Content Distribution from the Receiver’s Perspective

Many of us who call ourselves content creators have spent much time in classes that placed importance on David Berlo’s Communication Model. In short, the process explains how the source of the content, the message therein, the channel by which it is transmitted, and the receiver/decoder of the message all work in tandem to effectively communicate.

Source, Message & Channel

As a content marketer, it’s a necessity to dutifully study and implement the first three parts of Berlo’s model.

As the source of material, you must set yourself up as a viable sender. In creating the message, it’s imperative to ensure it is aligned with the content itself, as well as the organizational branding that comes with it.

For an effective communication loop, the channel of distribution must also be chosen carefully and vetted by empirical data (and plenty of trial and error). Any negative reflections of the source will disrupt acceptance of the message, convolute the channel and lead to undesired results.

What’s great about those first three components is they are under your control, even if it requires a bit of patience and experimentation to cohesively bring each together into a communicating juggernaut.

The Receiver

However, what content marketers can’t control is the Receiver. How they view the source, the message, and the channel can be optimized but rarely manipulated. I was reminded of this after a recent Twitter exchange brought about by the title of my article, Expand Your Audience with Multi-Level Targeting.

Twitter Exchange about use of "target"

Being writers, we toy around with words. We bend them, break them, and sometimes turn them into something new. That said, however malleable language may be, it can also be misconstrued and deconstructed by any receiver, no matter how passive.

This is why marketers must think like receivers. In fact, it may be the most important aspect of Berlo’s model. The amount of care taken to strengthen the first three components must also be given to the last. At its best, an error in receiving the message leads to minor public conflict such as in the example above; at its worst, it results in a major PR crisis.

There’s little chance of controlling how any group of receivers perceive the source or channel or how they interpret the message beyond continued goodwill practices and honest content, but it’s wise to put yourself in their place before submitting that content to the world.

Potato or Potahto? Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off.

The example above is a prime illustration of the need to put yourself in another’s place when reading and distributing content. Though the word “target” seems innocuous to me for many reasons, others see it in its more graphic connotation.

Another way of looking at it is the difference many perceive between cheap and inexpensive; some view them as interchangeable whereas others may view cheap as poor craftsmanship or service versus inexpensive, which refers to a bargain or service that is underpriced.

There’s always going to be someone to nitpick the use of a word or the presentation of an idea, but rather than shrugging it off, use that feedback. Not all interactions with an audience will be constructive, but there is invaluable information to be had that is just as useful as page views, clicked links, calls to action and likes.

The next time you wrap up a great content piece, remember before you hit the publish button to think of who will be reading it and how they may decipher the message. Even if it’s a small audience, there will be some beneficial results from thinking from the perspective of the receiver and how that may affect their translation of the content.

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