Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Multiple exposures

Shaving. Ugh. That morning ritual (many) of us tend to in the early, pre-coffee hours of the day. Whether it's razor to face or to legs, there's a not a lot to it. That's why when a company wants to capture your attention for this mundane task, they have to do something really interesting.

For instance, back in the 1920s through the early 1960s, the company Burma Shave went all out to capture shaver's attention with a series of clever, well-placed road signs along America's Highways and Byways. They appeared as a series of six or seven signs that were read in order, giving motorists the opportunity to take the message in while they drove.

A series of Burma-Shave signs taken from the highways
While many of their signs were advertisements for their shaving cream, others boosted the war effort during World War II, and many even advocated driving safety.  For instance:

  • Past / schoolhouses / take it slow / Let the little / shavers grow / Burma-Shave

What Clinton Odell knew is that getting your message out in front of as many people as possible is the key to calling attention to your message, and pushing that message out in a familiar form gives reader a point of reference so they knew what they were getting. Red and white signs on the side of the road meant that there was going to be a witty saying and an ad for Burma-Shave.

The E-Lert newsletter
When it comes to disseminating preparedness information, we need to take a page from the Burma-Shave playbook. Here in Pinellas County, we have been doing something like this since 2006 - the E-Lert newsletter.

Every month during hurricane season, we write an electronic newsletter featuring articles on disaster preparedness and weather knowledge. With articles from how to prepare your home for a hurricane's winds to navigating the often confusing world of insurance to how to determine your evacuation zone, each month's newsletter focuses on different aspects of the preparedness message.

There are also recurring articles that appear in the newsletter. Readers are directed to a website link of the month to a weather or disaster related resource, a review of a book dealing with hurricanes, tornadoes or other weather phenomena, and a checklist of monthly actions readers should take to prepare for what hurricane season may bring.

The newsletter is produced in an e-mail management program called Constant Contact, which also handles sign ups for the newsletter and maintains the mailing list, culling out bad addresses. Since no paper copies are produced, the only cost is staff time and the monthly charges for the service.

In 2007, the E-Lert won for best public information tool at the Florida Governor's Hurricane Conference.

One funny thing we have noticed about this newsletter is how far it has traveled. I was at a speaking engagement hosted by a local non-profit organization and was looking at their training materials. There, in one pocket of a two-pocket training folder given to prospective volunteers, were the previous six editions of the E-Lert Newsletter.

  • While we aim / to be funny and clever / we're pretty pleased / with this info endeavor 

Tom Iovino, Public Information Specialist
Pinellas County, Florida

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