December 29, 2012

Want to Be Heard? Creative Messaging, Whether Visual or Textual, Means Critical "Thoughtfulness"

Everything's Symbolic:

As highly evolved beings, all people employ unique symbol-making abilities to create meaning. We call it language, art, communication, tradition, or interaction. How we speak to one another refines our nature as life participants where we share and express our physical, social, spiritual, and emotional needs and coordinate our social and cultural activity. Communication is symbolism and is how we understand ourselves from within a variety of contexts, how we influence social and cultural change, how we mark our place within a number of meaningful communities.

The flamingo as symbol. The flamingo is a very social animal and represents community. Flamingos are loving and caring parents, both male and female, so they also symbolize cooperation, family, and protection. This lovely pink bird suggests femininity and grace--for what other creature will balance itself for so long on one leg?
It is the job of the content provider to adapt, respond, reflect, and accept responsibility regarding the infinite connections between symbol (whether word or image) and human reality and to understand and influence the patterns of thought that help people successfully negotiate their worlds. To do this, I believe communicators must:
Learn over and again how to think and to see, to analyze problems, to create meaningful solutions, and to work adaptively in creative communities. 
Learn the value of self-knowledge and of trusting intuition—beliefs without which quantum leaps in understanding cannot be made. 
Learn to appreciate the many sub-cultures that ingest and produce the diverse messages without which a community cannot thrive. 
Learn to be flexible and innovative—a skill without which we cannot be prepared for a future which, according to predictions, will move faster and stranger as information technology progresses.

Good Planning is Learning, on the Fly:

In my creative work, when trying to communicate a message, I have that learned it is important to appeal to a variety of learning styles, including visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. When you wish a message to “stick,” you also touch upon each of the cycles in David Kolb’s model of learning: thinking, reflecting, experiencing, and acting. Each round in the cycle imprints the message deeper. To see or hear is not enough, does not have impact. But if what we are seeing/hearing causes us to think--to make our own connections with previous experiences or understandings--the word or image is more likely to stick. It isn't enough to get your message heard or seen. It must also be absorbed and wondered about. In this way, the  receiver can reflect upon it later--that is, the "customer" will repeat and take ownership of the original thought in their own mind. Get your audience to feel something, too (experience). Then are you ensured he or she may act.

The Kolb Learning Model
In absorbing a message, a dynamic cognitive process should take place for the audience—the mind makes the leap from comprehending parts to realizing a whole. Understanding this gestalt in writing, marketing, and research is important. It is advantageous to inspire the customer or end user to seek knowledge through rigorous inquiry and to share what she finds within a supportive community.

Unfortunately, many customers don’t always feel motivated to learn what you are “teaching.” They may, in fact, close their minds in distrust. Marketing becomes about building a relationship that makes the customer feel valued. It is also about enrichment—fun. And yes, creativity. As communication professor Mitchell Land has suggested, we sometimes over-utilize our left brains. “Both forms of thinking are equally important in…most careers. Our professions typically require use of both our brainstorming and analytic sides—and the ability to shuttle back and forth from one to the other several times during the typical work day is key. And, as Beverley Gaylean puts it, “Without the right brain there would be no idea; without the left brain, the idea would not be encoded, understood, or communicated.”

I view the working moment where we create effective messaging as a space wherein answers reveal themselves. I invite my clients to join me in a process in which both of us may reach greater understanding of the art of communication and its effects upon us. Once clients embrace that co-responsibility, they understand a process that they can carry with them throughout their professional lives.

We are always learning new adaptive thinking patterns necessary to produce quality products and creatively inform and persuade others. Sometimes we are hit again with the concept that we don’t know what we know until we know it. Rediscovering “aha” moments in my work sometimes feels like nothing short of a repeated miracle. This is why I enjoy what I do. | READ MORE