The “Bad Boy” of ...


The world complained of infographic fatigue two years ago.

Yet, infographics continue to be a mainstay of visual storytelling. Fresh infographics – when I say “fresh,” I mean a narrative that’s easy on the eyes, entertaining,  and delivers a surprise – still generate attention. When we look across our client blogs, the posts with infographics inevitably score well in the popularity index called Google Analytics.

That’s the good news.

On the not-so-good side, the popularity of infographics has resulted in some visuals that can only be described as dreadful (to be kind). The infographic platform by itself doesn’t automatically serve the target audience. You still need to deliver information that has relevance to the reader and offers something that they will care about.

Contrary to popular myth, you can create a compelling infographic without charts, graphs or a stack of coffee cups representing Brazil’s GDP. This is a critical point for PR professionals who are grounded in words, not data or design.

As shared in previous posts, levity can be the killer app in business communications, and this especially holds true with infographics where words and visuals can play off of each other. If you can bring a fresh wrinkle or a twist that prompts a smile – “funny” or “humorous” carry a much higher bar which is why I use “levity” – you’ll extend the reach of the infographic.

Vanity Fair published a terrific infographic last year that parodied the TED talks, showing how words can “drive” an infographic. Our own infographic called “Storytelling vs Corporate Speak” offers an example of how words can totally carry an infographic. This one got a ton of traction including distribution on Holy Kaw.

One final example –

HubSpot recently published an infographic called, “The Anatomy of a Shareable Infographic” that outlines pragmatic tips for extending the reach of this type of content. Again, we find words dominating the narrative.

HubSpot infographic on Anatomy of Shareable Infographic

I’ve always thought a potential Holy Grail for infographics would be embedding a hyperlink into the JPEG. This way, even if someone “borrowed” the infographic without proper attribution, you would always have the hyperlink point toward the original source (natural link-building).

The HubSpot post highlighted a tool called ThingLink which  allows for another layer of content including hyperlinks to be added to the infographic. While this has promise, all “shares” – including the embed code – go back to the ThinkLink platform, which torpedoes natural link-building.

Of course, the best marketing for an infographic lies in whether the storytelling is strong enough to stop the reader.

Note: PR Newswire published a post earlier this month on extending the reach of infographics which adds to this discussion.


  • Howie Goldfarb

    Louuuuuuuuuuu! Whats up? So excited to comment here.

    My biggest issue with infographics is 99% of them have false data. And just one outrageous data point undermines all credibility. Most people I bring this up with often claim they didn’t create the infographic they are just posting it and they aren’t responsible for the accuracy of it.

    I came down hard on AdWeek in 2011.

    I am just adding this to your points which I agree with btw. But do you think many of the problems you have come down to any Dick or Jane can now create them? Vs professional graphic creators?

    • hoffman


      Welcome to the neighborhood.

      As far as the false data issue, no doubt some infographics communicate flawed information. Many use data from third parties so if the third party is off, the infographic is off.

      And you’re right. Thanks to the proliferation of tools, anyone can create an infographic typically with grim results. But I would also say these infographics receive the attention they deserve; i.e., nothing.

  • Joe Cardillo

    Definitely agree that the attention on story (hat-tip to your previous post) is essential.

    Frankly for all the complaints about infographics, that same problem of poor or no story and insufficient editorial control over the information affects all mediums, case in point the web is saturated with years of blog posts that have the same problem and presentations, too.

    Interesting point about embeds. Not that everyone has the resources or inclination, but at Visually we provided the ability to easily embed really early in our community and as a result now also have an analytics tool that allows people to track back where their visual content is embedded and get some pretty good insights on how / who is interacting with it. Definitely requires some dev resources to get that sort of thing started, but highly useful once you get it rolling…I can easily imagine a more advanced version of something like ThingLink where you can plug and play into your own web properties and retain the analytics and juice.

    • hoffman

      Hi Joe,

      I replied to your comment from the road, but for some reason it didn’t stick. Hopefully, the second time is the charm.

      I agree with your point that a lame story is a lame story regardless of the medium/platform (though James Earl Jones could recite a cookbook and I would listen).

      As for ThingLink, we can’t seem to get a straight answer on whether the paid version allows us to customize the content and link (so our site benefits from the link juice).


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