The Project Log

The Seven Tenets Of Communication*

*Scott M. Cutlip, Allen H. Center, EFFECTIVE PUBLIC COMMUNICATIONS, 4th Edition, copyright 1971, pp. 260-261. Prentice-Hall, Inc. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. NOTE: Additional comments by LEGEND, INC.

1. Credibility: Communication begins in a climate of belief. This climate is built by the performance of the sender who should reflect an earnest desire to serve the receiver. The receiver will then have high regard for the competency of the sender.

Performance is the key. When Alexander Graham Bell said, "Come here, Watson," the resulting action confirmed the communication. So, the "climate of belief" is trust.

2. Context: An advertising/communications program must square with the realities of its environment. Your daily business activities must confirm, not contradict, the message.

This means, take a look at the behavior of your company, as well as the "sizzle" of the advertising. How many times have you called a company and heard the operator say or do something that made you wonder, "Why do they have this person answering the phone?" The conduct and professionalism of the company precedes and handicaps or accelerates the marketing message.

3. Content: The message must have meaning and relevance for the receiver. Content determines the audience and vice versa.

Be careful what you ask for; you might get it! Too many times, clients have insisted on messages that pleased the Board of Directors or people around the President or around the decision-makers. The only litmus test for the message is how it hits the target audience. Be strong on this point.

4. Clarity: The message must be put in simple terms. Words used must have exactly the same meaning to the sender as they do to the receiver. Complex messages must be distilled into simpler terms, and the farther a message must travel, the simpler it should be.

The primary definition of the word "simple" is: "consisting of one thing" and does not imply stupidity or lack of creativity. The fakirs of India fell asleep on a bed of nails. But no one has ever fallen asleep on a bed of one nail. The message's simplicity is achieved in penetration and in nothing else.

5. Continuity and Consistency: Communication is an unending process. It requires repetition to achieve understanding. Repetition, with variation, contributes to learning both facts and attitudes.

Long after you've completely tired of a campaign and are "sick to death" of seeing it, the general public is beginning to like it; that is, if you haven't cancelled it at great expense to your company, at great loss of response, and out of ignorance. Give things time, and reap the rewards of patience and professionalism. Listen.

6. Channels: Use established channels of communication-- channels the receiver uses and respects. Creating new channels is difficult.

This applies to "special promotions" and "special sections" by the print and broadcast media as well as start-up venture media. Too often the "special" in the special section means more to the publisher than to the reader. There are exceptions, but follow the rule and you won't be sorry. Be innovative in your statement of the message, but conservative in your choice of channels used to communicate it.

7. Capability:
Communication must take into account the capability of the audience. Communications are most effective when they require the least effort on the part of the recipient.

"Effort" can sometimes be defined as a combination of physical effort and incentive. Be sure to include a fulfillment for the reader/customer/viewer/listener. Don't assume that they are all just waiting for you. Institutional advertising is a great idea (if you're an institution). Coupons are seductive for result-oriented advertisers, but what are you asking a person to do? (a) Either tear the paper apart and then fend off insults from others who use the publication for doing it, or, (b) get up out of the easy chair, go looking for scissors, settle down again, cut out the ad, then put it somewhere where he can find it when he needs it. Good luck! Sometimes it'll work but what you'll get are coupon clippers. Grocery stores love it, but if you're not behind a deli counter, think about other avenues of response generation. There are plenty. And phone numbers are hard to remember, no matter how many times you repeat them. URLs are much easier:, how easy is that?

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