Merchanistic VS Interactional Communication


Communication is seen as the glue that binds an organisation together. It enables people working within an organisation to co-operate and by doing so, to achieve more than they would if they worked alone. It also makes it easier for people within an organisation to interact with important people and groups outside the organisation; the organisations clients, agents, legislators, and the broader public. Communication exists in and around organisations in different forms, activities and functions, including, planned communication such as management communication, public relations, advertising or personal selling, corporate culture, relationships between staff, relationships between the people within the organisation and those outside it (Angelopulo & Barker, 2013: 3).

In communication it is possible to identify two broad theoretical streams that offer insight into the communication of organisations, in the first stream communication is defined as a mechanistic phenomenon that approaches conveniently and simply identify important components and properties of communication where as the second stream;  interactional approaches give a broader and more nuanced view of communication and its role in the lives of people acting as social beings in the context of the organisation (Angelopulo & Barker, 2013:7).  Looking at these two streams; the event that is going to be discussed is the SAB Miller Quarterly Marketing Seminar. This seminar will be discussed as a phenomenon of mechanistic communication than also discussed as a phenomenon of Interactional communication, these two communications will be compared, and their benefits will be discussed looking at their significance and effects.

The SAB Miller Marketing Seminar consists of the company’s CEO the group marketing director, the managing director of Poland and the managing director of Panama, this is where they meet to discuss the following issues; the company’s financial position, business strategy, plans and objectives of management for future operations (including development plans and objectives relating to the Company’s products and services), known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other important factors that could cause the actual results, performance or achievements of the Company to be materially different from future results,  numerous assumptions regarding the Company’s present and future business strategies and the environment in which the Company will operate in the future. All references in this presentation refer to earnings before interest, tax, amortization of intangible assets (excluding software) and exceptional items. Also includes the Group’s share of associates’ and joint ventures’ EBITA on the same basis (Leibowitz, 2014:3).

In the mechanistic perspective, communication becomes a transmission process. This perspective is suitable to capture a communication episode empirically because various elements of the communication process are identified, and given a concrete substance so that they can be measured. It is rooted in information theory, the origin of which is attributed to Shannon and Weaver. The theory originally dealt with the problem of transmitting signals from an origination to a destination with a minimum of “noise”. The theory had a very narrow scope because it was not concerned with the issues such as meaning and interpretation of messages. In mechanistic view of communication, a sender transmits a message through a medium to a receiver, who may provide a feedback. A comprehensive measurement of communication process should capture all the elements of communication, including sender, receiver, message, medium, and feedback (Sindhav & Adidam, 2005:79).


The SAB Miller Marketing seminar in a mechanistic perspective the sender who is the marketing director transmits a message which is the information about the company’s financial position, business strategy, plans, and objectives of management for future operations etc, through a medium which is a projector that displays the information to the receivers who is the two managing directors of Poland and Panama and the Chief Executive officer. Therefore the model in this situation would be presented like this; (Sender) Group Marketing Director – (medium) projector-(message) Company’s financial position-(receiver) the CEO, and the managing directors of Poland and Panama. The sender assesses if the information sent was correctly received and interpreted; by monitoring feedback from the reciever.

Two-way communication occurs when there is feedback, feedback is transmission in the reverse order of the initial communication, and the receiver encodes the feedback from thought to words or symbols that can be transmitted via air through which sound travels, to the communicator who decodes the message. The message whether in the form of feedback or in the form of initiated communication it has no meaning during transmission, it only has meaning prior encoding and after the decoding (Angelopulo & Barker, 2013:9).

Therefore when the group marketing director of SAB Miller is done with his presentation the CEO and the two managing directors of Poland and Panama receive the information, they analyse (decode) it and then encode a message that they transmit verbally to the group marketing director which he decodes. The medium used for the feedback is the air through which sound travels. Examples of feedback could be questions regarding the information they have received, or their opinions on the progress or financial position of SAB Miller, concerning what the group marketing director has said.


The second stream of communication is interactive communication; it explains communication as a social phenomenon that cannot be analysed as a sum of constituent parts Angelopulo & Barker, 2013:9). Communication is seen as a purely human activity, to exist only as interaction between human beings this is the process by which meaning becomes shared and common understandings emerge in the formation of            groups and cultures, and the process through which interpersonal transaction, social position, action, status and power are created, altered and in some cases, diminished (Angelopulo & Barker, 2013:10).  This in this stream the sender is not communicating to the audience but rather communicating with the audience interaction gives the sender an opportunity to work through issues that its audience might have (Porter, 2012).

In the interpretive-symbolic perspective, communication becomes a process of interpretation of symbols. The meanings of the symbols are derived through the mutuality of experience. Hence, the subjective view of the communicator becomes important in the communication process. In mechanistic and psychological perspectives, organisational properties affect communication more than they being shaped by communication. Thus, communication is often a passive variable in studies following these perspectives. However, in interpretive-symbolic approach, communication assumes an active role        (Sindhav & Adidam, 2005:81).

At the SAB Miller Marketing Seminar interactive communication would happen after the full presentation has been presented by the Group marketing director, the CEO the managing Directors of Poland and of Panama will than engage in conversations where they ask questions, and ask for clarity where they don’t understand, than the Marketing director will respond answering the questions asked, and giving clarity where needed. This interaction will still be formal therefore the language used will stay formal as it is the culture such events, for example if the Marketing Director wants to address the CEO he will address him as; Sir.


This is where the sender (the Group Marketing director) and the Receiver (the CEO and the two Managing directors) give meaning to the message. They make decisions on the SAB Miller’s financial position and other issues discussed, they conclude what is to be changed and what will remain static in the company through this discussion the group marketing director will be able to conclude whether or not his message was interpreted the way he intended. In this stream the communication process is an alternating exchange of messages as the receivers message is a reaction to the message received, this allows the sender to adapt to the receivers response (Holmes & Handley, 1998).

When comparing these two streams it can be stated that in mechanistic communication everything can be reduced to essential parts that can be understood and measured, every aspect involved in communication is its own separate entity, the Sender, the message, the medium, and the receiver. In Interactive communication; communication is explained as a social phenomenon that cannot be analysed as a sum of separate parts. In mechanistic communication the message has no meaning; it only acquires meaning when it is being encoded and when it is being decoded. Than in Interactive communication meaning is shared and created.

Different from the mechanistic communication where communication exists between machines, interactive communication is a phenomenon that does not exist as separate from people, and therefore does not exist between machines or between man and machine but however it assists communication between people. In a mechanistic phenomenon communication is something that is rigid and exists separate from human beings, whereas interactive communication sees communication as a part of the human beings, therefore communication is not separate from the human beings.

Both the approaches are important; the mechanistic approach offers a structure for planning, timing, and integrating the components of communication, while the interactional approach provides a clear perspective of the interactive, ongoing, relational, and meaning-based nature of communication (Angelopulo & Barker, 2013:12).  In the case of the Seminar the mechanistic approach offered the Group Marketing Director a structure to plan his presentation, the length of his presentation, and the medium which was the projector. Than the interactive approach gave the Chief Executive Officer, the Managing director of Poland and the Managing director of Panama a structure to interact, ask questions and get clarity concerning the information that was shared, and apply meaning to the information.

In mechanistic communication the elements of communication are concrete, and can be measured empirically. For example, content analysis can be used to count frequency of the presentation by the Group Marketing director, and interactive communication implies the use of longitudinal studies, event analysis, or network analysis. The Group Marketing can study whether or not the seminar was successful through feedback from the CEO and the managing director of Poland and the managing director of Panama.

The interactive approach although not a holistic model gives some insight into the wholeness, transience, adaptability, and interactive nature of social phenomena. In contrast the mechanistic approach focuses on the social phenomena as a sum of autonomous parts, actions, and purposes that can be understood in isolation from all related phenomena, frozen in time which can be seen to exist meaningfully as static entities (Angelopulo & Barker, 2013:12).

Therefore in conclusion one could say that event that was discussed is the SAB Miller Quarterly Marketing Seminar. This seminar was discussed as a phenomenon of mechanistic communication than also discussed as a phenomenon of Interactional communication, these two communications have been compared, and their benefits have been discussed looking at their significance and effects.

It can be concluded that mechanistic communication is a transmission process that can be broken down into various elements, the sender, message, medium, and the receiver, whereas interactive communication is seen to be a purely human activity, that exists only as interaction between human beings. The SAB Miller Seminar consisted of both the communication approaches it can also be concluded that it would not have been successful if only one approach was used, therefore both approaches are important.


Angelopulo, G. Barker, R. (ed). 2013. Integrated Organisational Communication. Claremont: Juta & Company Ltd.

Leibowitz, G. 2014. SAB Miller Quarterly investor Seminar Series: Marketing Strategy. [Available] (Accessed 7 April 2015).

Sindhav, B. Adidam, P.T. 2005. Marketing Communication as Organizational Communication: Exploration and Synthesis of the Underlying Theoretical Perspectives.  [Available] (Accessed 7 April 2015).

Damstrom, A. 2014. Symbiosis: Rhetorical Triangle theory and the Shannon-Weaver transmission model of communication. [Available] (Accessed 7 April 2015).

Porter, J. 2012. Reaction Action Interaction transaction. [Available} (Accessed 7 April 2015).

  1. 2013. The Models of Communication. [Available] (Accessed 7 April 2015).

Holmes, M.E, Handley, H.I. 1998. Communication Models. [Available] (Accessed 7 April 2015).

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