One of the most powerful tools in a damn good communicator’s toolbox is surprise. And surprise can be a whole big production, like Google’s annual April Fools’ jokes, but it can also be a small, unexpected moment. Frame your message in a slightly different way, and ears perk up.

For example: changing one word on a waste bin.

Here’s a pretty typical waste bin setup. Trash, recycling.

Typical trash and recycling bin

And here’s a waste bin that I found at Starbucks:

Recycle and Landfill

Changing one word, from “trash” to “landfill,” is enough of a surprise to make you stop and think. You’re not just throwing your stuff away-you’re sending it on a one-way trip to a Earth-hurting, frowny-face landfill. That one word was enough to make me think carefully about what I was holding and whether or not it really needed to go in the trash.

So surprise doesn’t have to be big and showy. It can be a simple matter of putting your topic in a new light, or maybe just changing a single word.

Typical trash/recycling image by Catherine Mondkar via Untapped Cities.

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