Contingency Design Theory and Media Richness Theory in Relationship to Intended Audience Communications

Systems exist within organizational structure that provides the most effective operational format. When a system becomes faulty people have the opportunity to analyze different methods of structural changes for the system. Contingency Design Theory (CDT) is the idea that structure for a system is relative to the environment. CDT is the process of understanding the conditions that determine the most effective strategy an organization will use  (Conrad & Poole, 2005). When developing communications, a person should be aware of the organizational structure and tailor the communications to the system. For example, writing a news story for a trusted publication should follow the Journalism of Verification method. Defined as professional journalism that emphasizes vetted information, skepticism, completeness, truthfulness, and maintaining clear facts (Kovach and Rosenstiel, 2010), journalism of verification is the theoretical platform for creating accurate and truthful articles. Furthermore, a writer using Journalism of Verification will follow the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics. The verification process indicates that, “neither speed nor format excuses inaccuracy” (Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, 2014, para. 5). Writers should investigate information through multiple sources so the content is as clear as possible.

Herschel and Yermish (2008) describe media richness theory as “the more ambiguous and uncertain a task is the richer the media must be” (p. 65). When presenting limited information through a public channel, a writer needs to ensure that the content is interesting enough to overpower visual and environmental noise. People have limited time and attention to dedicate to lengthy messages so one method of communications is to focus on the supra-level design elements. As the largest-scale of visual design in an electronic medium, supra-level design provided guidance for understanding the organization structure of a system (Kostelnick and Roberts, 2011). An important aspect to remember when designing communication is to keep the content relevant to the audience. “Persuasive communication is often perceived as a threat to one’s freedom, even if the message recommendation is in one’s best interest” (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009, para. 3). Writers should develop an awareness of the structure of communications to best reach the intended audience.

Conrad, C., & Poole, M. (2005). Strategic organizational communication in a global economy (6th ed.). Belmond, CA: Wadsworth.

Cooper, P. [Bailey Cooper Photography and Video]. (2013, April 12). Top Ten Tips for a GREAT Corporate Video [Video file]. Retrieved from

Herschel, R. T., & Yermish, I. (2008). Knowledge transfer: Revisiting video. International   Journal of Knowledge Management, 4(2), 62-74. Retrieved from

Kostelnick, C., & Roberts, D. D., (2011). Designing visual language: strategies for professional communicators. (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Pearson.

Kovach, B., & Rosenstiel, T., (2010). Blur: How to Know What’s True in the Age of Information Overload.  New York: Bloomsbury.

Society of Professional Journalists. (2014, September 6). SPJ Code of Ethics.  Retrieved from

Wiley-Blackwell; narrative entertainment programming can lead to persuasive outcomes. (2009). Entertainment Newsweekly, 167. Retrieved from



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