Intentionality and Business
When I got my first job working in Admissions for my alma mater, my supervisor introduced me to the concept of intentionality in business. He was the first to help me realize that companies pay Google to be at the top of search results for keywords and phrases. Call me naive, but if you don’t think about it, which most of us don’t, you truly believe that Google brings you unbiased search results for something like “best laptop computer.” (It makes a big difference in Admissions when a student types in “Best Private Northwest College” and your school isn’t at the top of the list or even on the first page of results).

There are a lot of naive people out there (like myself) that don’t truly see how manipulative and intrusive successful businesses are. There is a reason why businesses track personal information and use that information to sell you products. There is a reason why certain kinds of commercials are played during the Superbowl and not during a Sponge Bob Squarepants’ show. There is a reason why businesses post things on social media sites at specific times- typically mornings, mid-day (at lunch), and in the evening. The reason is intentionality.

We all communicate. I’ll take that one step further – everything communicates something. Whether we communicate intentionally or unintentionally, we are sending information out into the world, and here’s the scary part: this information is interpreted differently by everyone. Sometimes what we communicate is received the way we want it to be received. Usually, the information that is received is interpreted differently from the way we intended.

This is the heart of what my work is all about. We are communication specialists. However, I’ll be the first to admit that while I enjoy communication, I study it, and I am fascinated by it… I am not a great communicator (Ask Michelle 🙂 ). I have to work hard to think about what I am writing or what I am saying out loud, because most of the time I don’t think- I just act- and then end up correcting or regretting what I communicated.

And it’s not just written or verbal communication that’s important. We passively communicate as well. Think about the clothing we decide to wear each day. The hair styles, the tattoos, earrings, etc… All of these things are used to communicate something about one’s self. These passive ways to communicate can also be misinterpreted by others as well. It’s the reason why we “clean up” when going to a job interview, or wear certain logos on our clothing. We want to communicate a specific message of who we are and what we are all about.

In general, what we try to communicate is well intentioned. I know I am not a “writer”, but I know that when people read these words that I am putting together, they will understand (I hope) the gist of what I am talking about.

Here are some examples of probably well intentioned, but awful logos.

Of course, it’s not just the visual communication, but you’ll notice that some of the logos’ word choices are poor as well (like the picture at the top of this post). You ask yourself, “What were they thinking?” And generally, that’s just it: they didn’t think about it. Here are some well intended signs that are confusing (and funny).

The good news is that we can all become better communicators. I don’t think it’s possible for anyone to be perfect, but we can definitely work (if anything, just try) to think about what we communicate and how it might be interpreted as others. We cannot assume that everyone should and can understand us the way we want them to (that would be naive and in some ways arrogant).

In our studio, we are constantly discussing whatever we create and how it might be interpreted by others. If our communication is not clear, authentic, and- most importantly- accurate, then we’ve failed. A lot of businesses can make huge changes regarding their business identity and communication with simple, intentional changes (and yes I intentionally wrote these words).

Just a heads up – next week I’ll be talking specifically about brand management, what intentional communications means for a business and their brand.