I enjoyed reading Time’s feature on Top 10 Everythings This Year while on a long flight back from the West Coast yesterday. Although some were silly (top 10 T-shirt worthy phrases), most were fun. At the end of the issue, an essay by James Poniewozik on the Power of 10 hit home. Since I spend so much time reviewing and gathering top 10 “best of” lists or “scorecards” for companies that want to boost their reputations, Poniewozik’s list of why top 10 tables work so well provided me with some good tips. Here are a few “best of ” points that I took away from his essay:
- List mania started with our very own 10 Commandments (blame it on God, says Poniewozik)
- Numbers Rule. Quantification trumps qualitative anytime.
- Lists are Web-friendly. “Lists are inherently bloggy. They’re bite size, they’re opinionated and they’re a guaranteed spur to conversation…”
- Lists are memorable. They are brilliant marketing and branding tools.
- Lists are authoritative. Time said the best and worst business deals of the year were so and so and that’s good enough for me. Fortune named such and such company the most admired and now I don’t have to think much more about it.
- Lists are engaging. We can tell our friends and colleagues about them and sound informed.
- Year-end lists are the king of the roost. They make us fast-forward backwards and recognize all the amazing things that happened over a 12 month period. Who doesn’t want to know the most embarrassing moments of the year! Or the top 10 movies of the year.
- Lists impose order. With all the infosmog circling above us, order helps us keep track of what’s to know. Lists put an exclamation point on things that fill up our lives.
Since I am writing here about lists, I thought I would add that I just was voted onto one. I was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Ethics for 2007 by Ethisphere magazine. And yes, I was delighted. Weber Shandwick was too. So my year ended with a bang and I have 12 months to stay relevant!
Fun piece on how dictionaries are figuring out how public relations works. In today’s New York Times, the article covers how the word of the year is gaining traction as a publicity tool. “Locavore*” is the 2007 word of the year at the New Oxford American Dictionary. The editor behind this new word is out on the speaking circuit and receiving great coverage in the print world. “There are very few good ways to get publicity for a dictionary,” remarked one of the Oxford’s lexicographers. Hey, what about wikipedia! The encyclopedia probably could have said the same a few years ago and fast forward to 2007 and it’s a red hot publicity machine.
Another statement will go in my saved quote file for presentations: ” The WOTY season now rivals our endless holiday shopfest, stretching from Halloween into January. I can’t help thinking that 10 weeks of WOTY** fever is about eight weeks more than anyone wants.” This from the language columnist (Jan Freeman) at The Boston Globe.
I think that the reputation of words and WOTY lists are great fun. The words for each year are a lens on our culture. Plus I feel better knowing that it’s not just CEOs and companies worrying about their reputations but words too! Reputation fever is contagious.
*Locavore = someone who eats locally grown food.
**WOTY = Word of the Year
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