Monday, June 13, 2011

‘Don’t get dead’

When there is a safety advisory or a safety program, be it the state DOT, local school or your federal government, it is always accompanied by a slogan. It’s a well-established fact of public relations that a really good program cannot be successful without a safety slogan. They are more important than the name of the campaign. 

PR people go to great lengths to come up with these safety slogans. Remember Smokey the Bear and “Remember – only YOU can prevent forest fires?” That one has really been enduring. The author of that must be really proud.

Others that has been around for years are “Better be safe than sorry” and “be alert, be safe.” Or another version: “Be a lert – what the world needs is more lerts.” And whoever came up with “don’t drink and drive” struck gold. And seat belt programs always have slogans. Remember “Make it click!” and “Click it or ticket”?

Here at Land Line, we get notifications of closed roads, rest areas, detours and such each day from the Missouri Department of Transportation and dozens of other states. At the bottom of the advisories from MoDOT is the buckle up note and in all caps – ARRIVE ALIVE.

We’ve been watching Arizona DOT alerts lately, due to the fire and all. At the bottom of their advisories, it always says “Please buckle up, observe speed limits, and never drink and drive.” Sensible. Not overwritten.

Some states don’t include the slogans on their alerts, but plaster messages all over their websites. California, for instance, is not as nice as Arizona about being safe. In California, it’s more important what you don’t do than what you do. So they just come right out and warn you “DON’T TRASH CALIFORNIA.”

Like most news staffs in the privacy of their newsrooms, Land Line is rich with inside terminology for such labeling techniques. We call these safety slogans “don’t get dead” jingles. I suppose that sounds irreverent, but it’s not really intended to be. It’s a useful catchall, invented by our senior editor, and can be used in plenty of newsroom situations like “hey, does this new work zone awareness program have a don’t-get-dead slogan?” Or even “here’s a don’t-get-dead advisory from the Alabama Department of Public Safety.”

Some agencies or committees springboard off circumstance to pop out there with a temporary slogan that gets everyone’s attention. We got one a bit ago from the Iowa DOT and I noticed on the bottom it reads “TURN AROUND, DON’T DROWN.” Not beating around the bush there; it’s a short, original, strong message.

So in the category of don’t-get-deads, I’d have to give a thumbs up to that one.