Case in point

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March 10, 2008 by 8junebugs

There are two ways you can tell people something: Positively and Negatively

Positively: “And remember, sending your donations in as early as possible will enable you to complete Online Check-In! Any Walker who meets their $1,800 donation minimum prior to the online-check in deadline will be able to take advantage of Online Check-In and go directly to a special “Pink Ribbon Club” area to get your event wristband.”

Negatively: “If you do not meet the donation minimim before online check-in starts, you will not be eligible for Online Check-In and will have to wait in line. We recommend obtaining a vaccination for herpes simplex 1 before entering the queue area.”

One prematurely congratulates you, which is a backwards way of cheering you on. The other is subtly punitive. Communications departments exist because people who develop requirements think in terms of consequences and people in charge of message and branding think in terms of positive reinforcement for a call to action.

So which side is right? Depends on where you work, who’s on which side, and whether the doughnuts were fresh this morning. There is a middle ground where the requirements for a special discount or gift are clear in a way that is inclusive. This is sometimes easier to accomplish when, like the Avon Walk, getting more people to raise more money faster is the whole point, or when your bonus depends on increasing conference attendance by 10%.

For more information, see Open Letter #1 or watch Patrick Swayze in Roadhouse teaching people to be nice until it is time to not be nice, which is at the discretion of the person who’s in charge for a reason.


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