The Importance of Visuals in PR

July 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

Written By John Grossman, Summer Public Relations Intern

With more sensory stimuli present in everyday society, the battle for your audience’s attention is more challenging than ever. Because of this, simple text-only releases just don’t cut it anymore. Your releases need a spark that will captivate your audience’s attention, and nothing works better for this than images and other multimedia. The power of visuals and imagery can be seen by Facebook’s recent acquisition of Instagram, a social media image hosting site, for a cool $1 billion. However, despite the attention and precedence of visuals in society, the majority of public relations content remains plain text on a plain background distributed through the same channels. The monotony of it all not only bores eyes, but also readers. The simple reliance on words to convey a story and paint a picture in the audience’s mind is currently the method of choice, and drastically inefficient compared to some of the newer trends in PR. Here’s why you should get ahead of the game and start making your PR tactics a multifaceted approach:

  • Multimedia content creates more results. In a recent analytic study, PR Newswire looked in-depth at what differentiates regular plain-text news releases with those that contain images, videos and other media sources. The results they found make it hard to believe that many PR professionals haven’t made a visual switch yet. Their analysis showed that the inclusion of many media types in press releases garnished 77% more views than releases with just text. If you aren’t sure if visuals are right for you, this should help persuade you in the right direction. In order for your content to stay at the top it doesn’t just need to sound good, it needs to look good too.
  • Social media loves visuals. By including visuals in your releases, you are creating more shareable elements than a simple text release would have. These shareable images make their way onto different social media networks, driving traffic to your releases from more than one place. In the past, most traffic is gained through search engines. Now that each media source is different, the audience can be reached without detailed searching, once again driving up views and the total reach by your work. With a share rate of three times that of text-only releases, multimedia should be a mainstay in your future work.

Now, you may be thinking that this all sounds great, but you have no idea how to implement visuals into your daily work. It’s not just you thinking this. Multimedia costs more, and as budgets for PR work remain tight, it’s hard to convince clients to spend more on what still is considered an unproven element. With the right tactics, however, you can show multimedia’s effectiveness and why it deserves funding. Utilize a few key elements in order to see such results:

  • Simplify information. One of the biggest trends right now in visual PR are infographics. These visually appealing, simple to read displays convert raw data into something the audience wants to see. Infographics are able to convert complex information into simple bite-sized pieces that the audience can understand and share with their networks.
  • Spice it up. It may not be the most exciting thing, but things like lists and basic information are needed. Rather than simply typing these details, turn your text visual. Replacing a basic list with a colorful display will add some life to your release. The reader will be drawn to it, and will view it further in-depth than just plain text buried within the release.
  • Take advantage of social media releases. To help with the changing times, more tools are becoming available for PR professionals that make it easier and more effective than ever to include multimedia content in releases. Pitch Engine is a service that turns a traditional press release into a multifaceted approach that benefits both you and your client. This easy-to-use program creates a social media release that allows for embedded pictures, videos and other content. Since they are linked through social media, the releases are easy to share via Twitter and Facebook, widening your audience even further. Not only is it effective and easier to distribute than traditional release styles, Pitch Engine also helps boost your SEO, an important statistic that helps drive web traffic to your site. Most wire services also have templates for more multimedia options, so make sure to utilize these as well.

As the saying goes, pictures are worth a thousand words. An effective implementation of imagery and visuals can be worth even more than that to your clients by reaching larger audiences and multiple channels of distribution compared to simple text releases. By linking content creation, your business needs and your data, you can achieve a significant improvement in your releases and their reception.

How are you incorporating visuals into your PR plan?

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Write a Better Feature Article

July 2, 2012 § Leave a comment

Written By: Julie Caan

Writing a feature story is one thing, but writing a feature story that people will actually want to read is another.

Creating a great feature story isn’t easy; in fact, it’s really tough.

Every day, we’re entrusted with telling our clients’ stories through articles, blogs, newsletters and other communication. It can be easy to slip into bad writing habits when writing for a company’s internal audience: enter clichés, corporate-speak, abstract concepts and the like.

My fellow VA team member, Casey, and I recently attended a presentation about how to write stronger feature articles. The talk left Casey and I feeling inspired, refreshed and ready to write. Throughout the talk, we were reminded that it’s all about the little things when it comes to writing interesting feature copy.

Avoid Boring Writing:

This probably won’t come as a surprise to most, but corporate writing can be really boring. Next time you sit down to write think about WHY you’re writing, WHO you’re writing for and WHY they should care. I know this all sounds basic, but as I mentioned earlier, it’s easy to forget about your audience and most importantly, the PEOPLE behind the story.

Think of it this way: you’re the messenger and what you’re writing (whether you think so or not) is important to someone, somewhere. Don’t abuse this privilege; make sure you’re writing something people can relate to and draw meaning from—and try to have a little fun along the way.

Next time you write a feature, keep these building blocks in mind:

Elements of a Great Feature Story:

1. Attention grabbing, non-newsy lead (take a step back and reflect on the news)
2. Color (pay attention to detail—inject life into your writing!)
3. Narrative writing style (set the scene)
4. Include point of view
5. People (human beings doing things to influence a story)

Now, I realize that not every feature story you write is going to be “dramatic” or even all that interesting, but that doesn’t mean you can’t write a quality piece that will resonate with your audience.

The talk we attended also emphasized being specific, focusing on people and writing with clarity. How many times have you buried a complicated acronym in the lead, or used jargon your audience might not understand? Instead of describing a new initiative using obscure, abstract language, use specific words that will paint a picture in the readers’ minds. Rather than writing about a new policy or procedure, try SHOWING your audience the change using people and actions they can relate to.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway I learned from this presentation was the importance of using people to tell stories (after all, this is feature writing we’re talking about). It’s simple really. When you’re writing about people, make sure to inject all the qualities (when appropriate) that make them who they are into your story. For example, if you’re interviewing someone for a corporate profile, pay attention to what’s on his or her desk, photos or even that obscure collection of piggy banks hiding in the corner. This is the stuff your readers care about. Rather than resume-dumping right off the bat, why not try leading with some ‘color?’ Pay attention to detail. Humanize the piece.

To close, I’d like to share some general tips that apply to all types of writing:

• Set a timer for one hour and write without looking back (good old school tip that really works!)
• All great writing lies in great editing: it will take time to carve the perfect masterpiece
• Have fun with your writing!

Nobody’s a perfect writer and while some assignments may seem destined to be boring, it’s your job to turn them around. Cut to the heart of the story, create images and include PEOPLE. Set the scene for something your audience will want to read and something you will want to write!

What do you think goes into writing a great feature story? Any tips?

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