‘Words, words. They’re all we have to go on’

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April is all about words here at PR Knowledge Hub, with a series of sessions throughout the month looking at all aspects of storytelling, writing and language. The quote in the headline comes from Tom Stoppard’s brilliant play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, which takes two minor characters from Shakespeare’s Hamlet and allows them to play with language and meaning. It’s a heartbreaking romp through the twists and turns of linguistic complexity and one that, if you work with words, you should follow at least once in your life.

Language – the words we choose – help us to make sense of the world around us and, as practitioners, we need to learn to make wise choices when it comes to the words we put to work on behalf of our organisations. Language evolves constantly and the structures that support it – the rules of grammar – shift and bend to accommodate the weight and rate of change.

Words have power. They can wound deeply, be a healing balm, energise the inert or deliver despair – yet often we cast them thoughtlessly into the day, oblivious to the consequences of misuse. In these difficult days, when emotions run high and outrage can be triggered by an errant emoji, all practitioners should make some time to think about the words they choose and how best to use them to build and sustain relationships with their stakeholders and communities. If you can’t find time to join the sessions, find an hour in your day to consider the way your organisation uses language. Is the tone right – does it need to change? Do you know who you are writing for? Speaking to? Or are you stringing words together to please the boss rather than communicate with others? Check your readability scores and audit your communication channels – are the right words in play or should there be different words at work? As your stakeholder or a member of your communities I need to understand who you are, what you do and why we need to connect and if you don’t find the right words – I’ve got nothing to go on. If you are interested in joining the sessions you can book with the Public Relations Institute of New Zealand.