Something I’ve been reading about recently is language; how we use, what is means, what it does to our brains.
One concept which took a while to grasp was ‘the message is the meaning’, not the content of the message, the medium. I found this hard after a lifetime of concentrating on substance over style, content over form, and a mistrust of highly polished surfaces.
Having studied this in more detail I began to relate this to my own experience of communication; books, phones, social media. I picked up on an idea I read about some months ago that different types of communication had their own ‘texture’. This made sense to me. Paper has always had a texture, a quality, but even electronic messages mean something when we receive them – something beyond the content, before we have even read the content. For example, SMS – a text message – was always received as a present. For myself, and I believe many others, there was a point in time when the beep of an incoming text message signified a very personal message, almost always bearing good news, something interesting and very specific to you. An invitation to open it. It cost money to send it. This gave text messages a special importance, a texture.
Emails had an early naive quality but quickly became very functional carriers of information. Email is convenient, practical, utilitarian. It can be personal but is often one-to-many and the bearer of non-descript news, work. How often do you get an email that gives you the same feeling that the beep of a text message gave you once? Emails have a texture, a feel (or lack of one) in keeping with this.
So back to the point, the message is the meaning.
Chatting to Jon Pittham (@ClientsFirstUK) recently it struck me how passionate he was about communication, and how much clients appreciated it. It made me think. In many respects we are stifled by insecurity around what to say to clients and in an attempt to perfect the impossible, communicate little or nothing at all. Much of the industry wide research suggests clients really value face to face contact. I think you could extend this to different and varied forms of contact. There is little evidence to show that the content itself is essential. The message is the meaning. Not the content. The message.
If you’re using social media, that very fact is communicating more than the content of your blogs and tweets. For example, the semiotic code of twitter is enormously inclusive, it can hold incredibly divergent opinions within one community in a way in which many other forms cannot. Again, the message is the meaning. “I’m part of this. I’m engaging. I’m like you, even if my opinions aren’t.”
Instead of worrying about what to communicate with clients, maybe more time should be spent on how to communicate with clients, in what format and frequency. The texture of the medium used. How does it feel to receive it? Maybe then we’d do it more often.
My mum appreciates a phone call. Doesn’t matter what it’s for. Is everyone else so different?