Ever since the dawn of time, pictures have been used to convey messages. From stone age cave carvings, Egyptian hieroglyphics or indigenous Australian depictions, pictures tell a story.
It’s always been an important part of the PR armoury, but today has renewed relevance. Why? Our good friend social media.
Pictures and video dominate online. The explosion of social media and the fact everyone now has a voice (and a camera phone) means if your messages aren’t relevant you won’t get cut-through. In a very short time, we’ve gone from micro-blogging in 140 characters to showing the world what we’re doing through pictures and video. YouTube is the world’s second biggest search engine and Pinterest, where pictures dominate, is the fastest growing social media site ever – it’s not even out of beta yet.
Australia has the second highest smart phone adoption after Singapore and now most of us have access to high quality camera phones, it’s incredibly easy to share visual experiences online. From a cultural perspective, social media taps into our innate desires to show and tell.
And then there is the infographic phenomenon – a hugely effective way to share data visually, and when combined with social media can have enormous reach.
What does this mean for communications?
As ever, PR must consider how to engage in meaningful and relevant ways using all the tools at our disposal, especially video and pictures. But its more than just a product shot – we need to think creatively about how best to convey the broader story we are trying to tell. Pick up any paper and you’ll find a story of questionable merit accompanied by a great picture.
It’s about striking the balance between visuals and words. In many cases visual communication can be very powerful and most people retain information much more effectively when it is presented visually; in others the written word is still the best vehicle. This infographic shows the impact a cleverly placed visual can have on readership.
In general, the formula is simple: text + images + video = greater engagement.
In practice, working out the weighting for each variable depends on the channel, audience, topic, complexity, objective and budget. And while these variables will constantly change, one thing is clear, the power of the picture cannot be ignored.