Another year, another Communications Network conference. I always say that, if I had to choose one event to attend in the year, this would be it. It's the only space dedicated to communications professionals working in philanthropy. It's equal parts therapy (I am not alone), networking (boy, am I not alone!), and learning (here's what someone else tried).
This year was no exception, as the sold-out crowd gathered in the Roosevelt Hotel in the heart of New Orleans. We celebrated being together and exchanged as many ideas as we could. One of the nicest things about working in this sector is that people share their best plans and tactics. We enjoy seeing others succeed.
David Simon, the creator of one of my favorite TV shows, The Wire, talked about storytelling and how we should try to tell the stories we know well. Author and professor Junot Díaz talked about writing with a very specific audience in mind, like a group of friends.
When asked if his students at MIT and other young people suffer from a communication and attention deficit, Díaz gave a remarkably eloquent and thoughtful response: we have bombarded these kids with information and sales pitches, but now we blame them for not being focused or attentive. We have created this society for our children to live in.
I love his response, because I cringe when people criticize Twitter for being so bite-sized. It's far harder to distill a thought or a message in 140 characters or less than writing this blog post, which is a messy train of thoughts.
The main takeaway for me this year was that we should pay more attention to the craft of writing messages. After spending the better part of two years trying to bring discipline to organizational messaging, it was a timely reminder for me that the idea, the voice and the medium matter, but not as much as the message itself. If we could whisper one thing into the ear of one of our most coveted audience members, what would we say and how would we say it?
The devil is in the details. Or maybe in New Orleans...