January 29, 2021
Words mean things. Choose them carefully.
As a long-time time public affairs and public relations practitioner in the United States Armed Force, we often distilled concepts down to pithy sayings for easy digestion and dissemination (and because we found it funny.) One of my favorites?
Words Mean Things
Doh, of course, words mean things. That's why we use them. But dig deeper. There are layers here.
Words Mean Things translates to if you say something, you darn well better back it up with facts. If your writing isn't meaningful, you'll get tagged as a classic bull$h!tter. And there goes your credibility.
Words Mean Things, also means if you say that you'll do something, perform a task, take on duty, call back with a quote, provide a hi-res photo, you'll do it. As my Granny used to say, don't make pie crust promises—those easily made and easily broken. If you say the words, follow through with the actions.
Words Mean Things can also refer to word choice. Word choice isn't always just a stylistic choice or a reason to show off your vocabulary.
If you describe someone as adequate, what is your perception of that person?
Word choice can have a more subtle effect on what you're saying. "We're executing the task tomorrow at noon" means something different than "with luck, we plan to accomplish the task before tomorrow afternoon." As a medical marketing agency, we often help clients when a product launches. And the pressure to hype the new product ASAP means that sometimes, the fanfare happens before the product is ready to roll off the assembly line. Or before it's received FDA approval. Uh-oh. That's embarrassing for the company and can lead to speculation about the quality of the new product. What's wrong with it? Why didn't it make it to market? (If you want help rolling out a new medical or healthcare service the right way, we can help!)
And Words Mean Things applies to more than just specifics versus vagaries. If you describe someone as adequate, what is your perception of that person? We'd suspect they were not at all adequate. Maybe "almost adequate." Damned with faint praise, as Hellenistic sophist and philosopher Favorinus said. And yes, I had to look that up.
So, when developing how your brand communicates, it's important to remember that Words Mean Things, especially in these days where everything lives in perpetuity on the internet and is easily searchable and instantly shareable. Every word you choose should reflect your authentic brand values. If issues like social justice or raising awareness of climate change is essential to your brand, don't be afraid to share that with your audience. Keep it real. Be authentic.
Ice cream company Ben & Jerry's lets you know where they stand on most social issues. Patagonia does the same. Both are brands people love (and buy from!) So, don't be intimidated to let your audience know your brand cares. Just do it with thought, care, and consideration.
And remember: Words Mean Things.