The cobbler’s kids finally have shoes.

Jan 6, 2014

It’s true. Although we advise our clients to engage in content marketing – and most of them outsource those tasks to us – we’ve busily said “do as I say, not as I do.” We just haven’t had the time to write on our own behalf.

I justified it for years, recounting the fact that we’re very busy and never lacking for work, so we don’t do much active marketing. But there are many important reasons to keep good, up-to-date content on our website and in the hands of our clients and referral sources. We need to remind them of all the different things we do day-to-day, educate our friends on interesting aspects of marketing that might benefit their businesses, and give us all an outlet for our thoughts and ideas.

So here we go… Welcome to the inaugural blog post for IMPACT Marketing.

Everyone in the company is contributing to the blog, and we’re creating and tweaking categories along the way. As the company owner and lead writer & word nerd, my focus is primarily on the power of words and how they are used – for good and bad – to achieve an end.

For my first post, I’m jumping in face first with a rant that some might find controversial. It’s no coincidence that it marries my interest in words and the power of rhetoric with my deeply held pro-business evangelism. Hope you enjoy it. If not, I hope you at least enjoy yelling at me through your computer.

There’s No Need to “Give Back!”

Should businesses “give back” to their communities? Hell no!

Now before you call me ugly names, let me explain. I wholeheartedly believe in philanthropy and community service. From my earliest years, my mom dragged me along as she delivered Meals on Wheels and volunteered for the cancer society. My dad was the chief of the volunteer fire department, treasurer at our church, and both of my parents volunteered their time leading our church youth group. Personally, I lend my time and expertise to the Howard County General Hospital and Shari’s Promise, which seeks to end childhood sexual abuse, and I previously helped market local hospice fundraisers. We also write checks to select charities.

Instead, my problem is with the words themselves. To suggest that someone needs to give back, implies first that they have been given something. What exactly have business owners been given? In my opinion, nothing (other than the fact that they won the birth lottery by being born in America or were smart enough to immigrate here). They have been given nothing and they have taken nothing. Instead, everything they have has been earned.

They have sacrificed time with their families. They have risked their own capital, and borrowed more with no guarantee of future success. They have skipped paychecks on multiple occasions so their employees wouldn’t have to. They have employed their neighbors and fueled the economic engine that drives our country.

Why does this matter? It’s not just an academic exercise to get hung up on the words “give back,” because there are very real political ramifications. Indeed, our lawmakers spend countless hours and dollars focus-group testing the best words and rhetoric to evoke emotional (not logical) reactions to their statements. Have no doubt: the words are chosen very carefully, and they almost never go off script.

When a former Speaker of the House said “from those to whom much is given, much is expected,” she was using the “give” word to play into the lowest-common-denominator emotion – envy – to justify raising taxes on business. The implication was we, the government, gave these people something, and we can take it back through progressive taxation.

A U.S. Senator upped the ante when she proclaimed in 2007, “I want to take those profits and put them into an alternative energy fund…” She was referring to the profits of the dreaded oil industry. Take?? She wants to take the profits? They are not hers for the taking. They were earned by private enterprise. Neither she, nor any politician on either side of the aisle, has the right to take anyone’s profits. Unless, of course, they soften up the electorate by continually using words and terms that support the general concept that business owners didn’t really earn what they have. They didn’t really “build that.”

When the popular lexicon contains terms, such as “give back” that so easily flow off the tongue, the idea that business owners have somehow been given their assets rather than earned them subtly becomes part of the common understanding.

Lottery winners should give back. Politicians who have never held a job outside of government, yet are somehow in the top 1% of wage earners, should give back. Class-action tort attorneys should give back.

But business owners should give forward.

Words, indeed, matter.

— Duane Carey

IMPACT Marketing & Public Relations, LLC

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