What do you do when you have someone's attention?


For several months I passed this sign on my commute.  The missing "l" in the word "kils" was driving me to distraction. This wasn't an easily dismissed oversight due to a missing comma, unusual or even challenging word.  If the writer understood trees' survival needs, he or she certainly knew how to spell "kill."  This was just a careless mistake.

The maker of the sign either (a) didn't notice the error or (b) didn't mind putting the message in front of the world.

I mulled this over in my head daily as I waited at the stop sign, then my thoughts drifted to other random ideas.

Then during one commute, it hit me.  I decided what really bothered me about the sign; it wasn't the misspelling, but that the sign didn't go beyond making a random statement with no application.

Sure, I may have learned that ivy kills trees, but is that a bad thing? Should we never plant ivy? Is this a warning or a call to action?

The sign could have easily said, "Trees kill grass," which is both true and properly spelled, but so what?

What do we DO about that fact? How should we respond?

I'm sure the ivy specialist has an opinion, but what it is is unclear, which is the real "miss."

It's easier than ever to communicate in shorthand, and mistakes of the grammatical variety abound, but that's not the real problem. The real challenge is going beyond issuing a statement or opinion to finding an actionable next step for your audience.

Once you have someone's attention, don't leave them hanging.