Something’s in the air

Last week, we sent out our Palette e-holiday card – a pretty timely idea, if do say so myslef. (You may need to double click on the image to get the gist.) Then a few days later, a cartoonist from the Toronto Star published an illustration using the same joke.

Now, since our card pre-dated their visual, one could assume they ripped us off. I mean, we distributed it first – it was out there for all and sundry to see and the next thing we knew, someone bigger was taking credit for it.

Did we call our lawyers? Threaten a lawsuit?

Hardly.

In my mind, it’s a clear example of a concept being in the air and having more than one ‘creator’ at the same time.

This seems to happen a lot. I think it’s due to a confluence of events (e.g. the economy and holidays) and the speed with which online communications spreads our shared imagery and metaphors. I mean, come up with virtually any idea, search it on Google, and there’s a chance someone else got there first. A virtual copyright infringement.

But who copied and who was right?

The truth is, if the Toronto Star had done it before us, we would probably have been seen as the also ran, because their distribution is much larger than ours. It’s a case of volume trumping voice, which is, in many ways, similar to Marshall McLuhan’s notion of the medium being the message.

And it is a question that we communicators grapple with all the time: How do we get our messages to resonate when there are often much more vocal sources than us?

I think this is where relationships, credibility and trust comes in. Sure they require more energy, work and time than pure amplification. But I believe that when you combine those attributes with a relevant story people want to hear, a quieter voice can be as effective as a shout.

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