Show First, Tell Second
July 24, 2015 | Beth Singer, Principal
A friend of mine posted this photo on her Facebook page, during her recent visit to Budapest, Hungary. The bronze shoes are affixed to the bank of the majestic Danube River. The shoes commemorate the Hungarian Jews who, during the Holocaust, were forced to remove their clothes and stand, waiting to be shot in the back.
My friend said walking amongst the shoes was one of the most humbling and moving experiences of her life.
Why is this modern memorial so compelling?
The sculptors brought this tragedy to life by showing us — rather than telling us—the personal tales of these innocent victims. We readily imagine the men, women and children, old and young, standing there, knowing how their story would end. These empty shoes connect us in a way that no words on a plaque, brochure or web page ever could.
As my friend walked amid the empty shoes, her emotional experience deepened. She craved to learn more—about the individuals and the circumstances—and immediately searched the Web for specifics as she stood together with the ghosts of the victims. She retold the story on Facebook, and many friends reposted, as did I.
Communications analysis: Images and objects, when used in a compelling way, can be more powerful than even the most captivating writing. The shoes at the river created a profound connection, the written descriptions on the web rounded out the context, and ultimately my friend was compelled to take action by sharing her experience.
Is part of your mission moving people to take action? If so, here is the takeaway from Shoes on Danube:
One of the most persuasive tactics you can use is to show first and tell second. This translates to investing in the very best images—both still photography and video—that your budget allows, and leveraging them on your website, social media, blogs, printed materials and in environments. And if possible, creating an in-person experience or program for your audience. Once you have your audience’s attention using arresting visuals or objects, they are much more likely to seek out more details, leading them to a deeper understanding and, ultimately, to take action.