conversation is an engine

A lot can happen in a conversation

Stuffing Spinach and How Engagement Takes a Lifetime

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Not page hits or likes, though comments get closer to true engagement


Anybody who has tried to communicate a message knows it takes time, effort and budget. Or if not budget, patience and persistence. But budget helps.

Our writers know this. Louise Erdrich in a recent talk at Concordia University about her National Book Award-winning “The Roundhouse” talked about how she incorporated themes that were important to her in a way that would still be read by readers:

“As a writer, I want to get this message across. But I’ll only do it if it is a suspense novel. I wanted to make a book that you could not put down.”

“And then I would stuff in the jurisdictional legal issues like spinach in a sandwich.”

Spinach stuffed in so you hardly realize it’s there. To get her message across, she had to write a story so compelling that a reader would willingly read on.

Today we talk constantly about apps and software and sites and techniques that allow a brand to engage with consumers. Paul Dunay writing for Forbes wonders if engagement advertising is the future of brand advertising. He thinks we are approaching a fundamental shift in brands talking with, not just at consumers. Dunay named innovative companies already pursuing dialogue over monologue using mobile platforms. Of course, we’ve been thinking about dialogue over monologue for quite a few years, but just now we’re starting to see technology that enables monologue with more ease and simplicity.

But it’s more than technology, of course. It is a firm’s willingness to listen. Listening is on the uptick. Listening is the new thing (which is so absurd it makes me laugh). It’s new because companies realize they left money on the table by constant monologue.

But getting people to care about the stuff you think is important: it’s the writer’s problem. It’s the brand’s problem. Both want to engage to such an extent that one actually takes action. Erdrich wants her readers to do something. Dunay wants to make it easier for all of us to buy the stuff we are thinking of right now.

I argue engagement takes a lifetime.

No brand manager wants to hear this, but writers in it for the long haul know this instinctively. They know they have to write to engage and inform, but engagement comes first. Teachers know this as well. Brands and their managers have yet to learn this. That’s because most engagement strategies still put the brand first, not what’s best for the consumer (though consumer need and desire rank high in engagement messaging). Those brands that have begun to succeed are learning to well, shut up and stuff the spinach inside.


Image credit: Street art by Nuxuno Xan via 2headedsnake

Written by kirkistan

March 12, 2013 at 9:56 am

One Response

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  1. […] years to change an organization seems optimistic. And for those bosses still using power poses and monologue to enforce their will—I would argue such communication is near the heart of our problem with […]

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