Message encoded by sender, sent to receiver who decodes and encodes reply. Reply received by sender of original message, who decodes it to understand it. Messages via face-to-face, video, telephone, speech, voicemail, social media, Twitter or emails.
The communication cycle

Key principles of business communication

Every form of communication requires interacting with another person or group of people – your audience.

It helps to imagine communication as an exchange of messages between a sender and a receiver through a medium or channel of communication. It begins a cycle of communication which is illustrated in the image above.

A message is encoded by the sender through sounds, written words, images, video, spoken language or body language, for example gestures, facial expressions and tone of voice. The message then reaches the receiver – the audience – who decodes it and may decide to respond.

This transmission of messages is not always straightforward, however. While the receiver hears or sees the message, a series of problems acting as ‘noise’, may limit their ability to understand or assimilate it. These problems include the way the message is expressed, issues with the technology used, the receiver’s inability to process the message and a lack of common ground (e.g. cultural factors such as values, beliefs and language) between sender and receiver. In some cases, when a common background isn’t shared, the people involved need to work hard to build a mutual understanding and, therefore, exchange several messages or use a range of different media.

The following key principles of business communication will help you to get a message across to your receiver. They are:

Understand your audience

It is important to understand and be aware of your audience. They are the people you talk and write to. You should tailor the content and the mode of communication to suit their features. These include their interests and beliefs, background, roles and personalities. Assuming that they will share your views and your background knowledge may lead to misunderstandings; therefore it is important to prepare thoroughly before communicating with people you have just met and who may be from a different context. This will help you to not only achieve your present goal, but also to build or enhance your business relationships.

Strive for clarity

To be effective, your message must be clear. However, what is clear to you (the sender) may not be to the receiver, due to your different backgrounds. This is why following a standard way to write a report, organise a meeting or give a presentation, for example, can facilitate communication. Following standard grammatical rules and terminology also helps to produce a message that is clear to your audience.

Understand the context of your communication

When communicating for business purposes, you need to be aware of the culture of your organisation and that of each department or external organisation with which you communicate. Being mindful of the broader multicultural context of your audience is essential too. Without this understanding, you will not be able to establish common ground and understand each other.

Have a clear purpose in mind

The main reason to communicate in a business context is to achieve a specific purpose. Whether you want to simply inform your audience or go about persuading them, make sure you know what you want them to understand and do. Think also of the relationship you have with your audience and how you want this to develop as a result of your communications. In some cases, building a good long-term relationship with a colleague or business partner may be your main objective. Whatever your purpose, if it is clear to you, you’ll have a better chance of making it clear to them.

Select the most appropriate medium

Communication can take place through a range of media such as meetings, emails, phone calls and reports. For this to be effective, you need to select media that is appropriate to your purpose and your context.

In the following steps, you will look at these principles in detail and learn how they can help you become an effective business communicator.

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This article is from the free online course:

Business Fundamentals: Effective Communication

The Open University