The Bottom Line: Kiss My Atlas!

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

Here’s an idea to help you communicate more visually and more persuasively. Reading time: 3:11.

            Kiss my Atlas! The sarcastic words screamed throughout the scorned community of Yuba City, CA after Rand McNally (Atlas) erroneously ranked it the worst livable city in the United States. Yuba City residents were so infuriated they wore Kiss My Atlas T-shirts as they burned copies of the Atlas.

George Steinbrenner, then owner of the New York Yankees, rides back into baseball.

       Their Kiss My Atlas T-shirts illustrated the power of the visual medium in the delivery of a meaningful and memorable message. Their Kiss My Atlas T-shirts also demonstrated what most effective leaders already know: be visual. Show more than tell.

       Audiences see and feel a message long before they hear it.

       Albert Mehrabian at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) conducted communications research, finding that 55 percent of information is received visually.

         Only 8 percent of information is dependent on the words we use. And the remainder –37 percent- is communicated in the tone of voice we use to convey our message –the music behind the lyrics.  So the most successful leaders orchestrate their message visually, nearly seven times more than verbally.

      Consider the creative zeal graphic artists display in designing magazine covers.

      George Steinbrenner, owner of the New York Yankees, dressed like Napoleon atop a horse for a cover photo of Sports Illustrated to mark his return to professional baseball in 1993. Time Magazine’scover story in 1964 on the inventor of the geodesic dome depicted the head of Buckminster Fuller formed as a geodesic dome.

             And in pre-American Revolutionary War days, Ben Franklin’s newspaper in Pennsylvania pictured the image of a snake, cut in eight different sections. The headline screamed with little subtlety: “Join or Die.”

              I particularly liked the visual communications initiative of a Congressman, in the heat of debate over reconciliation of a tax bill. That legislation seemed hopelessly tangled in political red tape. Finally, the Congressman,  held up a poster with only one word in 10 inch high letters: WRECKONCILLIATION.

Leveraging Visual Communications Opportunities

           That’s what effective leaders do: they leverage visual communications opportunities.

          Hal Rosenbluth the head of the Rosenbluth Travel Agency, would wear a salmon costume at company sales meetings. The salmon had become the company mascot for its ability to swim upstream—against the competition.

        And when then vice president Al Gore gave an environmental address in Tokyo he said carbon dioxide levels would increase in our lifetime. He unfolded the flip chart vertically so that the chart rose high over the existing top of the flip chart, visually demonstrating more than simply illustrating the increased growth in carbon dioxide.

      Here are a few other ways that I have seen leaders leveraged their visual communications power to gain and retain the attention (and the dollars) of their customers:

         A leader of diversity at a large corporation has a jar full of multi-colored, multi-flavored jelly beans as the centerpiece for the conference table in her office.

The Loan Ranger Meets The Lone Ranger

        In accepting the 1979 Nobel Peace prize for her work on behalf of the poor, Mother Teresa’s personal image reflected her affiliation with the poor: She wore a blue and white sari that cost  only one dollar.

The Lone Ranger

        An orthodontist issues a ticket—Admit One This Date Only – as a confirmation of an appointment. Teenagers love going to the movies, to concerts and to sports events—with a ticket in hand. So why not a ticket to see an orthodontist?

        A business card pictures a masked man on a white horse and identifies the mortgage officer as The Loan Ranger, a very visual reference to the Lone Ranger of TV and radio fame  a half century ago.  

          What visual communications have impressed you. Share with us at Leadership Mints. Use the Comments section below.

Today’s ImproveMINT

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