There’s something about bad grammar that, for many of us, is way too memorable.

University professors and columnists, especially, all cry “foul” when the basic rules and regs of English writing are violated. 

Even dating site Match, after asking 5,000 users if language mattered, discovered it did.  Big time.  Eighty-eight percent of women, 75 percent of men agreed that the proper syntax was far more important in a prospective date than confidence or good teeth.  [Gnaw on that one for a while.]

Depending on who responds, the blame goes to social media, where gaffes are as common as abbreviations like ‘soups awk’ [you guess].  On the educational system … but never aimed at a particular teacher.  On contemporary “it’s gotta be Millennial” qualities like laziness, carelessness, inaccuracy, even inconsiderateness.

Let’s stop here.  And agree:  It’s our responsibility as language gurus – communicators, brand experts, marketers – to frame the dispute.  After all, there is an informal English, one that we speak and message and tweet.  Punctuation might be absent, at times.  Abbreviations, dominant.  And dialects become noticeable. 

The other practice?  Emails, memos, presentations, and all the other accoutrements of corporate and marketing and brand communications, from annual reports to Web sites.  There, though informal lingo might be present, the rest of the grammatical snafus need to be gone.

Then there’s Oklahoma’s Ado Annie …


Much of today’s pop non-fiction is obsessed with conversations.  That is, the lack of them.   The face-to-face type.

Blame quickly shifts to the Millennials who grew up with technology in hand.  And then extends to everyone and anyone who works for a living, over-relying on social media and smartphones, on apps and e-widgets.

Yet it ain’t all the fault of IT.  Nor can we point fingers to specific cohorts, because, truth! everyone indulges.  It’s just easier to communicate with things other than our mouths, our voices, our hearts.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, a Yale professor of computer science, half tongue in cheek and half not, proposes a Talknet for seniors.  That is, a 365/24/7 system that allows elderfolks the ability to tune into any dialogue going on around the world.  His plan is simple:  Five choices on screen, each with no more than ten participants.  Start your own conversation.  Or wait for others to leave.  Or, quite simply, listen in with computer speakers.

It’s an imaginary concept that could work, quite well, in corporate settings.  And not just for seniors.  It would train employees in the art and craft of talking.  It might be a good substitute for some learning and development courses (with apologies to those professionals).  And it could replace the communities of practice, the Yammers of the world, and corporate jam sessions (among others), helping workers realize that there’s much to be gained in connecting and relating live.

The fault, dear Brutus …


It’s inevitable.  In fact, it’s already started:  Comparisons between the 2008 (forget 2012) and this/next year’s Presidential campaigns.

Most probably, there won’t be as many drastic thens/nows as there will be evolutions in tactics.  For sure, we’ll see:

  • Extraordinary use of social media and analytics
  • Foot soldiers, a/k/a message carriers and
  • Chum (read:  branded merchandise for sale), among other activities

Last time around, politicians did well in driving funds and votes through Facebook, podcasts, Web sites, and YouTube.  Volunteer armies continued to transmit the message, whether asking for dollars or votes.  And the spoils of war, er, tchtchokes, helped get the candidate in front of audiences hitherto unreached (remember the famous “Hope” poster from Shepard Fairey).

What’s to keep us in corporate America from using similar approaches?  [Though we just might not want to charge for swag emblazoned with the corporate name and logo.]   Given a robust business case and an unrelenting focus on one simple and compelling message, it’s entirely possible that:

  • Jams, other internal community gatherings, and Yammer-type sharing are embedded with data-pulling (and pushing) capabilities
  • Our Ambassadors are supported by professional-level L&D training, house party-like events, and continuous organizing tips and
  • Visual reminders are reinforced by 3D branded tools, ranging from holograms to the latest version of Viewmasters.

We’ve seen this kind of political movement succeed inside and out of companies.  There’s always a ‘but.’  Find out why in  our next (and yes, final) Presidential Parallel.


Maybe Facebook got it right.

Social media ‘likes,’ it turns out, are a pretty good predictor of who gets hired, who gets help at work, who’s trusted.  According to University of Massachusetts’ researchers, no matter how strong the business case, if auditors presented well-organized arguments, managers complied.  On networks like LinkedIn, recruiters seek individuals who seem to have a high level of trust – and authenticity.

What does this have to do with us communicators and designers and marketers?  Likeability boils down to a few personal attributes that, not surprisingly, are common to compelling communications:  Empathy, warmth, eye contact, and confidence.   Let’s see how they’re translated:

  • Empathy.  Think listening.  Does your brand or your company have an ear to the ground – and actively project what others are asking and needing?
  • Warmth.  It’s all about fake – and its opposite, credibility.  Genuine care and concern are easy to spot; the opposite, just as simple to pinpoint.  Take a good look at how you’re saying and doing; it might be a true indicator of external perception.
  • Eye contact.  Personal appeals work, if they’re sincere.  So even if your medium is print, it’s not hard to infuse the pictures with a sense of individuality and ‘I’m talking straight to you.’
  • Confidence.  Selling in an idea or initiative relies on the power of your belief, the faith you show in presentations and conversations and other media.  Infuse it with curiosity and a true concern about your audience – and bingo!  A sale.

Experts say likability can be taught, unlike charisma.  How do you (and your communications) measure up?