Managerial Language in Life-Or-Death Situations
Last post we talked about calls to action.
Imagine you live in an area that’s about to consumed by massive, fatal bushfires. Now compare these two calls to action:
“There will be signficant fire activity with potential to impact.”
“Your house will face unstoppable fires with flame heights up to 35 metres high, moving at speeds much faster than your car’s top speed.”
Which one is going to make you leave your house?
This comes from Don Watson’s depressing analysis of how some fire authorities handled the massive Victorian bushfires earlier in the year, and how managerial language can completely fail to communicate, even in situations that are literally life or death .
These were people doing their heroic best in a terrible situation, but they were mired in the swamp of ‘key learnings’, ‘weather events’ and ‘iterative documents’ that they speak of every day at the office. When the time came to say ‘Run for your lives!‘, they didn’t have language vivid or specific enough to do it.
Read the rest of the story here.
Another alleged ‘Call To Action’ popped up over the weekend, for the information of our international visitors. Kraft Foods, owners of the iconic Australian yeast spread Vegemite that has terrified the rest of the world for decades, have released a new product - Vegemite blended with cream cheese.
They decided to get their creative done via a contest, an approach that has won a lot of fans in corporate finance departments the world over. From 48,000 contest entries, the winner was announced:
According to a Kraft spokesperson, it was chosen for “its personal call to action and clear identification of a new and different Vegemite.”
We’ve been staring at it for a couple of days now, and if anyone can spot a call to action in there, please let us know.
It’s an interesting choice. For consumers who don’t know much about the web, it makes no sense applying that sort of unappetizing imagery to food.
For consumers who understand the web, it’s like seeing your Dad at the disco wearing a backwards baseball cap.
Kraft are not renowned for their understanding of the web. Their web site’s hyper-lawyered terms and conditions forbid anyone from linking to their site, as well as this chilling message:
“You may not redistribute or sell the material (web site photos and copy), nor may you reverse engineer, disassemble or otherwise convert it to any other form usable by humans.”
As a result, the clearest call to action has been from the outraged public, demanding that the abomination be put out of its misery.
Lesson for presenters? The winning entry was written by a 27 year old web programmer, speaking in his own language. It’s dangerous to assume that your audience speaks the same language you do.