Are we communicating or making noise?
6 minutes read
16th June 2020
Head of Media
Margherita is at the service of Martel’s media clients: crafting the communication plans of EC-funded projects to maximise their R&D impact and outreach, assisting innovators and researchers from technological and academic backgrounds to make their voice clear.
‘MT’, as she likes to go by, is an international marketing & communication and business development expert with 20 years’ experience defining brand strategy and assessing market performance in EMEA for FMCG, Telcos, Engineering, International Sport Events and Luxury brands. She enjoys the synchronicity of oppositions and is a marketing nomad.
As professional business communicators we operate in a continuous stream of words. We spend our days crafting the right arguments to convey our company and its products, partners, and projects. We harness #buzzwords to clarify complex messaging. We are master storytellers – beyond ‘the good, the bad and the ugly’ oversimplistic style of narration.
We break down complexity, we decodify and interpret digital transformation for our audiences to understand – and this process takes time. Time is a scarce resource, for us and for our customers, our stakeholders and our networks of interest. We strive to reduce the number of words we use; we simplify the syntax. Due to the pervasive ‘noise’ of social and mass media, we need to shout louder, clearer, and more succinctly to be heard. Argumentative logic is supplemented by images, infographics and short (very short, please) videos to get our messages across. Are we doing ourselves and our organizations a favour in the process?
“Responsible”, “sustainable”, “inclusive” these are some of the key words we like to use to present our businesses today, this is how we describe our products, how we depict our organizations. Are we responsible in the way we communicate? Are we “responsibly” choosing the words we use? Do we contemplate whether our communication is really “sustainable”, and what that could entail? Are we aware of the “transcendent” value of language and the responsibility we hold when we communicate? This is true for all of us, individually, but it becomes even more important when we wear the “marketing and communication” hat.
How to re-negotiate “responsible use of language?” Shall we step back and look at what language is and how unique and universal it is to humans? Should we reflect upon the power of language in making the world, rather than describing it? Must we reconsider the meaning, the role and the impact of the words we use?
Language is what makes us human and we all depend on it
Language is distinctively human, it is universal. Equally universal is the design of language, that is, the kinds of mental algorithms that underlie people’s ability to talk. We can express complex thoughts, convey subtle emotions and communicate about abstract concepts such as past and future. And we do this following a set of structural rules, known as grammar. Is language a cultural artefact, an instinct, an innate faculty?
The view of language that suffuses public discourse — that people assume both in the sciences and in the humanities — is that language is a cultural artefact that was invented at a certain point in history and that gets transmitted to children from parent to child, or by explicit instruction in schools.
Language is embedded in our brain: neuroscientific evidence backs up Noam Chomsky’s theory of a universal grammar, according to which all humans are born with a universal system for grammar. We are born to learn language and the ability to recognize common grammar rules are innate in humans.
The research results of Dr Angela D. Friederici, director of the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, show that we usually understand language within three steps: first, neurons check if a sentence’s form, i.e. its grammar, is correct. This happens automatically within about 200 milliseconds. After that, in the following 200 to 400 milliseconds the brain tries to encode the meaning of the words. If the structure of the sentence and the words do not fit with each other, a new analysis cycle follows. What allows us to do all this? According to Dr Friederici’s studies, it is one fibre tract in the brain, called the fasciculus arcuatus. This connection works in a similar way to a data highway on which language-relevant information is transported and it is therefore the crucial structure for processing grammar, the actual basis of language
At Martel we promote substance, not spin, through careful use of language. Combining the facts with strong graphics and a broad marketing reach, our holistic approach makes us a valued partner.
Neuroscientists are also exploring the role played by the so-called “grammar gene”, FOXP2, which has an unique sequence in humans. It has been found to have an influence on several language processing tasks such as non-word repetition, real word reading efficiency and rapid oral reading. Psychologists, neuroscientists and sociologists puzzle over the origin and functioning of human languages. Philosophers have been questioning for centuries the role and the rules of language, while investigating the meaning of words, their usage and their impact.
So, with regard to the question “Why should we care so much about language?” and “Why should we respect our linguistic-responsibility”? one answer might be that language defines us (and our organizations) and it defines our relationship with the world. That’s why at Martel we constantly refine our glossary, in an effort to provide a holistic overview at the service of our brands and of our clients.