Rhetorical Composing: Making a Visual Public Service Announcement

This week in my Rhetorical Composing course through Coursera, we’ve all been asked to examine visual rhetoric, and incorporate aspects of the persuasive appeals of ethos, logos, pathos, and kairos into building our own public service announcements.

From the start I was pretty much planning to go this route:

Chuck Norris Mullet

…but then figured I’d go with an issue that’s more widely appealing (not to say mullets or Chuck Norris don’t have international appeal). So instead I went with this poster:

 PSA Go Bag

The basic idea behind this PSA is that you don’t have to (and shouldn’t) wait for the zombie apocalypse to come before you start preparing for an emergency. But more evidently, the real call-to-action is for people to actually spend some time creating a “go bag.” This is a bag that you prepare ahead of time with disaster-ready supplies and precautions (water, canned food, batteries, flashlights, first aid kits, etc.) so that in the event of a disaster or emergency, you can grab the bag and be confident you have the essentials with you during an evacuation.

In terms of messaging, I made sure to incorporate all four of the rhetorical elements introduced to me in the week prior. Here’s the summary of my thought process:

Beginning with color, I purposely used a black background and a grayscale image of the zombies at the door. I wanted the neutral look and absence of primary colors to really emphasize when I did introduce new colors of text on the poster. I went with red for the “you never know” message mostly due to the innate feelings of “danger” or “warning’ that typically arise when someone sees it. It’s also the color of blood which (har har) goes with the theme of the zombie image. In this section I tried to appeal to the idea of pathos, or getting the audience emotionally connected or invested into the idea of evident danger and experience.

I went with green on the text that I felt contained the messages of action (green is for “go!”) and preparedness. As a result, the two most important messages in my PSA therefore were in green text: “Prepare your emergency disaster “go bag” today” and “Preparing for a few hours today may save your life tomorrow.” It’s in these messages that I made my push of logos, the logical progression and reasoned thought and knowledge (i.e. why you need to prepare a “go bag”) as well as kairos, the appeal to the idea of an opportune moment and a sense of timeliness (i.e. why you should prepare a “go bag” today).

I introduced blue font with the idea that it’s a “cooling” color that helped me push the ethos of my PSA message, by highlighting two reputable organizations in the United States, FEMA and CDC that both highly promote the same ideas in the PSA.

Finally, there’s a QR code at the end of the poster that when scanned, will direct the audience to the emergency preparedness and response section of the CDC website for more information and guidance.

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