The message, in Roman Jakobson’s Theory of Communication, is what you want to communicate to the receiving end of the conversation. The Romans used the words of Cato the Elder to describe its importance: Rem tene, verba sequentur – grasp the concept, and the words will follow.
Albert Einstein delved even deeper in the importance of being able to convey the message in multiple ways, including the simplest, when he said that “You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother”.
Awareness on what we want to communicate greatly improves the delivery of the message: this is why it’s good practice to rehearse public speeches, why we play important conversations in our mind before they occur, and even more so why we should plan in advance when we write and publish.
The Message in Marketing
Copywriters and marketers often face pressure from their clients or employers to put out “fluff” content for the sole purpose of showing activity to an audience, or occupy space to fit a pretty design: underestimating the power of the message can ultimately compromise the results of any campaign through the absence of meaningful content, so businesses beware! Marketing communication relies heavily on crafting the message according to the receiving audience; content should be crafted consistently with the desired outcome. If there is no point to your content, it shouldn’t be there in the first place.
On the other hand, when the entire focus of the communication is placed on the unabridged version of the message itself, the Poetic Function comes into play – art for art’s sake. This is true for visual arts, music, as well as performing arts – the nature of the message doesn’t change, whether the Code used to express it is a canvas, a camera, an orchestra, a pen, or the body itself.
It’s important to note that art for art’s sake is also necessarily open for interpretation; if the purpose of our communication is to achieve something, even as simple as understanding, its function is no longer poetic. The message is typically the starting point of a well thought communication, but once we know what we want to say (the Message), and who we want to communicate with (the Receiver), we have to understand how(the Code), where (Channel), what voice we want to use (the Addresser) and the surrounding elements which may influence the conversation (Context).
The ability to have rich and complex conversations is one of humanity’s unique qualities: think about what you are expressing, and you will own your message.