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Four Basic Communication Strategies, Beyond the Borders of Traditional Public Relations Practice
Unformatted Document Text:  9 phenomenon is the meaning one can find in a dictionary. It is overt, being the inter-subjectively shared signification of a word. The connotative meaning refers to all personal feelings and subjective associations to a symbol. A dog is denotatively a four-legged domestic animal. But for some the word ‘dog’ contains connotations of fear while for others it contains connotations of tenderness. Many communication scientists stress that the connotative meaning is the steering factor of cognition and behaviors (see e.g., Berlo, 1960; Littlejohn 1983, 1992; Rosengren, 2000; Thayer, 1987). However, not all theories stipulate connotative perspectives of meaning. Early communication theories were focused on communication as a one-way process in which a sender does something to a receiver. However, the identity of this ‘something’ remained a matter of debate. Some theories view communication as a dissemination process, a flow of information in which a sender disseminates a message to receivers by revealing its meaning through symbols. The focus is on the flow of information (Shannon & Weaver, 1949) and this information is seen as “objective”, thereby implicitly focusing on the denotative side of meaning. A typical definition within this scope of communication is: “Communication is the transmission of information, ideas, attitudes, or emotion from one person or group to another (or others)” (see for an overview: Littlejohn, 1992; McQuail & Windahl, 1986). Other theories view communication as an attempt by a sender to produce a predefined attitudinal change in the receiver, i.e. a change in the (connotative) meaning of the situation as perceived by the latter. One well-known theory of this type is the Two-Step Flow theory, which stipulates that mass media inform certain people, who on their part influence the meanings perceived by others. The focus is on the flow of influence (Lin, 1971). It is obvious that there is no flow of influence without a flow of information, but a flow of information is not necessarily also a flow of influence, at least not in such a way that the sender can forecast how it will be interpreted by the receiver (Nillesen, 1998). However, as long as information is seen as objective, there is no need to differentiate between information and influence. The former view of one-way communication is referred to as a transmission view, while the latter is a one-way persuasion view. The one-way transmission view focuses on the transmission of (denotative) meaning, while the one-way persuasion view emphasizes the one-way synchronization of

Authors: Van Ruler, A. A. Betteke.
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phenomenon is the meaning one can find in a dictionary. It is overt, being the inter-subjectively shared
signification of a word. The connotative meaning refers to all personal feelings and subjective
associations to a symbol. A dog is denotatively a four-legged domestic animal. But for some the word
‘dog’ contains connotations of fear while for others it contains connotations of tenderness.
Many communication scientists stress that the connotative meaning is the steering factor of cognition
and behaviors (see e.g., Berlo, 1960; Littlejohn 1983, 1992; Rosengren, 2000; Thayer, 1987).
However, not all theories stipulate connotative perspectives of meaning.
Early communication theories were focused on communication as a one-way process in which a
sender does something to a receiver. However, the identity of this ‘something’ remained a matter of
debate. Some theories view communication as a dissemination process, a flow of information in which
a sender disseminates a message to receivers by revealing its meaning through symbols. The focus is
on the flow of information (Shannon & Weaver, 1949) and this information is seen as “objective”,
thereby implicitly focusing on the denotative side of meaning. A typical definition within this scope of
communication is: “Communication is the transmission of information, ideas, attitudes, or emotion
from one person or group to another (or others)” (see for an overview: Littlejohn, 1992; McQuail &
Windahl, 1986). Other theories view communication as an attempt by a sender to produce a predefined
attitudinal change in the receiver, i.e. a change in the (connotative) meaning of the situation as
perceived by the latter. One well-known theory of this type is the Two-Step Flow theory, which
stipulates that mass media inform certain people, who on their part influence the meanings perceived
by others. The focus is on the flow of influence (Lin, 1971). It is obvious that there is no flow of
influence without a flow of information, but a flow of information is not necessarily also a flow of
influence, at least not in such a way that the sender can forecast how it will be interpreted by the
receiver (Nillesen, 1998). However, as long as information is seen as objective, there is no need to
differentiate between information and influence.
The former view of one-way communication is referred to as a transmission view, while the latter is a
one-way persuasion view. The one-way transmission view focuses on the transmission of (denotative)
meaning, while the one-way persuasion view emphasizes the one-way synchronization of


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