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Reflective Communication Management, a Public View on Public Relations
Unformatted Document Text:  6 Early theory was focused on communication as a one-way process in which a sender does something to a receiver. When only denotative meaning is involved, transmission of information is enough. The widely cited Information Theory of Communication, developed by Shannon for the Bell Telephone Company to successfully transmit data through communication channels and made public by Shannon and Weaver (1949), is an example of this view of communication. They warned in this publication that this model does not relate to meaning, but only to transmission of data. In the same year Weaver (1949) proposed that this theory could also work as a general theory of human communication, thereby suggesting that meaning can be transmitted; and many agreed with him. Psychologists like Berlo (1960), however, stipulated that meaning is “in the head of people,” thereby focusing on the connotative perspective of meaning. Regarding communication management, this would mean that transmission of information is not enough; change of connotative meaning is the important thing (see e.g., Miller, 1989). Recent approaches to the concept of communication are much more focused on communication as a fundamental two-way process for creating and exchanging meaning, interactive and participatory at all levels (Servaes, 1999). This can be seen as a paradigmatic change from a sender/receiver orientation to an actor orientation. Again we can find two views of this two-way process. For some the fundamental key to communication is the ongoing process of creation and the revelation of inter-subjective meanings as such (see e.g., Putnam & Panacowski, 1983); for others it is a process that goes further because it creates a shared meaning, i.e., consensus, which can be seen as a new, denotative meaning (Dozier, 1992; Grunig, 1989). These four fundamentally different approaches to the study of communication fit the well-known four basic perspectives of organizational communication theory: mechanistic, psychological, interpretive- symbolic, and systems interaction (Krone et al, 1987). We will use these labels, structured by the dimensions as developed above. Figure 2. Typology of organizational communication theories Denotative meaning Mechanistic Systems interaction One way Two way Psychological Interpretive-symbolic

Authors: Van Ruler, A. A. Betteke. and Vercic, Dejan.
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Early theory was focused on communication as a one-way process in which a sender does something to a
receiver. When only denotative meaning is involved, transmission of information is enough. The widely
cited Information Theory of Communication, developed by Shannon for the Bell Telephone Company to
successfully transmit data through communication channels and made public by Shannon and Weaver
(1949), is an example of this view of communication. They warned in this publication that this model
does not relate to meaning, but only to transmission of data. In the same year Weaver (1949) proposed
that this theory could also work as a general theory of human communication, thereby suggesting that
meaning can be transmitted; and many agreed with him. Psychologists like Berlo (1960), however,
stipulated that meaning is “in the head of people,” thereby focusing on the connotative perspective of
meaning. Regarding communication management, this would mean that transmission of information is not
enough; change of connotative meaning is the important thing (see e.g., Miller, 1989).
Recent approaches to the concept of communication are much more focused on communication as a
fundamental two-way process for creating and exchanging meaning, interactive and participatory at all
levels (Servaes, 1999). This can be seen as a paradigmatic change from a sender/receiver orientation to an
actor orientation. Again we can find two views of this two-way process. For some the fundamental key to
communication is the ongoing process of creation and the revelation of inter-subjective meanings as such
(see e.g., Putnam & Panacowski, 1983); for others it is a process that goes further because it creates a
shared meaning, i.e., consensus, which can be seen as a new, denotative meaning (Dozier, 1992; Grunig,
1989).
These four fundamentally different approaches to the study of communication fit the well-known four
basic perspectives of organizational communication theory: mechanistic, psychological, interpretive-
symbolic, and systems interaction (Krone et al, 1987). We will use these labels, structured by the
dimensions as developed above.
Figure 2. Typology of organizational communication theories
Denotative meaning
Mechanistic
Systems
interaction
One way
Two way
Psychological
Interpretive-symbolic


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