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Semantics – Lost in our own translation

By Thuli Zulu

Semantics (from Ancient Greek: σημαντικός sēmantikos, “significant”)[1][2] is primarily the linguistic, and also philosophical study of meaning—in language, programming languages, formal logics, and semiotics. It focuses on the relationship between signifiers—like words, phrases, signs, and symbols—and what they stand for, their denotation.(Wikipedia)

Communication is more than just conceiving words. Spoken or unspoken! We interpret, decipher, filter, judge and at times misconstrue these cues. The world would not be able to function without language, which is a core part of the DNA of human interaction. So words can unite, divide, contrive and berate along the same line, yet the same words we impart are the words that give ’meaning’. There are however, complexities regarding the usage of language and words (a topic for another day). I have loved words and books since I was a little person…School harnessed and also intimidated my view point on language and my understanding thereof. I have been quite conflicted on this subject matter, but have come to an acceptance that my place on earth was not to deliberate over this ‘medium’, but embrace it for how it can be a catalyst for change.

How we come to understand a press statement, elevator pitch, pay-offline, brand philosophy and/or manifesto all lies in our understanding about the human psyche, entity or client that we are engaging. Being South African has taught me that language transcends one form of construct as we are a hybrid of many cultures, creeds and races. There is no better place to run a Communications firm then here in Africa with its idiosyncrasies, which makes the practice more intriguing. Take my word or don’t take my word for it but it is my stance! How semantics play on communications, has everything to do with the communication research process. Allowing ourselves to formulate techniques, methods and applications thereto is the bedrock of any strategy which will inform the ‘plan’.

How do semantics fit into communication? It is not about the right answer from the recipient, more than it is about the question that one asks. Off course we will be lost in translation if we do not ask the right questions. Ask! Recognize! then Determine! As Communication Specialists we will ask till we derive what we need to understand.

Words, intentional or not are notes to our ears. Be presumptuous, vague, ambiguous, abbreviated, questionable, loaded or clear…we will Determine!

So please say what you mean and mean what you say!


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3 ways to improve employee engagement

By Kim Eagle

Your employees are a critical resource in your business. Getting the best out of them drives the success of your organisation and leads to a greater quality of life for you, the leader and for the individuals that make up your staff.

Engagement is one of those ideal terms that we use almost daily but do not truly take the time to appreciate it’s importance. Engagement is more than organisational newsletters, so what is it? It is the process of imparting values; it is changing psychological states and behaviour through words, behaviour and actions.

Do you remember why you got into business in the first place? Why create a specific product, why deliver a certain service? If you can understand why you get up in the morning to go to work, and then why your staff should buy in to this too and internalise it– you are more than halfway in creating real engagement.

Getting that salary at the end of the month is not enough to drive commitment, we all want to be part of something greater than ourselves. Loyal employees create loyal customers, giving the leader peace of mind. Great leaders inspire those around them to act, this and job attributes are essential in driving engagement.   Great are the leaders who motivate through inspiration, not manipulation.

1. What do your employees even want?

Do you base your information about the state of your staff on feedback from a few key individuals or from your personal perception? This is usually not enough information and can be biased or inaccurate. Make it quantitative. Start your process by finding out what your employees are actually thinking and feeling. An anonymous satisfaction survey for example, can be used.

Find out if your people appreciate where the business is headed, if they understand the organisational goals and if they know that their effort is fundamental in achieving those goals. Do they see themselves as part of the mission, or do they believe that they are simply worker bees with no connection to the future of the business. Measure at the beginning and measure at the end of your engagement drive, prove that you are making a real difference.

2. Engagement starts with fulfilling basic needs

The principle of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs outlines that basic needs first must to be met before the greater actualisation needs can be fulfilled.

Employees need:

  • To be heard: we believe that someone cares when they take the time to listen
  • To be respected: it almost goes without saying, and building a culture of respect internally means that your customers get the same treatment
  • To have competence: nobody wants to suck at what they do, develop your employees based on their strengths
  • Autonomy: can you trust individuals to do the job they have been hired for? If not, why did you hire them?
  • And Relatedness: the sense of purpose. I worked at a hotel and conference centre and before starting a session on service delivery with the cleaning teams I asked a few people what they do at the organisation. One gentleman explained that he was a back-of-house cleaner, another the laundry assistant and one man with a genuinely warm smile said he worked here to create a fantastic place where his guests could enjoy themselves thanks to his great service. He was the elevator cleaner. He was also promoted later and his name mentioned in guest feedback forms. He understood that he was part of something greater than himself.

3. Reward and recognition

We still believe that financial rewards are a great motivator even in the face of 50 years of research to the contrary. The difference between the two is the nature of intrinsic and extrinsic rewards.

Intrinsic motivation can be thought of as internal thoughts or feelings that feed the desire to achieve. Intrinsically motivated behaviours are those that are motivated by the underlying need for competence and self-esteem. In contrast, extrinsic motivation stems from the work environment external to the task, it is usually stimulated by external rewards. Where financial reward clearly influences extrinsic motivation, it has little impact on intrinsic motivation. Recognition is needed to enhance intrinsic motivation (Silverman, 2004).

How do we recognise people? It could be a handwritten note from the manager, or a digital notice board to publicly thank the individuals who have done a great job and yes, someone actually noticed. Perhaps a relevant and cost-effective gift with the recognition: a spa treatment for the lady, a family meal voucher for the guy with 3 kids, a ‘free’ leave day, there are a wide variety of ways to recognise. Keep the relevance high and the cost low, it does not need to be expensive to be impactful.

Do you have a recognition programme for your employees? Get the staff to vote for those who should be recognised – another way to listen to your employees.

Whether the recognition is public or private – depending on the organisation and the nature of the recognition – make it about spreading the thanks.  This starts to permeate your organisation’s culture: looking for excellence and an opportunity to recognise it in all the right places.

The consequence of greater employee engagement means greater staff retention, which affects service positively. Better service means higher levels of customer satisfaction; greater customer satisfaction results in customer loyalty that means growth and profit for the organisation. Underpinning all of this is higher productivity from engaged employees. It really is worth the effort.



Silverman, M. (2002) Non-financial Recognition. Institute for Employment Studies: United Kingdom

Sinek, S. (2009) Start with Why. Penguin Group: England

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“All na Packaging”

By Otoabasi Bassey

It’s undeniable that the world is changing. It always has, it always will be. There are over 7 billion people in the world interacting with countless organizations, companies and brands. With digital and social media eliminating the level of barriers to speaking to the world, there are more voices than ever, it is easy to be lost in the crowd.

The organizations that can navigate this new world and leverage the new reality will cut through the noise and connect with their customers, maximizing engagement, impact and profits. Those who cannot will be ruthlessly left behind.

There is this Nigerian (pidgin) phrase that pops into my head all the – ‘All na Packaging’. It basically means ‘Packaging is everything’. You could have the best product, the best service, or the best skill. If you can’t package yourself in a clear, compelling way and sell, if you cannot communicate effectively, you would not be able to deliver or extract maximum value from it. The highest rewards in many fields go to the most visible.

Imagine this, thriving in your industry, working in a well-oiled, clearly defined machine, capturing the sales, attention, and devotion of your customers. Imagine delivering massive value and creating lasting impact. That is the power that combining strong day-to-day operations with strong packaging – your compelling messaging grants you.

The most successful companies are built around a single rallying cry. Space X – putting humans on mars, Tesla – Building efficient, competitive battery powered vehicles, Apple – Helping people unleash their creativity. These are mission statements that don’t just sit on a plaque at the reception desk. They permeate the entire company culture and affect everything from high-level strategic decisions to the janitor on the floor. It certainly is clearly expressed in every piece of marketing or communication that comes from these companies changing the world.

At CREA8 International, we help you understand who you are, and where you are going. With our out-the-box thinking and diligent execution, we work with you to define and communicate your key messages to your stakeholders. We help you figure out what you need to say, and how you need to say it to rally people to your cause. From strategy and ideation, to design and immersive events, with us, you are equipped to connect and succeed in a world in flux.

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