Agriculture Farm to Table Health Healthy Eating Professional strategy

Innovation in Conversation

Take a more strategic approach to your word choice to improve the conversation.

Innovation:  The introduction of something new.  A new idea, method, or device

The world is getting bigger and smaller all at the same time. Online, we can easily access information from around the world, we can “visit” more places faster, and we can gain insights into areas beyond our own experiences or education. Sounds awesome. Except…we know what we know, and we are likely going to apply our values and training to things that we are exposed to that might not be relevant to the topic at hand.

That’s the background for what’s been brewing in my mind these days, on many topics. The latest is innovation. This post is spurred by a couple of recent conversations. We got to talking about innovation, and what it means when you are talking about different industries, from agriculture to business to healthcare.

How we talk about what we know matters. It can mean the difference between understanding and application within or beyond an industry. I’ve attended a few meetings both internationally and domestically lately, and it is bigger than a language or cultural barrier. I’ve covered word choice before. That’s a more tactical part of this.  What I’m talking about is strategic approach to word choice. Brand management really, of both people and product. Here are three examples to consider and percolate on.


I read a headline the other day that said something about “leveraging” a certain type of professional. The anticipated intent was wonderful – highlight and engage a group of professionals. Get them in the conversation about what is happening in their area of expertise. But by using the word “leverage”, it felt cold and calculating. If this headline would have instead said “celebrating” or “honoring”, it would have changed the tone but conveyed the same end goal in a more positive way. Innovation in connecting with others outside of your own expertise. Now that’s intriguing.

olive-grove-3453760_640I read a sentence on a poster for an olive oil company. The statement was short and to the point layered over an actual picture of the (beautiful) olive grove. The grove had 10 million trees.  The sentence proudly talked about the grove and the size. It somehow still captured the feeling that it was on a farm where people care for each individual tree (no pictures allowed in show so I don’t want to share the exact poster out of respect for show rules). I stopped to tell them how much I loved their message, imagery, and sentiment. They then proceeded to tell me they have one tree for every person in the country, and that they actually have a carbon neutral/negative footprint (trees are amazing).


My last example for today is cheese.  Same show. Picture fresh mozzarella. Delicious and beautifully displayed. I was personally handed a sample by the gentleman working this booth. Of course, I graciously accepted and enjoyed. He then shared a new item packaged like a cheese stick but was also fresh mozzarella. Easy to eat. Convenient. Nutritious. Delicious. The signage was inviting, and talked about SIMPLE ingredients. Not the use of the word “clean” like I see used incorrectly (and perhaps a bit lazily) all the time. The product was yummy, friendly to enjoy, and easy to understand and feel good about. Did I mention the local and family farms with well cared for cows stories permeating the show too? Yes. A celebration of people, process, well cared for people, animals, and resources, and respect for words used to share this.

Imagine if we all thought about each and every word we use to convey messages.

Marketing can be powerful. If you are in a position of interacting with the public who has more concern, inquisitiveness, and angst about food choices than ever before, consider this: Instead of jumping on the fad bandwagon and using words wrong because you think that is what people want, guess again. Retrain yourself to talk differently.

This, my friends, is innovation everyone can participate in. It is also innovation that can make you feel good and proud about your job and making a positive impact on others.

It’s in all of our reach. How will you innovate in your conversations today?


By Kim Kirchherr

I am a dietitian working in food and fiber (agriculture) through retail, addressing opportunities to make things better for people and planet.

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