Sorry for neglecting my poetic duties yesterday, but I have an excuse. I spent part of this week at a thing in Sydney, learning about corporate communication. Coming mostly from university and public sector experience, I felt a bit like a yokel with all those slick, stylish corporate types from companies like Coke, Google, Qantas, Microsoft, and Cadbury (probably the first time I've been in a room with that many people who didn't assume that big business was somehow anti-social). I was somewhat startled by how completely unapologetic the editor of Women's Weekly was, and by a former director of all kinds of corporate outfits who seemed to be whingeing that ordinary people's expectations of boards and directors were far too high, and that governments had been unfairly pinning the GFC on banks and business when it wasn't really their fault. (In silhouette, he bore a striking resemblance to one C. Montgomery Burns.) Both made me think of that New Yorker cartoon where one member tells the rest of the board: “The figures for the last quarter are in. We made significant gains in the 15 to 26-year old age group, but we lost our immortal souls.”
However, I heard some interesting and encouraging things as well. A strong theme was that the days of spin and cover-up are long gone: honesty (or at least truthiness) is best; humility and courtesy will stand you in good stead. Another theme was the rise of technology and social media, and the unanimous view was that these will never replace face to face human interaction, and the data they yield will always require human interpretation. Assuming of course that communication retains its properties of subtlety, nuance, sentiment, sarcasm, and flourish - under the influence of social media, it may not. I also observed a tension in corporate communication between self-expression and self-protection. This, to me, explained why most corporate communication is so cripplingly dull.
I think what's wrong with corporatespeak is that it gets sucked dry of anything that might implicate those who generate it, or offend those who receive it. It ends up being hollow, tasteless, infinitely transferable. It's the dead opposite of what Duns Scotus called “thisness,” or what his admirer Hopkins called “inscape,” exemplified best in his poem “As Kingfishers Catch Fire.” Here it is, to make up for yesterday, and to banish from my palate the nothingness of corporate comms.
As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies dráw fláme;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves—goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying Whát I do is me: for that I came.
Í say móre: the just man justices;
Kéeps gráce: thát keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is—
Chríst—for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.