Gude Ideas

Infographics and Creative Problem Solving

How to Use Visual Storytelling to Connect Your Brand With New Audiences


Screen Shot 2013-02-22 at 5.20.17 PM

(From ‘How to draw an eye” by Karl Gude)

What are some of the most effective ways that PR execs can use visual storytelling right now?

Embed visualization into the culture of your business! Whether you’re a single-person or a large agency, there must be a commitment to visualizing information. Making complex infographics can take time and money to produce and may require input from a variety of people (researchers, sales personnel, database managers, department heads, writers, data visualizers, artists, designers, etc.), some of whom don’t want to be bothered. Often, a manager will assign a single, lonely, unfortunate person the job of creating infographics for the firm and offer them little or no human or financial support, leaving them to their own ingenuity to get graphics made. This can lead to frustration and, well, really bad graphics.

Why is that?

Doing just about anything on the cheap is a recipe for disaster, and graphics are no different. I guarantee that creating miserly graphics will result in ugly and wrong or irrelevant information and will make your business look very bad. Remember, the damage can be widespread because more people will engage with a visual than will read a press release because it’s just easier to look at something than it is to read it.

Creating graphics is often a team effort, but who wants extra work? A writer who’s been asked to help with a graphic may respond, “Come back later when I’m done with the press release.” But many graphics take a lot more time to produce than writing a press release, so making someone wait is counterproductive. Then, when the writer is finished with their verbal masterpiece, they may say, “Everything you need to make your (not our) graphic is in the press release.” “Really? Did the press release list 25 years of sales data needed for the line chart?” Hardly.

This catch-as-catch-can environment for visualizing information results in people being forced to engage in what I call the “Bumbling Bs” for getting an infographic made:

  • Bothering
  • Badgering
  • Begging
  • Bribing

You don’t want to be a Bumbling Bs company. It’s Bad Business (two more Bs!). Creating visuals must be woven into the culture, as routine as writing a press release, and this comes from having total support at the top!

Do PR pros need to cultivate designers and people familiar with using visuals to help tell a story in-house, or does it make more sense to outsource these roles?

If you can, train an in-house designer who is familiar with your branding to create visuals but realize that many designers cannot do things like visualizing complex data sets or drawing (like a 3D floor plan), so you may have to go outside. Remember that the graphic you are putting out to the world is an ambassador for your firm or client, and how well or poorly it communicates and how good or awful it looks will reflect back on you. Give the designer the support he or she needs, like:

  • Talking and listening to them
  • Including them in all meetings
  • Freeing them up from other work to get the visualization done
  • Motivating someone they’re working with who is stalling
  • Getting them the right software programs to work with and training them in their use
  • Bringing in an outside illustrator to do a drawing or data visualizer to make charts and maps.

How can PR execs better integrate visuals into their written materials, such as press releases, brochures, annual reports?

The first thing they can do is to scour all of those text-based materials for opportunities for visualizing information (you can link to the webinar I did on this for PR Newswire). Some will be obvious when things like numbers and locations are mentioned, but others may not be so obvious.

Then, carve out space in those publications to make room for your graphic(s). Too many people are in LOVE with all of their words and are loathe to trim a single one of them. Get over it. Realize that your audience wants to be engaged in different ways, and reading a ton of text can be like homework, if they read it at all.

Consider these four things when making visualizations:

  1. Need. Ask why making a visual is better than writing about the topic. Visual people in the firm should be asked to share their thoughts and offerings as a routine part of all planning and brainstorming meetings.
  2. Idea. What is the best way to visually communicate this information that will engage our audience. What’s the tone? Serious, light-hearted, etc.
  3. Content. Graphics often require more detailed content, like numbers, than an article. Make sure you have all the information you need to produce the graphic in front of you before you begin your design.
  4. Design. Too may people think they know when something looks great and force the person working on the design to do it their way. (It just HAS to be made with Comic Sans! Yuk.) LISTEN to the designer, don’t dictate to them what they should do.If you can’t work with a designer, here are some rules of thumb:
  • Grid: Structure your layout with a grid
  • Color: Use color sparingly and purposefully
  • Fonts: Use just one or two fonts
  • Type: Use different sizes of type to help your audience navigate the content.
  • Size: Make important elements larger so the reader understands what’s important.

I have more design tips here in this Huffington Post article I recently wrote.

Now, go forth and do great visual storytelling!

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This entry was posted on February 22, 2013 by in Painting.

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