I’ve seen it numerous times before, you show a public relations person a word cloud for the first time based on the contents of a client or competitor website and you see a dramatic change. Their eyes gain focus rather than looking glassy and vacant, their cheeks get a bit of colour and they lean forwards to study it further. This is partly understandable as public relations is a world of words: full of rich ambiguity and nuance.
For example, here is The Cluetrain Manifesto as a word cloud – it loses some of its impact in this format rather than original book.
In some ways it reminds me of the process of preparing solid food for baby. The information is selected puréed and processed before being provided as a simplified, recognisable but somehow lesser format.
Now don’t get me wrong, word clouds have their place, but once someone has that ‘nirvana’-like experience it becomes a crutch rather than a tool. It becomes a substitute for analysis and interpretation; as if word cloud will psychically convey wisdom on the beholder.
Unfortunately, the world of other marketers and business executives isn’t the world of words that public relations professionals live in; words don’t come alive in the way that numbers can with graphs, pie charts and bar charts.