How to get your small business understood

George Oliver

Apr 30


min read

Effective communication is the cornerstone of any successful organisation.

If you want to grow then you will need to engage, influence, and persuade your audience.

However, the process of communication is complex. 

There are a multitude of methods for supporting understanding.

One framework we tend to use when training clients, or lecturing at East Midlands universities, is sociologist Stuart Hall's 1973 Encoding/Decoding Model.

This framework breaks the communication process down into four key considerations for conveying your message effectively:

  • encoding
  • transmission
  • decoding
  • context.

How does this benefit you and your business?

Put simply, Hall’s model provides a valuable four-stage checklist for small business PR and comms campaigns.

It gets you, the messenger, thinking about how best to make yourself understood.

Shape your message

The first stage in the communication process is encoding.

This is the process of translating ideas, thoughts or emotions into a form that can be transmitted to another person or group.

In other words, it is the process of putting your business message together in a way that makes it understandable to your audience.

Think about messaging, narrative, grammar, design, and wording. 

If you get this wrong, people will not understand what you are trying to say.

Choose your platform

Once your message is encoded, it needs to somehow be transmitted to your audience.

There are a multitude of ways of conveying your content and it is clearly essential to select the medium used by the target recipient.

For a small business, it may be a simple email. Or a text message. Or a carefully considered post on LinkedIn. 

Alternatively, maybe you need to reach a large B2C audience through a press release or blog post? 

Or it may be you are targeting a specialist sector audience through thought leadership or a memorable speech at a trade event or industry conference?

Or perhaps it’s a simple face-to-face conversation required to influence a single decision-maker in the supply chain?

This is the transmission stage - and selection of an unsuitable platform will derail the delivery of your message.

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Reduce misunderstanding

You now have a focussed and relevant message and the perfect platform through which to send it. The next stage is decoding.

This is when your audience works to understand the message that they have received.

Often, PR gets measured in delivery outputs (press releases written, social posts published, reports provided). At 1284, we are more interested inhow comms drives actions or behaviour change in your audience.

Creating such outcomes (such as clicks to websites, follows, leads generated, delegate places filled) is where campaign ROI lies. 

However, creating value is only possible if your audience understands the message that has been received.

This enables them to feed back through completing your survey, clicking on your link, or providing your testimonial.

This Decoding stage can be verbal or non-verbal. But remember that it will be influenced by the recipient's thoughts, biases, experiences, and situation.

They need to understand what you are asking of them to be able to act upon it.

Be aware of context

The final consideration in the communication process is context.

Context refers to the individual or group's situation, social setting, cultural background, and any other environmental factors.

Understanding context is essential as it can greatly impact the interpretation of a message. This is what makes it extremely important in business campaigns. 

Think how many times you have seen organisations pushed into crisis mode after putting out comms which do not 'read the room' of their audience environment. The backlash can be immediate, public, and severe.

Internally, a message that is sent to a known client in a casual tone would be interpreted differently if it were to be sent to a cold lead.

Similarly, a message that is sent in one language could be misinterpreted if the recipient speaks a different language.

Therefore, terminology and sector language matters for building confidence through effective strategic communication.

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