'Context' noun – the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood.
As humans we have such vastly different perceptions, ideas, approaches and emotional conditioning that impacts how we perceive and react to the world around us. What one person sees as a negative, another might perceive as a positive depending on the way an individual contextualises information. Context is such a critical element of good communication and one that hones attention to produce work that really matters.
"Why waste a sentence saying nothing?" - The Frame Up
I love using the term ‘frame up’. I find that starting complex conversations with a proper frame up gives context to the expectations of our clients and articulates the responsibilities of the team. This vernacular has become somewhat of a norm at EMG, in an effort to strive for better connection and interaction as an organisation. As Seth Godin’s quote above reminds us, it is inattentive to communicate without clarity.
Purposeful action requires clear intentions
We specifically reach for this term to create context with our clients in myriad ways: in pitches when we need to explain our thought process and the problems we are trying to solve, or during the production phase of an event, when a broader context is required to report on the minute details, progress or hurdles throughout this phase. Finally, we use the frame up approach onsite where context is everything (and emotions are high) when communicating with our team, suppliers and stakeholders.
Humans can’t read minds
A solid frame up provides clarity to complexity and challenges. Looking at the power of context more broadly as a communication skill, a good leader according to the Harvard Business Review is “a leader skilled at framing anticipates what those obstacles will be and uses framing techniques to help employees navigate around them”.
Things are not the way they are; they are the way we think they are.
Before founding Ogilvy’s behavioural science practice, advertising veteran Rory Sutherland was a copywriter and creative director at Ogilvy UK for over 20 years – his focus nowadays is understanding what are the contextual tweaks that transform the way that people think and act.
By moving away from assumptions, we can ensure our creative solutions are relevant, our team knows exactly what is expected of them and in turn our approach is kinder (Brené Brown) and more enjoyable for everyone.
I’ll leave you with a quote from a brilliant man that sums this up nicely: “Creativity is not a talent. It is a way of operating” – John Cleese