I’ve been thinking a lot about the power of words lately. Not just any words — words used to effect change in people’s behavior.

Take politics for example. One only has to look as far as Barack Obama’s campaign to see how effective certain words can be when trying to move people from apathy to action. A phrase like, ‘yes we can (make a difference)…’ coupled with words such as ‘hope’ ‘change’ and ‘belief’ have created a grass-roots movement not seen since the days of JFK and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In marketing and communications we’ve always respected the power of words. Let’s not forget, we’ve exploited words like, ‘new’, ‘improved’, and ‘fresh’ for years. But in this particular instance, I’m not talking about the copy or content we create for our clients. I’m referring specifically to the titles and labels we ascribe to what we do and how we do it. 

For example, take the words ‘Human Resources’ versus ‘Talent Management’. I’m sure you’ll agree, the latter conveys a much more positive message to both internal employees and external candidates about their future growth and development within an organization. As Seth Godin pointed out…

Like it or not, in most organizations HR has grown up with a forms/clerical/factory focus. Which was fine, I guess, unless your goal was to do something amazing, something that had nothing to do with a factory, something that required amazing programmers, remarkable marketers or insanely talented strategy people.

So, here’s my small suggestion, one that will make some uncomfortable.

Change the department name to Talent.

The reason this makes some people uncomfortable is that it seems like spin, like gratuitous double speak. And, if you don’t change what you do, that would be true.


What if you started acting like the VP of Talent? Understanding that talent is hard to find and not obvious to manage. The VP of Talent would have to reorganize the department and do things differently all day long (small example: talent shouldn’t have to fill out reams of forms and argue with the insurance company… talent is too busy for that… talent has people to help with that.)

So with this in mind, I’m proposing that agency folks add another title to their day jobs to change the we think about creativity, business development and people. I submit that we are all Curators of our agencies. What is a Curator?



the custodian of a collection (as a museum or library) 

WordNet® 3.0, © 2006 by Princeton University.

What does it mean to be an Agency Curator?

It means that employees of creatively-driven firms need to think of themselves as custodians of the firm. In the same way that museum curators painstakingly strive to hand select and acquire art for their museums, we must take responsibility for selecting the right clients, work, and people for our agencies. Placing a ‘curator’ emblem next to your current title imbues a different level of responsibility and meaning to the job. It suggests that everything you do within your day job impacts the overall experience of the agency.

As we head into a softer economy and dare I say, recession, there will always be the temptation to make decisions based on short-term gain, but it will be that much more important to maintain consistency in your ‘collection’ and curate your offering. Beware of the forbidden fruit, take a long-term perspective on this business and create a culture of curators.

I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this subject so please feel free to comment.