Selling Accessibility: Framing the message

Yesterday I was doing some cleaning of my computer’s files and came across the slide deck for Selling Accessibility (which you can see under Presentations). It also reminded me of two things littering my desk for a while which I “borrowed” from my room at the Marriott in San Diego during last year’s CSUN Conference: The shower tag and towel tag.

Marriott Shower Tag

Marriott Towel Tag

I “borrowed” these two things from Marriott because they are perfect demonstrations of a point I tried to make in both my presentation and in my series of blog posts on Selling Accessibility: framing the message in a way that speaks directly to the listener’s concerns, not yours. In fact, when trying to convince others of the importance of accessibility, your own personal goals don’t even need to be mentioned.

Here’s the text from the shower tag:

Like we care for you, we care for our planet. Please help us sustain it by hanging your towels for future use.

Of course, we would happy to replace your towels should you want new ones. Simply leave them elsewhere and we will replace them, freshly laundered.

Here’s the relevant text from the towel tag:

Where commitment meets conservation

Join us and your fellow guests in conservation efforts in our hotels and beyond, as together we make smart environmental choices

Bed Linens

Conserve resources. Our practice is to refresh bed linens every third day, but we will change them as often as you wish.

Towels

Save water. Our practice is to change towels every day, but we also support our guests’ desire to reduce water energy and use of cleaning products. Please hang your towels to indicate that you wish to reuse them.

Every word in these two tags have been carefully chosen to speak to the hotel guest in a way that frames the guest as the focal point of Marriott’s concerns. The shower tag demonstrates this in the very first sentence: “Like we care for you, we care for our planet.” In the second part of that sentence, they’ve then added “the planet”. Marriott, by this statement, is demonstrating a selfless desire to help the planet. Who wouldn’t want that? The tone has been set now. Marriott cares about first about you and the planet. Nowhere do they mention any benefit this has for Marriott. “Of course, we would happy to replace your towels should you want new ones.”

What does Marriott get? Well, they actually get a lot. The Marriott Marquis San Diego, from which these tags were “borrowed”, is a 4-star hotel with 25 floors. They have 1360 guest rooms and 75,000 square feet of meeting space. Washing every towel in every occupied room can be quite costly. It on a daily basis it involves human resources as well as natural resources in the form of water and electricity. It also is added use of washing machines and driers which may shorten their lifespan as well as the lifespan of the towels themselves. But how much benefit does Marriott get from re-using your towel?

According to this PDF from the EPA titled Saving Water in Hotels:

  • Water used in hotels and other lodging businesses accounts for approximately 15 percent of the total water use in commercial and institutional facilities in the United States.
  • Of that water use, 16% of a hotel’s water is used in laundry
  • Industry estimates suggest that implementing water – efficient practices in commercial buildings can decrease operating costs by approximately 11 percent and energy and water use by 10 and 15 percent, respectively
  • Instituting linen and towel reuse programs in guest rooms can help reduce the loads of laundry washed by 17 percent.

Just by reusing your towels, you’re contributing to a ton of costs savings by your hotel. Your towel-on-the-floor is lost ROI. But that shower tag doesn’t say that, does it? What if that shower tag’s first two sentences said “Profitability is measured by increasing income and reducing expenses. If you reuse your towel we can reduce our water expenses by 15% per annum.” If you’re like me you’d say “Yeah, so what. I’m paying you $200 a night. Wash my towel!”

When trying to convince others that Accessibility is important, put the message solely in terms that are centered around them and their concerns, without even mentioning your desires and perspectives. What is it that is most important to the listener? Can you save them money? Can you increase their income? Can you increase their internal political clout? What is it that they want that you can give them? Learn from Marriott: Tell them the ways that accessibility benefits them and you’ll gain their compliance much more easily.

If you are interested in learning about the next generation in Web Accessibility Testing, sign up for the release of Tenon.io
If you or your organization need help with accessibility consulting, strategy, or accessible web development, email me directly at karl@karlgroves.com or call me at +1 443-875-7343. Download Resume [MS Word]

One Comment

  • Posted August 2, 2013 at 2:12 pm   Permalink

    Great points Karl, I remember chatting about this in February. Messaging of our goals is critical to our long-term success (one of the reasons why I push Fireman versus Cop), and your example from the Marriott is a great one to add to the corpus.

    (Now, how do I get you to add @longdesc content to those images?…)

    Cheers!

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