The Art of Visual Storytelling

By Samson Lam

The Hoffman Agency Singapore

You know the old adage – a picture is worth a thousand words.

This cannot ring any truer than for people working in today’s media.

When I was a writer at a tech magazine, I was bombarded by press releases and pitches every day; and nothing says, “Next, please!” like a wordy pitch.

As we advance into an environment that is increasingly fuelled by social media, the plethora of tools available demands that content should go beyond traditional text and include “multi-media” facets that readers will readily consume. In short, more and more outlets are looking for visual aids to enhance their storytelling.

Now – on the PR side of the media fence – I avoid letting journalists experience what I faced, and opt to cut down my pitches. Here are my favourite tools, and I’ll show you how to employ the art of visual storytelling to your PR pitches. 


Infographics for the Intuitive

The Art of Visual Storytelling

I do have an educational background in design, but I don’t think you need be visually trained to see that having an infographic can do wonders in delivering a message. One look and you can immediately tell that 90 per cent of information sent to the brain is visual, and more than 6 in 10 people in the population are visual learners. By incorporating visual stimuli, we bypass the “information superhighway,” and the flow of information can be directly sent to the intended recipient.

Of course, it matters how the information is laid out. A poorly constructed infographic could overload the target audience and sometimes even be detrimental to your pitch/story. Refer to the example below:

The Art of Visual Storytelling

With so much activity going on, it is hard for readers to visually digest the information presented. There is no visual hierarchy for the eyes to land on and absorb the message. Amount of text, layout and content are all key deciding factors when determining the effectiveness of an infographic. Without them, your infographic can turn out not meaning anything at all, or worse – putting off your reader – which is the worst case scenario for any storyteller.


Vivid Videos of Vibrancy

Usain Bolt vs. the world

Visual Storytelling

Now that the headline/image combo has your attention, you can proceed to viewing this extraordinary comparison video that pits the Olympic record breaker, Usain Bolt, against other Olympic winners.

Instead of just rolling out with hard numbers on how he fared, Kevin Quealy and Graham Roberts give a unique video perspective on how Bolt lived up to his namesake. You’ll really have to see it in action to truly appreciate this superhuman achievement.

For PR practitioners, if you think images are effective, their moving iterations can be a godsend. Creating a channel and uploading your or your client’s content is simple and free on platforms like YouTube or Vimeo. Most of them also enable embedded codes and direct links to your videos, making it easy for journalists and readers to share your content with their extended social networks.

Of course, not all clients can afford the resources to create a highly polished video to share, which brings us to my last point …


Plain Ol’ Photos

Images still remain the most cost-effective conduit for storytelling. In fact, more than 3,000 photos are being uploaded on Flickr every minute. To effectively tell a story, images can range from the most awe-inspiring …

The Art of Visual Storytelling

… to humorous – 

The Art of Visual Storytelling

High-quality images are easy to obtain and are widely accessible. Sometimes that’s all you need to tell your story. The images above can easily depict the stunning sights-yet-to-be-witnessed of the Northern Lights or the unpredictable side of Lady Luck taking a turn for the worse on McKayla Maroney.

However, as accessible as they are, images can sometimes be overused, and emails might be potentially littered with them. Worse, they end up clogging inboxes, and annoying recipients. After all, too many cooks can ruin the dish. My advice is to use images sparingly for greatest effect.


Bonus Point: Fortune Favours the Format

If you got through reading this, chances are you didn’t notice how “long” this post is.

That is the power of formatting your content.

Sometimes formatting and organising go miles beyond simply plunking content into a Word doc. Having a combination of the aforementioned visual aids can make your message a lot more sizeable and digestible.

Remember, content may be king, but what use is a king if the rooks aren’t there to support him?


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