Using words to shift perceptions

TEDxAuckland - Independently organized TED eventOver the weekend, I went to TEDx Auckland. Designed to share the thoughts, words and ideas of New Zealanders, this event brought together 17 speakers and performers covering a vast range of subjects from the brain to music, creativity to social enterprise.


One speaker was Brian Sweeney, founder and producer of He is chairman of international branding agency, SweeneyVesty. He’s not just been branding businesses though. Over time, he’s been using words to shift perceptions of New Zealand.


Brian’s work kicked-off in the late 1990s when a conversation with a friend touched on the subject of life on the edge. New Zealand has often been considered isolated and small. Some even say irrelevant and on the edge of the world. But that conversation helped Brian see the word ‘edge’ very differently.


Instead of the classic negative view of being remote and on the edge of things, Brian set out to prove that change happens first at the edge. The centre is for balance, the edge is for progress. On his website Brian pulls together stories designed to reframe the image of New Zealand. He talks of legends not tall poppies; of a great global network of talented New Zealanders, not a brain drain.


Branding a nation. Branding a business. Writing a website. Writing a sales letter. All of these depend on words. Not just the words themselves but the story they tell, the way they engage with the reader. Not all PR projects are as big as shifting the global perceptions of a country, but they all need to be based on a simple message. Holding that message at the heart of what you say about your business helps people understand what you do and why you do it.


Josie Fitzhugh uses words to position products, services, issues, businesses, cities and regions. She is a passionate believer that every business has a story to tell. And that creating a personality for your business is more important than ever in an increasingly online world.