Blog for blog’s sake?

Walter Pater, in his seraphic 1868 conclusion to The Renaissance, said:

‘Of the fruit of a quickened, multiplied consciousness, the poetic passion, the desire of beauty, the love of art for its own sake, has most. For art comes to you proposing frankly to give nothing but the highest quality to your moments as they pass, and simply for those moments’ sake.’

A typical corporate blog, on the other hand, belongs to the anaesthetic movement – it offers only a numb deadness of thinking and feeling as it tries to drag us towards the most predictable of outcomes.

I found a typical example this morning. This is from one of the most successful companies in the online world. I have redacted it and removed links to try to make the meta-messages clearer:

Today, we’re officially introducing Aaaaa, a faster and simpler way to start xyzing online in under five minutes. We first launched this product as Bbbbb last October for a small number of local businesses. Since then, we’ve continued to improve the product and enabled all U.S. businesses new to xyzing to reach customers with ease. Aaaaa is designed to help local businesses that aren’t already Ccccc users—watch the video below to see how you can xyz from start to finish in just a few clicks. [Then, for those already weary enough of the words to need a change of medium, there is a beautifully drawn but cutesy video based on the rather worn out ‘Mom and Pop store’ metaphor.]

This is clearly skilful writing: the themes are introduced and restated as carefully as a Bach fugue. But there is also the specious newsworthiness of ‘today’, and the chummy abbreviations (‘we’re’, we’ve’) that show how relaxed ‘we’ are in what the blog implies to be your and my frantic and complex world. Note that the ‘we’ is the corporation, not the subtle agreement between writer and reader. The ‘I’ has disappeared, giving it the creepy tone that is both personal and impersonal, close and yet remote, like a brother who is also Big.

Notice too the deadening triple repeat of ‘businesses’ and the double ‘product’ – this is alienating ‘object talk’. Where is the empathy here with our complex hopes and fears?Where is there even a hint of the fullness of our humanity?

Maybe today’s post has a whiff of sour grapes. OK, I am jealous of the success of companies with blogs like the one above. But, as I start my new business, if even large companies are making mistakes it gives me plenty of hope I can help them say better things.

Pater’s escape to the world of art, away from the necessities of commerce and industry, was provocative. But I believe we should try bring his dream of the ‘fruit of a quickened, multiplied consciousness’ into our contemporary business world. The only sustainable and communicative messages – corporate or otherwise – are based on courage, love of truth, insight into ourselves, and empathy with others.

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About Propagandum

I’ve been working in book publishing for over 30 years – an industry now in rapid transition. So I’m interested in foundational principles for media, writing and language – what lessons can we learn for how we can and should communicate? How can we make sense of media/technology? Can we transfer some skills from the old to the new? I hope to share (every week-ish) some things I think are wonderful, rich and important. I write longish posts because our complex and fascinating world cannot be reduced to soundbites. Please let me know what you think – contact me at david@propagandum.com
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