Communication Situations

Build your Communication with respect to relation and situation

Any communication effort should be considered, analysed and planned. Not neccessarily in lengthy reports, but at least by contemplating the factors that surround your specific situation, intent and target group. There are many ways to ensure such proper preparation but many experienced communicators go through steps like these to increase the chance of good results.


  The Communication Pentagram


  The Communication Situation

1. The Communication Pentagram
When engaging in communication you are faced with a range of choices and considerations. Communicating effectively is rarely easy and straightforward, but you can increase your chances of success by considering how to deal with the interaction between the different points of the communication pentagram.

The pentagram is not merely a graphic way of showing you the Sender, Audience, Topic, Circumstances, and Language in regards to a specific Intention – the pentagram also signifies, that the individual elements are related and co-dependent, so change in any dimension should cause you to consider how this effects all the other elements.



The sender – you or your organization – are an entity. This entity perhaps has a high level of trustworthiness, but some users and target groups might be sceptic in regards to your role as sender. So consider how you as a sender influence the other points of the pentagram;

  • Are the Audience used to your communication?
  • Are they used to a certain language from you?
  • Is this a Topic that the Audience expects you to communicate about?

Considering your strong and weak points as to the other parts of the pentagram will increase the chances of you finding the right Language to fit the Topic as to this Audience in this Circumstance.
If you have a strong relation with your Audience you will perhaps need to use less to establish your credibility – if not, perhaps you will need to tell a bit more about who you are and why your message is relevant to them.

  • What is your Audience? What are their challenges and interest – and can you use them to good effect?
  • Are they interested in this Topic? If not – what does that might motivate them towards this?
  • Do they have other priorities? Could these match your message?
  • Are they health literate (think also about Language)? (see below)
  • Are there better/right Circumstances for you to communicate with them? Could you change to do this?
  • Do they have a stronger relation with another Sender? Can you perhaps cooperate?

Look here for more information about specific stakeholders within self care.

  • What is the appropriate Language as to the Topic and these Circumstances?
  • Would the intended Audience (or others) take offense as to certain types of Language being used?
  • Would the Audience appreciate or feel distanced if you used advanced terminology as to the symptoms or measures?
  • How should/could Language be adapted as to the health literacy, age, gender, or perhaps culture of the Audience?

The capacity and openness of the Audience to appreciate and consider your message is critical for the Intention to actually work. See more about health literacy here.

  • Are the Circumstances fitting for effective communication or a considered communication tool/media?
  • Would the Audience have time to read a poster/leaflet/sign?
  • Would they be distraught by other activities or worries?

Trying to either find the best set of Circumstances to attempt communication or to at least find the right tool/media and Language to fit the best case scenario of Circumstances is one of the best ways to avoid wasting time and efforts towards communicating in impossible Circumstances – see below as to more about The Communication Situation.

  • Is this a Topic that the Audience is familiar with?
  • Would the Audience need further explanation?
  • Is this a Topic that they have experienced communication about in these Circumstances before (and how)?
  • What kind of Language would usually be associated with this Topic?
  • And is this a Topic that would normally be associated with you as a Sender – and if not, then who would be?

Considering all aspects of the Topic – including also any previous attempts of communication as to the Topic – will help the present development of good communication. Research as to previous communication on the Topic and the results of these might help you gather more knowledge and produce good communication tools


What are you aiming to achieve? Better Awareness in the Audience? Introduction of new ways to communicate as to this Topic? 10% increase in the use of X?

Being specific and aware about the Intention of your communication is key to combine the considerations of alle of the points of the pentagram in a good manner.

Prepare your communication

Especially if you’re new to communication a good exercise might be to write two or three observations as to each or these points to help you develop your communication and communication tools in the right direction and achieving the Intention. Even for trained communicators good preparation and careful considerations of these points makes for better results in the end.


2. The communication situation

Off course you can never fully control all factors in a communication or a specific situation. Indeed there will be many times where control is very limited and the best you can do is just to try to interact with your Audience in a productive manner.

Nevertheless the circumstances of a specific communication situation are very much worth considering.

    • Would this specific situation be one to one or one to many – or indeed a situation with communication from competing sources?
    • How would any communication tool match the context, the surrounding circumstances (competing communication efforts, political or personal circumstances, time to read/absorb etc)?
    • What are the language constraints, and similar challenges to enhance the chances of achieving the intended understanding and indeed effect in the audience?
  • As mentioned you would rarely find yourself in a situation where you could control the communication situation. But by analyzing the possible, the likely and the probable elements of each communication situation involves looking at the different set of people, place, message, communication tool, time and surrounding activities that plays a role in the transfer of information, experiences or tries to create persuasion or action through communicative interaction.

    Some of these can be called unique (where only a certain, specific tool and approach will work can do the job – and then wouldn’t work towards other) – some situations are more generic, especially if the Audience are positive and attentive to your message to begin with.

    All should be considered with care as the different choices and interactions play a crucial part in the chances for a good outcome of the communication efforts.

    What should I consider?

    So looking at the different possibilities for communicating with the target audience one should try to imagine the actual situation.

    • What is the likely state of mind of the target group?
    • If communication is in written form will they have time to read? For how long? Perhaps a poster is all they have time for?
    • Will this be able to contain enough information? Are there then other choices of time and place with a better allowance with respect ?
  • E.g. handing out information about self care at restaurants might give the audience enough time – but since they are more likely to be thinking about their guests/food this might not be very effective. Producing communication tools to be used at the pharmacy might in contrast give a better mindset for the audience – but are you then preaching for the choir? Look also at the Persuasion-Action Matrix to consider this.

    At this stage in your planning you might also want to consider how well you’ve adapted your communication to the level of health literacy in your audience.

    Indeed there will quite often be conflicting issues. Perfect communication situations simply do not exist in abundance – and so you shouldn’t be discouraged by these challenges, but rather try to adapt.