What’s A Picture Worth?

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“The greatest value of a picture is when it forces us to notice what we never expected to see.”

          –     John Tukey (1915 – 2000), renowned Mathematician

If a picture is worth a thousand words, that’s not our best play, because a thousand words is a LOT of words.  More words than could ever be necessary.

Let’s look at the value of a picture from two different angles, at least when it comes to persuasion.

First, what is a picture?

Physically, it can be a photograph.  It can be a graphic.  It can be a cartoon, a drawing or a scribble on a whiteboard. If we choose this route, we ought to be aware that the viewer of the picture may see something different than we intend (remember the Rorshach Test?), which leads us to the second, affiliated definition.

A picture can be a story.  A “word-picture,” if you will.  The physical definition requires little skill (after all, the word “scribble” is included, right?), but if we’re going to use stories at pictures, it requires practice, preparation and commitment.  For the sake of simplicity, simply consider the way one reads “The Night Before Christmas” to a three-year-old, compared to how one reads it to an older child.  The willingness to seek the three-year-old sense of wonderment in any audience is what makes us qualified to use stories as pictures.

Even if we use actual images, we had better have a story to tell that narrows down the interpretations of the audience.

Second, what good is a picture in persuading?

A picture is better than our “shoulds,” as we covered last Thursday.  No one wants to know why we think they should or shouldn’t do or not do something.  A picture though, helps it become their idea!  And when we show / tell them a picture that makes it their idea, that’s where the magic happens.

Editor’s Note:  Yes, I fully realize that I’m lagging in not using pictures, actual images, more in The Daily Difference.  Yes, I realize that relying too much on stories limits the effectiveness of The Daily Difference.  Feedback suggests the impact is real, and for you long-term subscribers, I hope you agree.  For you newer subscribers, bear with me.  Better is coming…  


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