type, or color. Content may also be placed on the front page or above the fold. All these decisions are treatment decisions and relate to message encoding.
How is the message sent, and in what form?
Whenever the sender encodes a message, they make a conscious or subconscious decision about code – or the language in which the message is transmitted.
It is also important for the sender to understand and apply the code’s grammar, use a broad vocabulary, and adapt the code to the particular audience or receiver.
3 – Channel (C)
Channel describes the communication medium.
During mass communication, the medium may be radio, television, or the internet. The selection of the media channel depends on:
- Advertising budget.
- Source preference.
- Value – which channels are received by the most people for the best price?
- Impact – which channels deliver superior ROI?
Used to receive and interpret messages.
Used to perceive non-verbal communication.
Some non-verbal communication is also sensed by holding or shaking hands and hugging.
For example, through perfumes, flowers, or pheromones.
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.
The role of feedback in Berlo’s SMCR model
Berlo’s SMCR model is one of the earliest such frameworks and is a little less refined as a result. In addition to not incorporating the role of noise, there is less emphasis on the role of feedback.
That is, Berlo did not explicitly account for how the sender and receiver use information to determine how messages are perceived and conveyed.
In the years since Berlo’s work was published, however, some believe that feedback was incorporated into the SMCR model in a less obvious way.
When the sender transmits information to the receiver, both parties swap places and the sender reiterates aspects of the information to confirm that it was understood.
Advantages of Berlo’s model of communication
Thus helping formulate a simple execution plan for a company’s communication strategy.
In fact, as often happens in the corporate world, many of these models are not supposed to be used to represent the real world.
Even if you take one of the most used frameworks in business, like the Sales Funnel, this is not supposed to represent how people who get to know our company becomes customers.
Instead, those are prioritization tools that help structure a simple strategy in a complex environment.
So this is the advantage of Berlo’s model of communication; it’s simple.
Disadvantages of Berlo’s model of communication
Berlo’s communication model does not consider noise’s impact on communication effectiveness.
This is a major drawback, as noise affects how a potential audience perceives the speaker’s message.
Noise can potentially reframe the message and make it perceived to the final audience in the opposite direction of what it was meant for.
And usually, noise can be of two types: external (or physical noise) and internal (or mental noise).
Understanding all the facets of noise within an environment is critical.
This understanding helps structure a proper message and understand how thorough this message needs to be delivered!
The lack of consideration for the impact of noise on communication is one of the major drawbacks of using Berlo’s communication model.
Berlo’s SMCR model Case Study: Sales Rep Pitch
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.
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.
Berlo’s SMCR model Case Study: Employees Training
Here is another example of Berlo’s SMCR model.
Suppose that a company that provides confined space certification visits a construction site to train employees on how to work safely in enclosed areas.
1 – Sender
The sender, or source, is the individual providing the confined space training. To transmit information to the audience of employees, the speaker relies on:
- Communication skills – this includes when to take pauses, emphasis on important points or procedures, and clear enunciation. The speaker also uses construction site jargon where appropriate and tells relatable stories when they observe that the audience’s attention is starting to wane.
- Attitude – the speaker enters the room with the attitude that employee safety is the number one priority on construction sites.
- Knowledge – the speaker has excellent knowledge of confined space procedures. In addition to 15 years of experience in the industry, they have undertaken training with an accredited provider and routinely attend refresher courses.
- Social systems – since the content and structure of the training program are governed by law, the speaker’s presentation is similarly structured and somewhat formal. The speaker also touches on values related to safety such as accountability, trust, and honesty.
2 – Message
The message encapsulates the content of the confined space training program.
The content is accurate, factual, and up-to-date, and the speaker is careful not to use any words that may confuse the audience or distort the message.
Other elements of the message include:
- Elements – the speaker uses hand gestures to point to the information contained on slides and maintains a confident posture. They also move around the room when speaking to avoid becoming static and potentially disinteresting.
- Treatment – since the risks of working in confined spaces can cause injury or even death, the speaker ensures they are authoritative and serious at all times when presenting the message. But they never appear too serious as to lose the attention or respect of the employees.
- Structure – the message is supported by videos, props, case studies, and live demonstrations to emphasize the importance of confined space safety.
3 – Channel
Since the training is conducted face-to-face, the speaker communicates the course content via some of the five senses:
- Hearing – the audience listens to directives or information.
- Seeing – the audience watches video case studies of workplace incidents involving confined spaces.
- Touching – under supervision, the audience is allowed to enter a confined space and use vital equipment such as a safety harness and carbon dioxide detector.
4 – Receiver
The entity responsible for interpreting the training provider’s message is the cohort of employees in the audience.
In theory, the communication skills, attitude, social systems, and knowledge of the sender and receiver should be comparable.
Let’s assume that the employees are also competent communicators who nod their heads in agreement, listen with intent, and ask questions to clarify certain points.
With the shared belief that safety should be taken seriously, they also possess the correct attitude to receive the speaker’s message in the way it is intended.
Since the speaker also worked in the construction industry before shifting careers, they share certain social and cultural values with the employees in the audience.
- 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.
Key Highlights – Berlo’s SMCR Model:
- Introduction and Foundation: Berlo’s SMCR model, created by David Berlo in 1960, expands on the Shannon-Weaver model of communication. It breaks down communication into sender-message-channel-receiver (SMCR) components.
- Model Components:
- Sender (S): The initiator of communication, transmitting the message to the receiver. Factors include communication skills, attitude, knowledge, and socio-cultural systems.
- Message (M): The content being conveyed, including content, treatment, and code.
- Channel (C): The communication medium used to transmit the message, such as hearing, seeing, touching, etc.
- Receiver (R): The recipient of the message, responsible for decoding and interpreting it. Receivers share similar factors as the sender for effective communication.
- Synchronization and Feedback: Effective communication requires synchronization between sender and receiver. Feedback, although not explicitly mentioned in Berlo’s model, is understood as a way to ensure the understanding of the message and make adjustments as needed.
- Advantages of the Model:
- Simplifies communication strategy structuring.
- Provides a clear execution plan for communication strategies.
- Useful for prioritizing communication in complex environments.
- Disadvantages of the Model:
- Doesn’t account for noise’s impact on communication effectiveness.
- Lacks explicit consideration for feedback’s role in altering sent or received messages.
- Case Study: Sales Rep Pitch:
- Illustrates the model using a sales representative pitching a new laundry detergent.
- Demonstrates how sender attributes, message content, channel selection, and receiver alignment contribute to effective communication.
- Case Study: Employees Training:
- Examines the model in the context of providing confined space training to construction site employees.
- Highlights how sender attributes, message elements, channel utilization, and receiver factors influence successful communication.
- Key Takeaways:
- Berlo’s SMCR model emphasizes the interplay of sender, message, channel, and receiver in effective communication.
- The components within each category must align or closely match between sender and receiver for successful communication.
- The model simplifies communication strategy structuring but lacks consideration of noise and feedback’s impact.
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