Huw Tyler responds

I enjoyed reading the article about the obscure Welsh Road Sign. As someone who has lived in Wales, I remember the news report that announced the need for them! As non-English (or Welsh) speaking lorry drivers coming over from Europe, news pictures showed angry Welsh farmers waving their arms at HGVs that had skidded into walls, cows and ditches having followed a route more suited to Richard’s Citroen!

I think Richard is right, we should often champion clarity over obscurity but I think an age-old challenge is also highlighted here to preachers who want to share a message on and offline in this digital age.

Good communication today requires great simplification.

The great-late Steve Jobs was a master communicator. He would condense an entire keynote into a catchy, memorable and tweetable phrase (a great tip for all sermons!) and as a result, made his key message easy to remember, act on and share. For example, as he unveiled the original iPad, he opened with the words “a truly magical and revolutionary product” – about 40 characters.

An infographic (like the road sign) does the same. It reduces a large amount of information  into a quickly digestible symbol and a good one won’t be misunderstood… like an alien abduction!

Here’s the challenge: the more we simplify, the better we need to know or focus our audience. A road sign like this may not make sense to occasional tourists like Richard but it doesn’t need to. It will make that Dutch deliver driver with the TomTom at eye level think twice about the route he’s taking! (I believe there have since been fewer incidents in this area.)

This is nothing new. “Know your audience” is day one at communication-class! New questions arise however when we consider that with the Internet, our audience is not only vast and broad but also relatively anonymous. What may be words of meaning to one group of people could be bizarre noise to others – just like the road sign. Obscurity Vs Clarity surely depends on one thing… the audience.

So as churches publish more online, podcast more sermons and live stream more services, we should continue to ask ‘who’s listening?’ and consider that the answer has changed completely – has our preaching?

Huw Tyler runs Share Creative, an agency that love creative ideas. They hosted The Natwivity an Easter(LIVE) as well as projects that enrich justice and discipleship. Follow @huwtyler and @sharecreative on twitter.