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Can You Say WA?

Washington State, where I live, has just launched a new tourism campaign. Its slogan is “Say WA?”

There’s a flurry of discussion, much of it negative, about the new slogan. Today on KUOW, a local NPR (National Public Radio) station, Ross Reynolds led a radio conversation on the slogan. Callers and listeners who emailed their comments appeared to be at least 90 percent against it. They suggested that “Say WA?” was illiterate, unimaginative, and not at all characteristic of our beautiful state.

I like “Say WA?” It does exactly what a slogan should do.

When I determine the success or failure of any piece of writing, I ask, “Will it encourage readers to do what we want them to do?” In the case of tourism advertising, we want readers to keep reading, dig deeper, and learn about what Washington State has to offer.

When readers notice “Say WA?” they will wonder what it means and inevitably read on to find out. Because the slogan is not immediately clear, they will have to dig deeper. Assuming that rich content and inviting photos will follow the slogan, I would expect readers to learn about the delights and attractions of our state.

“Say WA?” is a great choice. It’s offbeat, and it capitalizes perfectly on our state’s two-letter postal abbreviation: WA. Also, it takes advantage of the slangy question “Say wa?” which typically means:

  • What are you saying?
  • Did you say what I think you said?
  • Really?

After listening to the discussion and reading an article in the Puget Sound Business Journal about “Say WA?” I’m thinking about touring more of my state. That alone makes me appreciate the slogan.

Who knows, maybe Hawaii will follow us with “Say HI!” Indiana can consider “Come IN!” Maine could try “Come up and see ME some time.” Massachusetts can use “I remember MA MA.” Then, of course, there’s “We’re OK!” and “OH! OH! OH!” for Oklahoma and Ohio.

I think it’s a terrific slogan. What do you think? “Say WA?”

Other search spellings: adverstising, Wahsington, washignton,

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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

4 comments on “Can You Say WA?”

  • Just FYI – Maine has already done a “See ME” campaign, and many branding experts in that part of the country see the “Say WA” campaign as derivative of that effort.

  • I actually like “Say WA” myself and have been bemused by the very negative response. It’s short, clever and captures my attention.

    You’ve sent my mind off in a wild direction thinking about slogans for other states. How about:
    Mississippi: Don’t Miss It
    Oregon: ExtraORdinary!
    Georgia: Go GA GA

    Okay, I have to get back to work.

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