Walker: Show and tell to avoid content overload

Kate Walker, SVP, partner, McGrath/Power PR, details how visually led comms helps avoid content overload.

Kate Walker
Kate Walker

As a child, I had a poster over my bed that said, "Reading gives you a place to go when you have to stay where you are." I still get lost in a good book, visualizing the plot in a way that puts me into the pages. If I close my eyes at the end, I can recall with almost perfect accuracy the path the story took to get me there.

Right now, some of you are thinking: "Great, more on storytelling." Actually, no. There’s a term for the visual trip a good story takes you on. It’s called a brain movie. Think of it as the way we imagine the scenes of books – creating visuals when we aren’t given any.

Content overload
But what if you receive hundreds of text-based items each day that all require you to translate content into images? Overload. With so much content, you stop visualizing.

You read the text and use only the language-processing parts of your brain. What you are reading becomes less distinct, less memorable. That’s bad news for PR pros trying to make inroads with a reporter. You’ve tried to call, but they never pick up. You send your email pitch and hear nothing. You could try again, or just do it differently. This brings me to story showing.

The brain processes visual in-formation 60,000 times faster than text. Incorporating graphics, images, and videos into media outreach increases your chances of engagement and can improve your coverage. 

First time you’ve reached out to a particular journalist? Skip the standard meet-and-greet pitch. Instead, create a personalized video featuring the CEO and include a brief company background. The video link can show what – and who – you have to offer to the journalist and their readers.

Focus on consumers
Launching a new product? Lose the jargon and focus on the human element – the customer. Video testimonials work here, too, but with an emphasis on benefits. There’s also the opportunity to create a comic strip or infographic. Take the journalist on a visual journey by showing them product benefits, rather than just telling them.

Studies have also shown that visual content in a press release can increase engagement by 55% for videos and 18% for images. That means a new approach to press release distribution. Include a shareable headline, shortened link to the release, and a social-media-friendly image or video.

Consider yourself visually challenged? No problem. Tools from Adobe Color to Canva to Vine make it possible to produce visual content easily and inexpensively. And they help make your content memorable.

When it comes to pitching a story – story showing matters. Make sure you show and tell for maximum impact.

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