By Tom Ehrich

I signed up for an interesting online course offered by the University of Virginia’s business school. So did 70,000 others.

I watched the first of three video lectures for week 1. When I returned for videos 2 and 3, I couldn’t find the URL for accessing the course. I reviewed the last five emails from the Darden School, and not one of them had the link.

Seems to me every email about the course ought to include the link. But then I think church web sites ought to identify their city, state, phone number and location. Businesses ought to post their hours of operation. Emails should have a sender address naming the sender. New York City businesses should state their location by cross-street. (Is 500 Fifth Avenue at 5th or 50th Street? No, 42nd.)

Effective communications don’t just speak to the tribe. They market to the stranger. Unless, of course, you’re only interested in the tribe. Then tribe-speak makes sense. It keeps the uninitiated away.

Tribe-speak, insider lingo, code language, acronyms – they all succeed in keeping people away. Then we wonder why churches are dying and businesses are failing. If we want our enterprises to prosper, we need to market them all the time.

Same with marriages and friendships. We can’t say “I love you” just once a year. Friends need to be reminded they are valued. Employees need to know when they have done good work.

Tribe-speak isn’t just about the childhood comforts of secret handshakes and stay-out clubhouses. It’s also about power. I remember sitting in on a US Navy meeting that was conducted entirely in acronyms. Message: we belong, you don’t.

In the case of the missing UVa URL for the GGSGPB course, I plan to be MIA until they send me a link. For now, they are, in my opinion, OTL.

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