London band Madness once sang that they were ‘Lovestruck’ and had ‘fallen for a lamp post’. Now, it seems, everyone in Bristol can strike a relationship with their local street lighting thanks to an art project in the city.
The Hello Lamp Post project gives people the chance to use their smartphones to communicate with the city’s street furniture – lamp posts, letter boxes, bus stops – to find out what these inanimate objects are thinking. They might, for example, be feeling miffed at being left out in the rain, or delighted because they’ve just received a new coat of paint.
Personifying inanimate objects has been a popular marketing technique for years now. Buy a smoothie and the packaging has messages as if written by the product itself, and sometimes invites you to call for a chat. I personally suspect you’d end up on the phone to a London PR Agency rather than to a carton of crushed kiwi fruit, but you never know.
The message I take from this is that, as with bus stops and smoothies, most people simply like being talked to – to be asked how they are, to be given the chance to express a preference or to air a grievance. A long time ago, there was once a man with a beard who preached to the masses about the importance of loving one’s neighbour. Bob Hoskins was his name, and ‘it’s good to talk’ was his slogan.
Of course, BT’s ad campaign was conceived several years before the communications explosion of the past decade but still, it would be fair to say, there’s a chance people still don’t actually talk to each other enough. Emails, texts, tweets, IM… there are hundreds of ways to get your message across without uttering a single sound.
But these rapid-fire, 140-character communiqués aren’t necessarily the best way to get your point across – or of inferring correctly what others are implying. The art of communication is about far more than decent spelling or grammar – it’s about judging your audience wisely and choosing the best way to approach them.
Building client and media relationships is crucial for any PR agency, London based or otherwise. With so much information flying around, with so much background noise, the simplest way to cut to the chase is still to pick up the phone.