If your CEO views facilities management as a "cost center," can you change that simply by choosing the right words to "frame" your contribution as a "profit center"?
Two recent books on framing the issues come from opposite, combative ends of the political spectrum, yet they fully agree on the power of the words. In Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate – The Essential Guide for Progressives, linguistics professor George Lakoff rails against the wiles of the Republican party in framing issues like the inheritance tax as the "death tax," and "liberals" as a derogatory term. In his Words That Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear, Republican strategist Frank Luntz relishes talking about his role in developing that Republican rhetoric of death tax and liberals.
Despite the political chasm between them, it’s clear that both writers know the importance of using the right words, and each supplies endless examples of how carefully chosen words determined national policies.
So what do these books from my summer reading have to do with facilities management? I was reminded of them as I read Bill Bancroft’s cover story, "Marketing Your Facilities Department," where he writes about selling the importance of you and your facilities. If you want to change perceptions, you cannot overestimate the value of your words in promoting the competitive, value-added services that your department provides to your "customers." Avoid big words, technical language, and jargon. Couch every expense as a benefit for your customer, and every savings as a bottom-line boost. Explain every facility improvement as increased productivity for that costly asset known as building occupants.
Does that make you a spin doctor? I don’t think so. It just means you use the words that show your true contribution to the bottom line.