Thursday, October 23, 2014

Mind your language

Working in marketing, and in medical research, we tend to have a whole host of buzz words, jargon and acronyms that are in daily use and easily recognisable within our organisation. In fact that's pretty much true of every organisation I've worked in, no matter what sector.

One of my colleagues mentioned the other day that her granny had received one of our fundraising letters. 'That's our cold pack' she said. To which granny was, of course, nonplussed. Now those of you in marketing will know that 'cold' means an audience with whom you have no previous recorded contact. Whilst 'pack' is just a jargon term for whatever it is that we have dropped through your letter box.

I dare not think about the number of terms I use every day that are marketing-speak, it's quite scary really. The thing is - whether it's cold, warm, cultivation or acquisition, retention or whatever term you like to use - it's people. We are talking to people.

We do not categorise ourselves as cold or warm, we think of ourselves as supporters, or new supporters, or just not at all. Why should we think of ourselves in context to an organisation we have no relationship with? Though marketers need to have some kind of 'bag' to put us in to be able to manage what they(we) do (and because we do behave in certain ways as a group), we mustn't lose sight of the individual. 'Always remember you are unique. Just like everyone else' US scientist Margaret Mead once said.

The point of this little post is not to show off my marketing lingo, or to criticise its use. I just want us to remember that, when we are talking to audiences, we are talking to people. If you want to tell your granny (or anyone for that matter) what you do for a job, don't blind her with jargon, use words that have meaning to everyone. And that counts for your outgoing messaging and external facing communications - I mean letters and emails outside your organisation of course.

So, mind your language.

Photo credit: unknown clipart found on IT sales site

Friday, October 17, 2014

A London picnic

A few months back on a trip to London, my friend and I stopped in Charing Cross station to eat our picnic. An odd picnic site perhaps, but it made sense as it was tipping with rain outside and we were due to visit a nearby theatre shortly.

We sat on a bench in the station and watched the people come and go - all sorts, some in a hurry and some not so. We enjoyed watching different scenarios play out in front of us as people met, rushed for a train, flirted or rushed by with the cares of the world on their brow.

It only takes a smile
At one point a lady walked by us as we sat and ate and she turned to look at us sitting there, eating our picnic. I smiled, she looked a nice person. She smiled back and came over to talk to us. 'Because you smiled' she said.

She turned out to be an amazing character, larger than life. After some joking and a quick resumé of her way to make millions ('I have this idea that Apple, that's what we call Steve, would have loved), we continued the conversation. She asked why we were in London (to see Lion King) and then told us why she was here.

The reason she was in London was to appeal to court to take custody of an abused child she and her partner  had looked after when the mother abandoned the girl.

A simple smile rewarded my friend and I with fifteen minutes of insight into someone else's life - someone we would never meet again, or know what happened to them and the people they cared about.  They had been through a difficult day in court, and wouldn't know the outcome for some time - three lives could change so dramatically according to what the court might decide.

Claudine (she told us her name, and her age, and that they came from Leicester) was so happy to have had a smile, she said. They were an unusual couple - different ethnicities, and a 20 year age gap. But they both loved this child. We listened to her and gave her time, which was a gift she needed that day. My enduring memory of her is an aura of joy that she wore as comfortably as her big, warm coat.

So next time you are sitting in a station, or walking through, maybe a simple smile will make someone's day. You may not get the chance to talk with that person as we did with Claudine, but your smile could just be the difference they need.

Photo by me of my hot chocolate.