Visual storytelling is a key communications approach

story visualThe Internet has changed how we absorb information. Shorter text, quick facts, and compelling and creative visuals such as infographics, photos, illustrations and video speak to the new need for relevant, short pieces of information to digest.

In the world of public relations, we have known, for a very long time, that body language is important – especially if you are dealing with an issue or a crisis. It isn’t just what you say that matters, it’s also the visual that goes with it. Studies have shown that 93% of communication is non-verbal and that our brains process images 60,000 times faster than text. As a communicator, I know that using visuals works from proactive, positive messaging to responding to an issue.

Visual storytelling is an important component of strategic communications, no matter what your organization or brand. For the AHA team, this includes sending out a photo with a “good news” media pitch for clients, content on our website, the image included with our blog posts, infographics, photo and video news releases and, of course, our Fast Take Fridays. Our Fast Take Friday videos are great examples of using visuals to engage. From potential clients to the people who hire speakers, viewers get to see me in action.

There is a visual element that supports the message, and rather than reading tips and hints, those interested get to see the person behind the information and it is shared in a more compelling and connected way. People are more drawn to content that either tells the story through visuals or has messaging that is supported by a visual.

We sometimes have to remind clients of the need for good visuals when working with them on their speeches and presentations. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen presentations (mostly PowerPoint) that are so filled with text that it makes your head spin. I am not talking about well-designed infographics or compelling charts or graphs; I am talking about words upon words – just too many words! Usually, it is the same information that the person is going to speak to in their presentation and it’s just on the slide – no visuals or graphics to bring the subject to life.

Images are extremely important for presentations if you want your audience’s attention.

When working with clients on their presentations, here are the goals:

  • Have the audience immediately interested in the content. (An image does that – it draws people in.)
  • Ensure that you aren’t overwhelming them with so much information that they won’t remember anything except that feeling of too much information. (A PowerPoint slide with too many words is overwhelming.)
  • Tell a story that engages, as well as informs. (Images and stories engage. Use examples, human-interest stories and dramatic visuals. The only story those old stock photo shots tell is that the presenter didn’t put enough effort into their presentation.)
  • Provide them with enough information to interest them so that they actively listen to what you have to say. (Reading your slides to them doesn’t count as interesting.)

When you take a step back and see the shift of how people want and expect to be communicated with, you see the popularity of social networking sites such as Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Twitter now encouraging images and video. Vine is a very popular video-sharing site and, of course, the grandparent of video, YouTube, continues to be popular.

Visual storytelling is important. How are you telling your story? Does it include visuals? To be effective, you need to show as well as tell.

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