Thursday, April 28, 2016

About Our L'il Communications Company: Why Communication Matters...

So there is something kind of cool happening that has already been announced on our social media but I wanted to share here, too. John and I are launching our newest collaboration, Vegan Street Media, which is modeled on our work with but with the focus on helping vegan businesses, services, product lines and non-profits develop effective, memorable and innovative written and visual communications in our increasingly crowded online and consumer landscape. Why is communication so crucial? Word nerd that I am, I decided to do some etymological digging first to delve into this question.

Communication originates from the late 14th century, coming from the
Old French comunicacion, which evolved from communicationem in Latin, a noun of action (and ain’t that the truth?) from the past participle stem of communicare meaning "to share, divide out; impart, inform; join, unite, participate in," and "to make common” from communis. My Oxford Concise [heh!] English Dictionary has six definitions of communication but the third and fourth seemed most relevant: social intercourse and, in plural, the science and practice of transmitting information especially by electronic or mechanical means. Communications is really the act of communicating, which is how we impart or share our thoughts, feelings, knowledge: how we converse, verbally and non-verbally, with the world.

Through gestures, pauses, physical expression, language, silences, images and so much more, we are communicating with the world. The late, great comedian Jack Benny spoke volumes more with awkward pauses and pained expressions than most would with pages and pages of dialogue, and by doing so, he got a bigger laugh than if he’d gone straight through with the original joke. You can be loud and boisterous with your expression or subtle and understated and be just as suffused with power and presence. Communication takes many forms and hits us in many ways: from a slow grin to a perfect eye-roll, shattering satire to a deeply felt speech, expressing a grieving mother’s rage against the senselessness of war to the exquisite tenderness and feeling in Peter Falk’s singularly evocative “as you wish." When we engage with the others in the world, make no mistake that we are always communicating. At its heart, communication is about expression the most successful communication builds connection. When we can reach and listen to other people about universal truths and unique experiences, about this latent or pronounced desire in all of us to live lives of meaning and value, we can make divisions evaporate and we help plug one another into the revitalizing charge that comes from empathy. Conversely, we can also put up more barriers to understanding, empowerment and connection with how we communicate.

With Vegan Street Media, our aim is to remove as many obstacles as possible by helping clients create a beautiful, effective and smart path of communication that is uniquely their own. Despite what some animal advocacy pundits might claim, I do not believe that there is a hard and fast science to reaching “the mainstream,” as if “the mainstream” were one unvaried, homologous mass of mouth-breathers. We are not automatons; human animals are individuals and not as predictable as some might like to think. As anyone who has been doing vegan advocacy for a while knows, there are no “insert Tab A into Slot B” procedures for creating new vegans and anyone who claims that there are is being overly simplistic. There are, though, some basic strategies we can use to create the best conditions for minimizing the divide between people and making real connection more of a feasible outcome, and, thus, making those we are communicating with more willing to consider our message. (Strategy #1? Don’t treat people like they are robots or potential notches on your vegan conversion sheet.)

As more and more people are learning about the disasters we cause with our animal consumption habits, they are increasingly either defensive or more willing to hear and see a message that runs counter to business as usual. In either case, we absolutely must step up to the plate and we must do it with our best communications – our best at uniting, sharing, speaking truthfully – to help connect the dots or foster connection. Whether it’s in the form of beautiful packaging, inspired storytelling, transformative campaigns, smart advocacy or something else, how we communicate with the public matters and it matters deeply. Quiet or grandiose, heartfelt or clever, it can take many styles and forms and still be effective if it is an honest expression of our own unique voice, vision and message. At the foundation of the seismic shift we’re trying to cultivate and move toward, much of our work boils down to communicating effectively.

Let’s do it.

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