Creating context

Message + Context = Meaning

The communication effect (= knowledge, attitude, behavior) is not only achieved by coming up with a good message, the context is also important. Read more below on how to create context.

Examples of Context

  • Atmosphere, mood
  • Brand
  • Culture
  • Framing & Priming
  • Image
  • Mission, Vision, Core Values
  • Motivations
  • Search History and Visiting History
  • Sense making
  • Stories
  • Theoretical Framework & Substantiation
  • Values

Read next:

  • What is Context?
  • Some examples of Context and how to create them
    • Image
    • Stories
    • Theoretical framework
    • Atmosphere, mood
    • Values
    • Evidence

What is Context?

  • The context in which content is perceived influences what the receiver finds important and what he pays attention to.
  • Content can have a different meaning for the sender than for the receiver, because they both have a different context: Realm or Understanding.

A person builds up context during his life: through what he experiences, which messages he receives, what he learns, etc. Sending a message can therefore directly yield meaning: knowledge and attitude. But the recipient also learns something from receiving the message. Usually he learns that his belief is correct, but sometimes his belief is adjusted. Receiving a message therefore also builds the context in which a subsequent message is interpreted.

Positive messages about a brand, for example, ensure that new messages from this brand are more likely to be believed and accepted.

Some examples of Context and how to create them


The image of the sender influences how his message is interpreted, and whether any attention will be paid to that message.

For example, if you look in your email inbox, you will delete unread mail from unimportant and suspicious senders, but open those from nice friends or important senders right away.

If a sender has sent uninteresting e-mails a few times, you will no longer find this sender interesting and you will no longer read his e-mail. Or if your favorite shoe brand releases ugly shoes a few times, you will no longer find this brand as likable or cool; next time you will no longer be interested in his shoes.

The content of a sender can therefore have a direct effect on the behavior of the receiver, but it can also have an indirect effect, namely adjusting the image. The indirect effect changes the context in which the next context is placed.


People tell each other stories and they make stories in their own heads. The latter are beliefs that reinforce what people believe. People usually reject a message that doesn’t fit the story they believe. For many people the truth is therefore not something that has been objectively, scientifically proven, but the truth is what they want to believe.

So research what the target group thinks it knows about a brand or topic. For example, ask:

  • What do you think about when you think about this brand / topic?
  • What do you think of this brand / topic?
  • Who do you think of when you think about this brand / subject?
  • Who influences your opinion on this brand / topic?
  • What do you have to do with this brand / subject?

In science one looks for theory that explains a phenomenon in a rational way. A story is more focused on emotion. You could see a story as an emotional alternative to a rational theory.

Create a story through Storytelling. Or connect with the stories that are already alive among the target group.

Theoretical framework

Theoretical Framework gives meaning to research data; puts results in context.

The Theoretical Framework is the “glasses” (the framework) through which you look at the problem. Do you look at it as a communication expert or as a marketer, online expert, IT specialist, etc.?

For example: If you want to write a communication plan, you need to know what the theory says should go into such a plan. In many communication plans Lasswell’s verbal communication model can be recognized.

In order to write an effective communication plan, you must first properly map out the problem situation; you do that with Research for Effective Business Communication. So you are going to take a good look at the situation. Then look through communication glasses.

The information from your research only becomes meaningful if you place it in a context, in other words: if you place the information in a framework, a Theoretical Framework.

Information + Context = Meaning

Atmosphere, mood

The atmosphere, or mood, in which the recipient receives the message affects how he interprets the message. Consider, for example:

  • Where and at what time does he receive the message?
  • Is he open to your message?

Create an atmosphere or mood with the target group so that the recipient is open to the message confronted with it. So, determine the moment, the place, the decoration, music, smell and of course the design of your means of communication.


The values that the recipient finds important influence his attitude towards the message and towards the sender. Values are acquired in the first years of your life and are strongly determined by culture. For example, think of:

  • Medium-end chain (research this by using Laddering).
  • Culture, subculture, corporate culture, organizational culture.

Connect with the values of the target group. You cannot change values, but you can connect to existing values with your message or Desired Image. (Make sure that the message or image continues to fit the values and identity of the brand, otherwise the brand will lose its persuasiveness.)


People don’t just believe a message. The message usually contains a promise, a proposition. Consider, for example: “Washes whiter”, “Makes you a better person”, etc. The recipients are usually not immediately convinced. Or they lose their conviction if they don’t see any evidence. So look for:

  • Characteristics of the product, brand or subject that you can provide as proof of your promise (USP). The message then becomes, for example: “Washes whiter with new formula”, “Makes you a better person, because you help someone with it”.
  • A brand or person who can serve as a credible sender of the promise.

Create a message by applying the MET-formula: Message, Evidence, Tone. The message then contains the feature that serves as USP, an other feature serves as support or evidence.

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