Once when I was a kid I asked my dad what "interest" was. Now, he could have easily answered this with "the opposite of what girls have for you, son" but chose to actually explain what it meant (in a financial sense). I remember this description because it was so straight-forward, and at the time there was no Google (I think there was a very shitty version of Altavista) and thus answering a question required you opening a book.
I remember this specifically because every book and newspaper I'd read either described it in over-complex, verbose garbage-talk or simply just assumed I knew. I mean, I was 9 years old so it was probably unrealistic for me to get it.
Back then was such a beautiful time. This was before - long before - people were publicly calling other people "consumers" or using the word "brand" - or, worse still, referring to "personal brands," because before social media you'd sound like a moron.
As time has moved on, we have actually got worse at communicating as a society thanks to actual communicators. The PR industry - the industry that allegedly connects companies to the public - has created an entirely separate obfuscative garbage-speak that only they use.
Shit, I can't even define "brand" beyond saying that it's "a thing." Derek Mead, editor of VICE's Motherboard, took a run at it.
@edzitron what is the word for when you buy a pet for your child for christmas but it suffocates in the wrapped box— Derek Mead (@derektmead) September 17, 2014
@edzitron "I really branded Christmas, Mary. I don't know if Billy is ever going to talk to me again."— Derek Mead (@derektmead) September 17, 2014
Now, where does this bad language come from? Well, I'm gonna go ahead and guess 'bad education.' And where do people learn things these days instead of school? Blogs!
Many PR blogs are a mixture of "why we're so great" ("we're storytellers!") and how to manipulate clients into thinking what you're doing is valuable. They actively look to embiggen and congratulate PR professionals for doing things that most average humans could do and write sentences like this:
"As [quoted person] explains, social media has so far largely existed at the top of the marketing funnel — potentially helping a brand’s awareness, amplification and engagement.
What the HELL does that even mean? Seriously? Okay, I can translate: It means "social media has helped people maybe know about a thing, maybe make the thing's products more popular, and...people engage with the social media?"
But wait, there's more!
Among savvier marketers, he adds, that role has extended to the middle of the funnel, going beyond engagement to create brand affinity and advocacy.
Explore this sentence. Drink it up. Yum yum yum. Delicious. How nice. A delight. Yum yum yum. "Beyond engagement to create brand affinity and advocacy" means that "someone will like a thing and maybe talk about it nicely."
Thankfully, my Twitter followers had the REAL story.
@edzitron sleeping with people— David Wyllie (@journodave) September 12, 2014
@edzitron making friends on twitter dot com— Nathan Edwards (@nedwards) September 12, 2014
@edzitron You just have to shift your paradigms. Think outside the box. GTB. Grow The Brand. The brand must grow.— Michael Parks (@Cuthpaste) September 12, 2014
@edzitron it means someone is desperate to justify their job— Martin Bryant (@MartinSFP) September 12, 2014
The problem is that the PR industry actively encourages people to say things like this. Imagine if your therapist encouraged you to "cease to engage with your girlfriend after long-term perceived difficulties and deficiences in your relationship." Imagine if your friend came over to your house and said "Dude, I'm totally engaging this beer.
This is the world of PR. This is almost every PR blog. This is how PR people talk on phone-calls with their clients, and each other. There's no shred of irony, no self-awareness. There is no part of them that says "woah there cowboy, you sound like someone took a shit in Twiki The Robot's processor." Or there is and they ignore it.