Public Relations and Advertising orbit around and lock in on the words and images that resonate. The best of us are able to craft phrases that become part of the lexicon that become our life themes.
We remember the best and the worst of it.
“Have it your way” and “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing” reminds those of us – of a certain age – of our childhood. In the good old days, teams of smart creatives witnessed focus groups. They used a nice combo of their own instincts and what makes sense to “the people” to ensure the prowess of their brands.
We still hold focus groups.
I have recently spoken at several national meetings about “getting the message” out there. The Internet has ensured that we derive real-time feedback and quickly ascertain a public response – or its lack thereof. I searched deeply for the best sources on message development.
And message development is all about words.
Some think David Byrne is a prophet. The guy created the cult-like band called Talking Heads, is a photographer and a fine artist. He has reinvented himself openly across time. He espouses (early) what we know to be true…
“Same as it ever was.”
Whether it is wealth, knowledge, power, a happy marriage, to corner the market, to love, to lose, to know or to understand – while the tools to get to “the why” and “the when” have expedited knowledge – we are still the same people who learn and suffer in the same ways that we always have.
This is true for both the darkest and the lightest of words used in life.
I was recently part of a debate regarding the word anti-semitism or antisemitism. The parties (in the debate) were a combination of historians, business people and leaders in issues of social justice. The debate became highly personal and symbolic. To hyphen or not to hyphen – and the implications of either. In fact, the debate became quite charged – and not in a good way.
Now, I get the need to get this sort of thing correct. But I also know that vitriolic arguments about hyphens quickly remove the real point.
And suck energy.
And create anger.
And divide folks with good intentions.
While some of us expend our experience and energy on selecting the most impactful words and images, it is really what happens in the margins that brings letters and pictures to life.
The experience that moves the consumer, voter, constituent, lover and friend is the one that is felt.
A word or picture out of context – and on its own – is just that:
Talking Heads made great music in symphony with one another – on a stage – with fans. While Byrne – like Sting – was able to leave the band and create his own stage, he would likely argue that this was never done as an only-solo act.
Antisemitism takes root when folks live and behave like antisemites. It – like other negative societal attributes – has to take root and grown inside of a human who says it, acts it and lives it.
As a student of psychology and communications – and now way too many decades on the planet – like David Byrne – I know one thing for sure:
We executives locate the insight, the word, the picture – and we launch it into the world.
What happens and who carries it gives it life.
This was true from the first drawings on a cave wall to the 140 Twitter characters that told us a man named Bin Laden was dead.
Fewer folks saw that cave drawing.
But – thousands of years later – the drawings are still there for all to view.
“And you may ask yourself – Well…how did I get here?”
“Same as it ever was.”