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If a Tree Falls in the Forest

Photo by John Loo/Flickr/ a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound? The same thought process can apply to communications: if a message goes out, how do we know it is received? (Photo by John Loo/Flickr/

Being the life-long communications geek that I am, I find relevant philosophy and meaning in that old cliché: If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? Of course it does. But maybe not. How do we know?

People are bombarded by communications day and night from every direction, cluttering and smothering the planet. Someone out there is sending communications—some in huge amounts and some a lot of little ones that add up—and we are all targets of those little “comm bombs” and have to deal with the noise. Occasionally, we hear something and actually receive a message, and that’s a good thing. Most of the time, however, we tune it out, and the intended communication is never heard—it falls without a sound.

At the Stanley Foundation, we avoid feeding the communications dead zone, and we communicate with a number of select audiences through select channels, helping make a difference through support of our policy-change programming. We know that with communications, less volume is more, especially when it is targeted to specific audiences.

I guess I could make the case that not only are we trying to be more efficient in our communications, but we are actually conserving more of the planet’s resources, conserving noise across the comms spectrums. And in that spirit, I would encourage everyone to conserve a little more—a little less volume and more targeting.

— Joseph McNamara, Editor
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