Changing the World
It's not often I read the in-flight magazine and even rarer that I find anything of much interest when I do. But on a recent flight to Southampton I was unable to find a copy of Model Train Builder Monthly at the Airport shop so resorted to reading 'Flight Time', the Flybe magazine.
It was also because the woman who sat next to me would not accept that the window seat was mine (yes, you who occupied seat 10C, you know who you are: the seat with the curved line next to it representing the fuselage is the window seat and you were in the aisle.) So, rant over, the last thing I felt like doing was making conversation with my neighbour. And that's why the article in the in-flight resonated.
The article, titled 'Changing the World, One Conversation at a Time' by author Judy Apps (The Art of Conversation) talks about the power of conversation and its influence on political, social and cultural progress for the past 500 years.
As Apps points out, the 18th Century coffee houses where men met to talk politics were shut down for a while because the government of the day was so worried about their influence; some of the greatest discoveries of our day (DNA, MRI scanning, Silicon Valley), all were made because brilliant minds from different scientific disciplines had a 'conversation'.
Apps quotes Margaret Mead who said: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has", and Cicero who claimed that conversation is the essence of free speech.
Bringing it more up to date Apps points out that the highly successful TED Talks sustain focused and time-restricted online conversations among more than 15 million users. And of course the point of all this is that conversations are once again directing policy, driving social change, bringing culture to life in a contextual and relevant way.
If brands want to be a part of the conversation, they've got to get out of the office and into the coffee shop, and join in. Only then will they be able to influence opinion, affect decisions, create a following. Of course a phrase has been coined for this: Content Marketing (see our video). Content Marketing starts with conversation.
As Apps so aptly puts it: we live in different places and different conditions but at the end of the day we are all just human; and humans are social animals. She also quotes my favourite phrase from Howard's End, 'Only Connect'. It's the signature on my mobile sign off and people always ask what it means. Apps gives the best appraisal I've seen: "Through connection we spot opportunities and explore possibilities. It's about joining up the dots using both prose and passion in our relations with each other."
So that's the message: start a conversation and connect. Unless of course you are in a stand off over the seats in row 10 on a Flybe flight...
The Art of Conversation Judy Apps, published by Capstone £10.99