I was involved in a webinar today which was an interesting discussion about engaging content. There was lots to talk about but one of the thorny communication issues emerged during the conversation – that of posters.
Posters are one of the things I dislike; well actually I can say I hate them. I think it comes from many years working in communications and dealing with people including bosses who come to you with the phrase ‘can we have a poster about (insert subject)’. It has long been a view among the uninitiated that if we put up a poster then we have effectively done the job of communicating.
Until quite recently you could probably still find death watch beetle posters up in the front desks of many police stations. They were circulated in the 1980s and I am still not really sure why they would be of interest to people turning up at police stations. Behind this is the reason I hate posters. They are put up and no-one owns them, they stay up for years and share messages that are long since gone and probably of no interest to anyone anymore. They become wallpaper that after a short period of time no-one looks at.
Then there is the cost of printing them. I hate spending money producing posters that will probably remain in boxes at offices, unopened and never actually seeing a wall. It is money that we could spend on other things; other things that we know are more likely to work in getting the message across.
So why do many senior staff and managers keep clinging to posters as a central way of communicating? I can only think it is because it is easy to understand, it is something physical and a way of ticking a box to say ‘see here is our communication’. Nowadays much of communication happens online or in different ways that are not easy to see. Perhaps we have to be able to more clearly demonstrate other channels of communication to start to weaken the grip on posters.
Don’t get me wrong posters have their place. There are times when having a poster can be part of an effective communication strategy. As one colleague said today, posters for soon to be released movies can be effective. But then they have a clear and simple message and they are removed relatively quickly.
I make no apologies that you will find no mention of posters on my communication strategies. But trust me, I am a communicator, and I know a whole range of channels and methods that we can use.