Friday, July 29, 2011

You Want Me to Do What?

There is a tall sign next to the freeway just east of the I-84 exit into Burley, Idaho. It originally advertised a business, but has since been re-purposed. The body of the sign now has a different cover with these three words:


For the record, I am not a fan of corruption. Let's just get that out of the way quickly. I don't propose replacing the message with one advocating increased corruption in elected officials. But this sign leaves me scratching my head. It seems to be intended as a sort of advertising, which by definition attempts to elicit a particular response from its viewers. It is also phrased as a command. My question: what does the sign-owner hope to accomplish by posting those three words in a huge font next to the freeway?

The desired action is abundantly unclear. How many people actually read it and think "Oh! Y'know, that's a new idea -- maybe corruption is undesirable, and we oughta try to get rid of it"? I'm guessing... not many.

And whatever "vote corruption out" means, I can't help but notice the negative tone. Why not instead propose that we "vote integrity in"? Still not precisely actionable, but it would suggest a more positive attitude and may be more persuasive as a result, simply by making the speaker a little more relate-able.

There is a strong political component to all this, of course. I'm not getting into that. What I am talking about is purpose. Political views aside, I am guessing that sign does not have the effect intended by its creator(s).

The purpose question is a good one in all sorts of interactions, not just roadside signs. Ultimately, what am I trying to accomplish, and is this course of action likely to get me there? The audience is worth considering, too. How can I communicate my thoughts in ways that make sense to this person where he/she is, rather than expecting this person to approach me from my own perspective?

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