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Scratching my bald head: Consult the dictionary of life

Scratching my bald head: Consult the dictionary of life

By Emily Luscombe, Chief Client Officer

This is the 6th part of the content series and also appeared in PRWeek.

“You’re magnificent” my cousin texts. We’re all in professional communications on this side of the family, so hyperbole comes easily. Still, it floors me. I’ve certainly never been described as magnificent – even walking down the aisle in a fairytale dress.

In what capacity have I been awarded this accolade, I wonder? Magnificent to have given cancer a good old showdown? Well, there wasn’t a lot of choice. Magnificent to have stayed positive / conversational? (But as previously said, I am in the business of communications. Talking is what I know. To have NOT talked about it – now there would have lain the challenge.)

Or magnificent to have survived at all? In which case, are we not all magnificent? Life throws curveballs at everyone at some point. And when it comes at you, you deserve all the hyperbole available. Honestly, we Brits are too reserved.

Nonetheless, magnificent is a welcome adjective. Another for the rainbow jumper.

My seven year old is examining the said jumper as I tuck him into bed one night.

“Mum, that’s really rude!”

I am puzzled. “It says kindness, darling. That’s not rude.”

“No, it says ‘Kindness, Fat Face!’

A logo under the command to be kind, which fundamentally alters its expression in the eyes of a child. Presumably missed by the thousands of adults who have worn it. It seems that Fat Face’s brand team need some junior counsel.

Apparently our brain is designed to hold the equivalent of 4.7 billion books worth of information. Yet in average conversation an adult uses the same 2,000 words, day in, day out. And by the age of 8 we’ve learnt a third of the words we will ever use. Our lives limit our own capacity to expand our language. Put yourself into an entirely new life, even just for a short time, and that lexicon will grow.

I’ve tested that. Cancer treatment has rewritten my personal dictionary; lots of medical terms I hope not to require again. But it’s not all negative. With new people and unfamiliar situations I’ve encountered lives and language I may never have happened upon.

In hospital, Yola cared for me every night. You form a bond with a nurse who is checking your observations every four hours. One evening, she mentions a son with special needs. She chooses to work shifts so she can care for him during the day, and her husband does overnight.

“But you must never see him!” I exclaim.

She’s baffled. “My son?”

“Your husband!”

She shrugs and laughs, puzzled that I should see this as a priority.

“Oh no, not really – but we are working together to care for our son, that is what matters”.

I am embarrassed at my privilege that would make a small thing like seeing my husband a primary need.

As brand advisors we must be experts at stepping into others’ shoes. That’s why a diverse agency team is so critical; with the best creative will, you cannot imagine an experience until you have lived it. That’s another one I’ve tested this year.

Yet at those graduate assessment days, we are torn. The natural reaction being to award the place to the most eloquent speaker; persuasive writer; user of creative language. They’ve come boasting A-levels, degrees…again, awarded largely on the basis of the owner’s capability to talk and write in a certain way. How wrong is that, I muse. We all know that agency’s future relies on talent that is representative of the myriad audiences our clients need to engage. So we must think around the barrier that language still plays in our evaluation of capacity to contribute.

Fail this, and we risk carrying on merrily offending, with back-to-front rainbow slogans.

Asking for help can be the best thing you’ll ever do – read Part 5 of Emily’s content series

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