This month’s word on the Twelve PR desk calendar is ‘epeolatry’ – the worship of words. And it’s really struck a chord with me.
Some may know that my son is now right in the heart of his toddlerdom. At 20 months old, he’s recently gone through a neurological leap which means his communication skills have exploded. Grasping news words and signals every day to communicate with his caregivers what he wants or more particularly, what he doesn’t want!
Watching my son develop important first words, ‘cake’ pronounced ‘cak-eh’ (I’ve taught him well), has only reinforced the power of language which should never be underestimated. It is how we use language that can have far reaching effects, some even unintentional.
In reading about gendered language in Sonshine Magazine, Kirsty Ruthven draws upon an example of a study from charity Education and Employers that asked a group of over 60 children aged 5-7 to draw a picture of a firefighter, a surgeon and a fighter pilot.
61 children drew men in these roles, 5 drew women. The children were then aghast when real-life examples visited school and were all women – even asking, ‘aren’t you just dressed up in costume?’ The conclusion found that simply using gendered language can make a difference even in the youngest children, which is why ‘police officer’ is more important that ‘policeman’.
My point about this example is to show the true power of language and how it can even alter our sense of self and the world around us.
How we communicate and use words to convey our clients’ key messages to their key audiences is obviously at the heart of all public relations.
I’ve written before about how PRs are particularly good at taking technical phrases and turning them into language that can be commonly understood, such as metal’s status as a ‘permanently available material’. But we go much further than this, using the power of written word and spoken language to affect real-life behaviour change that has long lasting implications for individuals and the planet.
With Canned Food UK, we’ve recently teamed up with British Nutrition Foundation to highlight canned food’s healthy and sustainability credentials as part of Healthy Eating Week. Not only are canned foods convenient (all the prep work is done for you), but as food is cooked in the can, nutrients are locked in. They also have an incredibly long shelf life helping to dramatically reduce household food waste.
The CANtastic Recipe Competition for secondary school students challenges them to develop a new main dish that uses at least one canned ingredient but also takes inspiration from the themes from Healthy Eating Week, namely a focus on fibre, getting at least five fruit and veg a day, staying hydrated, varying protein intake, and reducing food waste.
Through this competition, students submit a written recipe where they must deliberately consider the benefits of canned food, developing a lifelong appreciation and realisation of the importance of a healthy balanced diet. Reaching students at a young age, we’re encouraging them to embrace more canned food formats, avoiding further food waste. This is just one example of how language can be used to affect behaviour change in a positive way.
I think it is fitting to describe all PRs as epeolatry, worshippers of words. We bow our heads at the altar of speech, the temple of expression and pay homage to articulation. And you’ll never find us far from a thesaurus (can you tell?). But, underlying it all, we truly understand the power of language.
If you’re looking to communicate your USPs to key clients and customers, then get in touch with us at email@example.com.