Archive for February, 2013

Chagall_Circus

This classic painting by Chagall tells a story.

It engages the eye, the heart and the mind. It’s reality, presented in a way that grabs and holds the attention of the audience. In telling a story, it makes a promise, in fact more than one, depending on who the audience is.  Am I speaking about the painting, or the goal of p.r.? Both.

That’s why it’s no surprise that from the beginning images have been used by p.r. in our strategies to engage our publics. Like any good story, images can help make our p.r. story better – we can often relate to the images, get excited by them, or learn from them.

an ad

But somewhere along the line, it seems that images took a credibility hit – and words took over.

  a woman

If the story p.r. was telling needed to be taken seriously – that is, have credibility and be believed – then words needed to dominate, sometimes to the absolute exclusion of the image.

a toy

The WORD became all powerful as p.r. professionals sweated over the impact of certain (loaded or unloaded) words, the placement of words in a document, along with the size of words, when to repeat words, the rise to GLORY of the use of bolding, italics, fonts – of FANCY adjectives and adverbs – and of course – all important – punctuation – most notably,  when to exclamate!

And, then the world changed.

a web


All those stories that p.r. had created and continues to create for different publics  were now, are now, all part of a connected whole, so that it feels like this:

a p

This is our reality. We’re not going to ever return to the time of Chagall, when there was just one “circus is coming” poster in our town.

So, what’s the answer for public relations? How do we drive our stories through the clutter to our identified publics? How do we get and keep their attention? And, how do we ensure that the message is trusted?

One way is data visualization.  According to Vitaly Friedman,

The main goal of data visualization is its ability to visualize data, communicating information clearly and effectively. …providing insights into a rather sparse and complex data set by communicating its key-aspects in a more intuitive way.

In this article, Friedman goes on to provide what he refers to as,

spectacular data visualizations and infographics which manage to combine a strong visual appeal with the effective presentation of information.

Many p.r. experts agree with Friedman, and there is a growing body of literature in p.r.  on the importance of once again embracing images and incorporating them into our storytelling.  At a TED talk in 2010, former journalist David McCandless gave an incredible talk on the subject called: The Beauty of Data Visualization.  Through the use of images, including infographics, McCandless takes you on an engaging journey that sells the importance of p.r. professionals using visual tools to tell our stories in a way that helps our publics manage information overload. A way for publics to find our stories, understand and believe our stories.

That’s great, and I’m sold! But unfortunately, not all clients are as prepared to jump on board with the idea of needing images as part of our content strategies.

As Ceri-Jane Hackling wrote in The importance of images in PR”

As PR professionals, one of the biggest problems we face is clients who don’t understand the importance of images… 

I can attest to the lack of readiness among some of my client-decision makers.  They remain in the era of “words need to dominate – to the exclusions of the image – if we are to be seen as credible”. They would be much more comfortable with the last half of this post, than the first half.

But you know, that’s where the role of p.r. becomes one of expert adviser.  We must find ways to convince them that if  we are to be successful  – if our messages are to be heard, and to be trusted, we must engage our publics using data visualization.  In the same article, Hackling has some suggestions on how to convince our clients that in a “connected” world, images are critical to successful p.r. strategies (here).

And, change is happening. Even among some of the most conservative types – government – the message about the importance of images in p.r. content seems to be getting out there.

Here are some great examples of where data visualization is being used, from the use of event photographs that publics can relate to or that speak of a journey or just plain excite you when you see them to the use of infographics and graphic novels that explain complex information:

And, shock of all shocks – a REAL WINNER! – including the use of a GRAPHIC NOVEL

We’ve still got a long way to go as p.r. strategists in convincing all of our clients of the importance of images to our content.  They need to understand that we get it that pictures will never replace words, nor should they.  They’re meant to grab our publics’ attention and help tell the story. Done right, they’re a simple but powerful way to engage our publics in dynamic and meaningful ways – just like Chagall did… only in our world, they “paint back”.

Note: Sexism and other “isms” reflected in the “vintage ads”  found for this post, and other advertising images – found everywhere, including those not so “vintage”, to be addressed at a future date.  For now, please join me in a collective sigh, argh and NO MORE!! (add as many capitals and explanation marks as you can muster)

Here are THREE infographs that do a great job of summarizing the elements of  P.R. content strategy.

What do they have in common?  Everyone of them gives us information and direction (to varying degrees).  Each of them answers the how, what, where, when, why – and reminds us about the “who” of content strategy.  In every case the  pictures and stats are used to limit text and in this way convey the message in an engaging – and therefore memorable – way.

NUMBER ONE:  THE ANATOMY OF CONTENT MARKETING (here)

a infograph

I’ve listed this infograph as number ONE, because in looking at it your eye is drawn to key messages first.   These are:

1. Thought Leadership.  This is a code-phrase in business for: innovative thinking.  As depicted in the infograph, for p.r., this means sourcing what they’ve listed (eg. blogs, podcasts, infographics, whitepapers) along with what’s just over the horizon.

2. It’s not just about Content. This idea is captured by way of a quote from Amit Singhal (sr. vp at GOOGLE): “Fundamentally it’s not just about content. It’s about identity, relationships and content.”  One can not be considered separate from the other.

3. Quality Content at the Heart. Captured inside the image of the heart, is the message that what is most important is quality content to a targeted public.

The image of a body captures the idea of an integrated whole. Every element is important in order for the body (in this case the p.r. content strategy) to function at an optimal level.  Proof of this is provided in the stats that are listed along with the elements, from increased visibility (“blogs on company sites result in 55% more visitors”) to higher trust levels from customers (“blogs are 63% more likely to influence purchase decisions than a magazine”) to increased customer loyalty (“60% of customers feel more positive about a company after reading custom content on its site”).

While it’s identified for marketing, all of the content strategy elements outlined equally apply to public relations.


NUMBER TWO: CONTENT LIFE CYCLE MANAGEMENT (here)

a content

This infograph has alot of the same ideas as Number One – but without the details. It’s would serve as a great reminder  once you’ve got a good  handle on content strategy (like Number One gives you).  It’s a combination a “cheat sheet” and motivator! Just like the infograph above, it starts with a core principle:

Content for online brand visibility needs to be well written, fluid, dynamic and shared.

From there, you follow the path of key elements listed under each of these stages:

GATHER –> CURATE –> WRITE –> PUBLISH&SHARE –> RECYCLE!


NUMBER THREE: TELL A STORY WITH NUMBERS (here)

8 info

This infographic poses 8 “essential” questions to pose when designing an infographic.  However, when you read them – they’re also a great short list for planning ANY content strategy:

1. Do I really have something to say?
2. What’s the goal?
3. Who’s my audience?
4. Who’s the hierarchy, or emphasis? (or what?)
5. How will I tell the story?
6. What visual tools should I use?
7. Will it be engaging?
8. Who will I ask for feedback?

It’s a great checklist, especially for those of us at the learning stage.

***************

As great as these three infographs are they’re lacking. They don’t capture everything we need to consider to be successful.  For example, I’m currently (again) working on content for a webcast.  I can tell you that I could not accomplish what needs to get done without a Team.  It’s therefore no surprise to me that in this “Beginner’s Guide to Content Strategy for the Web” the number one “thing to know” is that content strategy requires teamwork.

Still, it seems to me that they’re a great tool – something to post on your wall and refer back to – whether you’re just starting out, or a seasoned content strategist.