An old blind man was sitting on a busy corner in the rush-hour begging for money. On a cardboard sign, next to an empty tin cup, he had written: ‘Blind - Please help’.
No-one was giving him any money.
A young advertising executive walked past and saw the blind man with his sign and empty cup. She also saw the many people passing by completely unmoved, let alone stopping to give him any money.
So she stopped, reached into her hand bag and pulled out a marker-pen from her pocket. She turned the cardboard sheet back-to-front and re-wrote the sign, then went on her way.
Immediately people began putting money into the tin cup.
After a while, when the cup was overflowing, the blind man asked a stranger what his sign said.
“It says,’ replied the stranger, “it’s a beautiful day, you can see it. I can not”.
Money often seems the most logical, fastest or efficient way to deal problems. The marketing executive could very well have dropped $2 into the blind man’s cup and gone her way satisfied that she played her part. What she gave him instead was much more valuable - she gave him a story, and a story of the most powerful kind; one that is positioned to make its message relevant.
The first message fails because it is positioned from the poor man’s perspective. The second message works because it respects the perspective of the reader. If you make the effort to communicate, do it with respect to the listener as failing to do so will leave one sitting on the side of the pavement with an empty cup.