This weekend, I had the opportunity to speak at the University of Delaware’s Department of Communication convocation ceremony. I was honored to deliver the student address and drew inspiration from the one and only Steve Jobs. (After all, I just finished reading his biography — raving book review to come soon!) Of course, a speech is meant to be heard, not read, but here is the transcript anyways. (I hope you’ll forgive me that this isn’t very digital-friendly…I’ll upload the Youtube video as soon as it’s done.) At the conclusion, I hope you’ll be inspired to think different.
Think Different. These two words were the tagline for Apple’s rebranding campaign in the late 1990s when founder Steve Jobs returned to help bring the technology company back from the grave. It paved the way for some of Apple’s greatest inventions including the iPod, iPhone, and iPad.
Okay, so by now you’re probably wondering where I’m going with this. Anyone knows me knows that I’m an Apple snob – I don’t try to hide it. I love my Macbook, iPhone, iPod, and iPad, and as a communication major, I know I’m not alone in my love for technology. However, I promise you this isn’t a sales pitch for Apple or a platform for me to brag about how much of a creative genius Steve Jobs was. This speech is, however, my way to encourage you to “think different.”
Now, as Communication majors and lovers of correct grammar, you may be thinking why “think different” – shouldn’t it be “think differently?” Technically, if different modifies the verb “think,” it should act as an adverb so it reads “think differently.” In his biography, Steve Jobs recognizes the same thing. However, he shares that think differently means that you’re thinking a little bit different. But think different – now, that has some impact. It means thinking in ways you’ve never thought before, tackling problems in ways you’ve never tackled them before. That’s what it means to think different.
So, I propose we leave today with a new challenge: communicate different. Yep, that’s right, not communicate differently, but communicate different. Communication is our way to connect people, to build relationships, to express ourselves and others.
In our digital world with a 24-hour news cycle, we are hit with thousands of ideas, images, and news stories every day. However, the latest reports show that the average attention span is five seconds. Yes, five seconds. By this point, I’ve been talking for a minute and a half, so I’m just praying that two or three of you are still listening. But anyways, with an average attention of five seconds we have no choice but to communicate different to ensure that our ideas, images, and news get through and earn our audience’s attention – even if it’s just for a few seconds.
This means something different for all of us. For aspiring public relations professionals, it means to promote different. Promote your client, brand, or organization in a creative, new, engaging way that helps build relationships with their key publics. Promote different.
For aspiring media relations professionals, pitch different. Change the way you pitch. Change who you pitch to. Change the way you interact and relate with reporters. Pitch different.
For aspiring television producers, produce different. Honestly, I don’t care what ABC says, “Duets” is just like any other music show out there, from American Idol to the Voice. Please do the world a favor and develop something new. (In all likeliness, this means stay away from reality TV.) When you produce a new show, produce it with a new angle, with fresh characters, with a unique storyline. Produce different.
For aspiring editors, narrate different. Look for stories unlike anything you’ve ever heard. Look for stories that you’d want to read. Look for stories that are real and raw and undeniably engaging. Look for those stories and then find a way to tell them that’s also real and raw and undeniably engaging. Narrate different.
For those of you pursuing your master’s degree in the fall, well, first of all, good luck. But secondly, research different. Ask questions that no one’s ever asked, and find the answer. If you can’t find the answer, keep asking questions. Keep searching. Keep questioning. Keep analyzing. Research different.
In the last four years, I’ve been fortunate enough to be surrounded with people who challenged me to think different. There was Professor Hoffman, my undergraduate research adviser, who taught me to analyze different. When I thought there wasn’t a solution, she encouraged me to ask different questions, look at different moderating variables, and find different connections. There was Professor Bartoo, a wonderful mentor and friend, who taught me to lead different. Of course, there were my parents who worked hard to give me everything while teaching me one very important thing on the way — work different. There was my Pastor and the staff at a local church who taught me to trust God and truly live different. There was my sister who – in what could only be a fit of temporary insanity – agreed to run a half marathon with me two weeks ago. And, trust me, when you’re training for 13.1 miles, you have no choice but to train different. There was my boyfriend and now fiancé who taught me to love different. These people, and many others, are so important because they taught me to live different.
Who has taught you to think different? Thank them, and remember them.
So, whoever you are and whatever your future plans, I ask you to communicate different. Whether it be promote different or pitch different or produce different or lead different or analyze different, just think different. That’s the key for changing the world. So good luck. I look forward to living in a world different than the one we live in today, better than the one we live in today, because of your ability to think different. Thank you.