I went to a lot of conferences last year, but this keynote presentation by United Nations News and Media Director Stephane Dujarric stood out. I’d been wondering if lessons from a sprawling intergovernmental agency would apply to my world, which is essentially B2B. Well, they do: that’s why it’s my highlight n°2 from 2011.
Stephane Dujarric is a former ABC reporter and currently the director of news and media for one of the most sprawling seas of bureaucratic acronyms you could imagine: the United Nations.
He was at the IABC Europe conference in Turin last April to deliver a keynote talk entitled ‘Bartering for Communications’. It was based on a single premise: that working through partnerships is the only way to have real impact when you have limited resources but something to ‘trade’ (in this case, the organization’s global reach and legitimacy).
While I was curious from a purely intellectual standpoint about what would he would say, I wasn’t sure how much of it would apply to my mostly B2B world. After all, the UN has communication challenges that most of us don’t. (Few of us have as a mandate to promote world peace and security, for example.)
It’s only words30 nov
You think that I don’t even mean
A single word I say
It’s only words, and words are all I have
To take your heart away.
The Bee Gees, 1966
I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of words ever since I came back from the Content Strategy Forum in early September. (I’ve also had this song as a soundtrack I can’t seem to get rid of, thanks for Forum speaker Eric Reiss.) But in fact, that’s all I’ve been doing: thinking about it, mulling it through.
Then, this weekend, I came across a post in my twitter feed: On writing simply and saving the world economy (sub-head: Is corporate gobbledygook the cause of the economic apocalypse?). Two hours later, on public transport, I came across an older post by @krismausser on the Business value of words, where gobbledygook is once more singled out, maybe not for the economic crisis, but for undermining our ability to communicate with our customers.
It struck me that this was a recurring theme at conferences and seminars I’ve attended recently – regardless of the subject. It started with the CS Forum, where raconteur extraordinaire Gerry McGovern made his case: it’s not content, not even sentences, but words—individual, single words– that make or break our websites or our apps.
I spent the first week of April in beautiful, sunny Italy attending two conferences: the first, a W3C workshop in Pisa on Content on the Multilingual Web; and the second, Eurocomm, organized in Turin by the Europe and Middle East chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC).
While the two conferences attracted different audiences and addressed different issues, some of the same themes cropped up in several presentations at both.