Sunday, 27 September 2009

Language and Relationships

(This is a long post, my apologies. If I'd had more time, I would've made it shorter)

At the Art of Hosting workshop I realised that relationships are infrastructure. They're the roads, the power lines and the plumbing that allow things to happen.

And they're more important now than they ever were.

In the 20th century and the industrial age, everything was about automation and efficiency. Even as we turned the corner into the Knowledge Era and the 21st century, our focus was still on automation. And automation can do us a lot of good, but it needs to be balanced with relationships. Real relationships.

Why are relationships important? Because together, we face concepts we have never come across before. We're all discovering them from different directions and background, and that affects the words we use to name these new things.

Take the phrase social media. To me, with my freelance journalist background, social media suggests that the media is not just the companies I write for, it's an opportunity for me to make my own media. For anyone to make their own media. Media to me means getting your word out there.

Joseph Jaffe doesn't like the term social media, he prefers conversational marketing. Why doesn't he like "social media"? Because he comes from an advertising background, where media is a property you buy in order to put your message on it. And to him, you can't buy social media (he's right!).

A closer example, The Pond announced New Zealand's "first social media and network creative consultants". This kicked up a stink among NZ's social media consultants, but Leighton from the Pond was quick to point out to me the "creative" part of the description - a phrase that makes sense if you're in the ad industry. They come up with creative ideas (as designers and copywriters do) specifically for social media.

The problem in both cases? Same words with different meanings. Sometimes there's no short way to explain something. You have to talk it through with people so they understand. Then you can start using jargon, but use it with care, knowing that people are prone to interpret things differently from you.


Sasha d'Entremont said...

Totally agree with what your saying here - LANGUAGE and the fact that we all interpret language differently is the reason why so many issues/debates/arguments are caused in business. That is why rationale and talking things through is so important.
Seek first to understand by listening.

Simon said...

Thanks Sasha, I think we understand each other! :)

As a follow-up thought, language can also be tremendously uniting. Last week I was at a conference where we all knew the language of social media, and even some of the memes like Kanye West's "Ima let you finish, but..."