Helping Non-designers Get the ...


Why PR Pros Struggle with Visuals - Sigmund Freud

Previous posts have discussed the challenge for PR folks to embrace visual storytelling in communications. Coming from the world of words (WOW), we’re typically not schooled in design and the creation of visuals .

But as PR increasingly manages owned media properties like blogs, we should be taking a page — taking a visual doesn’t exactly have the same ring to it — from professional publishers. Responding to the crush of information and more people accessing content on mobile devices, they definitely have the visual storytelling religion.

A recent Gizmodo story on Bloomberg Businessweek reminded me of this very point. Its deputy creative director, Tracy Ma, calls out editor Josh Tyrangiel as an enlightened soul:

“When he rebooted the mag he created this environment where the visual people and the words people have equal footing and work side-by-side,” says Ma. “That’s not the case anywhere else, I think, and it’s a model that’s worked pretty well for us, and something we keep pushing for.”

This has been Bloomberg Businessweek’s mission going back to 2011 when creative director Richard Turley relaunched the publication. I particularly liked his touch of combining hand-written snippets with conventional magazine design.

Bloomberg Businessweek My Way

Forget about the industrial-grade resources at Businessweek’s disposal for a minute.

It’s more about the mentality.

Here’s a business magazine that interrogates the likes of Jack Welsh, Jeff Bezos and Fred Smith saying visuals are just as important as words.

Again, being steeped in words, PR struggles with this leap.

Yet, there’s a design technique that plays to the strength of PR, allowing for the creation of what I’ve come to call “word visuals.” Just as the name implies, words carry the day in this type of visual. What could be better from a PR pro’s perspective?

Word visuals come in three versions:

  1. Clever words that stand on their own: The design side is sparse or even non-existent in the case of hand-written lists (like on a chalk board).
  2. Speech cloud from a celebrity: This is one of my favorites, particularly for B2B companies where the intersection of a Jimmy Fallon with say computer security software can jar the senses.
  3. Replace the words in an existing visual: Take anything that has already has writing — could be billboard, a sign at a sporting event or even a soda can — and replace that writing with your own words.

I will publish a companion post on Monday that shares examples from each of three categories.

Side note: I wrote a post on Richard Turley’s work and a Bloomberg Businessweek photo essay on a Jordanian refugee camp last year. It’s a great example of how visual storytelling can make sense of a complex topic as well as bring out the humanity.

Leave a Reply