Even in today’s virtual world, most employees go to a physical location—an office, a store, a manufacturing plant or even a truck—to do their jobs. And smart marketers have known for years that reaching people in their environment is a very effective way to get their attention while avoiding the clutter of electronic channels.

So how can you take advantage of the workplace? Start with one simple channel: posters.

The bad news is that posters are generally so far down on communicators’ priority list that most are produced by other functions: HR. Marketing. Safety.

As a result, posters are often ineffective: lacking a strong visual element, full or words, trying to convey too much content, not compelling. And employees, who always know good communication when they see it, respond appropriately. Here are employee comments from a focus group study we conducted in a manufacturing facility:

  • “I never look at posters. They just don’t seem relevant to me.”
  • “Posters here are terrible. You’d have to stand there and read them—who has time for that?”
  • “I glance at the posters on the way to the cafeteria, but most of them seem like they’re just up so that someone can check something off their list—you know, ‘I put it on a poster, so I communicated it.’ But if no one actually pays attention, what’s the point?”

What a missed opportunity! Posters are such a great way to convey concepts to people where they pause and/or congregate: In the cafeteria. Waiting outside the credit union. Standing in the elevator.

Posters are especially valuable for employees who don’t have easy electronic access. But, as Hollywood film studios (think movie posters), advertisers (billboards) and retailers (visual displays) know, posters work for anyone—after all, we have to look at something, so it might as well be attractive, interesting and persuasive.

It’s time for us communicators to take posters seriously—and take them back from the non-communicators who are using them inappropriately. Start by thinking about what makes posters effective: a single focus, a compelling image, and a single strong theme.

For inspiration, look not within your own company, but at world-class posters.

Here are two places to view best practices:

Posters can be powerful. They just need your attention.
 

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