You need to get visual storytelling, and fast

This is an article by Mike Bandar.
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As everything around us transitions, evolves and adapts to the digital space – from currency, music, books and even our beloved Pokemon – it’s been no surprise to see PR practices follow suit.

Indeed, PRs and marketers have been utilising social media and wielding considerable digital influence for years now, but there’s an aspect of this evolution that PR practitioners may not have originally considered – the importance of visual communication.

Carefully chosen words and the ability to turn a phrase have always been in a PRs arsenal, and it’s fair to say they always will be. However, with Instagram and Snapchat literally using pictures to paint a thousand words, and more social platforms following suit (we’re looking at you, Facebook stories), PRs need to get comfortable with visual storytelling, and fast. Some 60% of digital content is driven by images. Those thousand words from one image pale in comparison to the 1.8 million words from a one minute video. It’s clear there’s a rise in demand for visual content.

Many brands are already successfully using platforms like Instagram to share their stories and build a base of informed and loyal customers.

A favourite of mine was the #RefreshinglyHonest campaign from drinks brand Honest Tea. The campaign launched with a series of social media posts around the theme of being honest, followed by paid social adverts and influencer posts.

The campaign gained 322,155 actions reaching 17.22 million people, quite incredible for such a simple, on-brand concept. From what we can see the campaign was driven primarily from the visuals shared across social platforms like Instagram without a press release in sight.

So, what can PRs take from this and become natural visual communicators?

  1. Keep it simple – don’t over-complicate campaign messages and be sure the story you’re telling lends itself to a visual treatment.
  2. Think like an architect – Great images don’t just happen. Study the images of the audience you’re trying to reach, paying particular attention to the influencers you might want to use to reach them. How are their images structured? Too busy and the message gets lost, too calm and users will scroll on by so build your image carefully.
  3. Choose a filter – Never underestimate the impact of the right filter! While #nofilter is still fairly popular, it’s no longer a sign of high quality content. Pick a filter than enhances the image, rather than masks it. There’s plenty of advice on filters on our blog.
  4. Words are still important – Don’t think the image alone will be enough! You will have a limited amount of words to convey key messages and any calls to action so clever copywriting is a must.
  5. Make the most of new platform features…but don’t get distracted by them– Facebook stories, Instagram image carousels and live options mean there are more ways than ever to create and share visual content. While this can give you a wider scope for your PR campaigns, early indications show that, certainly in the case of Instagram, static individual images still get the most engagement from users. Something to think about when developing content ideas.
  6. Schedule your posts – Just as there’s an optimum time to pitch to journalists, there’s optimum times to post visual content. Know which times work on your platforms for the best engagement and use a scheduling tool to ensure content is posted. For Instagram, early morning and late night can be key times for those in-bed scrollers so use Hopper to automatically post scheduled content so you don’t have to do it!

Mike Bandar is a Founding Partner of Turn Partners, a startup studio focused on the acquisition, turnaround and creation of digital businesses. Turn Partners are behind Hopper, the Instagram scheduling tool; the influencer marketing agency Real Tribe and niche dating agency Toyboy Warehouse as well as a small investment portfolio.

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