Visual Storytelling Tips for ...


Your title might be PR manager, keeper of the blog, content developer or the classic copywriter.

It doesn’t matter.

All of us need to get the visual storytelling religion. The increasing amount of information accessed on mobile means shortened attention spans. And people want an entertainment dimension to their information, even in the business sphere — another reason for embracing images.

No one expects you to be the second coming for Spielberg or Banksy. Still, there are ways for those who come to communications by way of the narrative to bring a visual element to their storytelling. In fact, I would go a step further and say in some cases — using tools like Canva — there’s no reason that you can’t create the images yourself.

With this in mind, I offer 10 examples of what I consider “original artwork” — note the quotes; more on this in a minute — from my own laboratory.



woman on phone in vintage photo

I call this type of image a “word visual” with the idea being that the words in harmony with the image carry the storytelling. One of the easiest ways to do this is to combine a clever speech cloud with an image.




#DontDoDivisive billboard

Here’s another example of a “word visual.” We just took a photo with a billboard, erased the billboard and added our hashtag which fit with a post on the Golden State Warriors standing up to Mr. Trump. On the big picture, I strive to create “original artwork” for over 50 percent of blog posts. The original photo was already in the public domain. Still, I would characterize this as “original artwork” because of the fresh twist.




I consider this a “word visual” as well. We’ve taken a donut chart with the cutouts driving the story and delivering the levity.




You can think of this as an advanced “word visual,” turning Mr. Trump’s face into a pie chart. While the photo and words drive the story, the image calls for rudimentary design skills. And yes, the guy makes for good TV.




Here’s the final “word visual” I’m going to depict. Again, the words do the heavy lifting with the theme of simplicity and perhaps understatement pining for a smile.




Nothing in social media says “watch me” like a GIF. Though they require more advanced design skills, you can see how the words drive the action in this particular GIF.




I’m a huge fan of illustration where anything is possible … literally. How else could we depict an army of PR people flying their news releases over the wall to a small number of journalists trying their best to pound out their stories and still deal with the incoming onslaught?




Landing a piece of coverage in a top-tier publication is hard work. Again, illustration teases out this point with a metaphor.




Statue of Trump Statue of Liberty illustration The Hoffman Agency

If you needed any more proof that illustrations make anything possible, consider this as exhibit B. If you’re interested in this form of visual storytelling, but have never engaged with an illustrator, you might read “The Mechanics of Working with an Illustrator.”




Don’t be afraid to “borrow” concepts from the consumer branding world. In launching our office in Indonesia last year, we riffed on the retro post card “Greetings From (fill in the blank).”



One of the largest companies on the planet, IBM, has trained over 100,000 employees in design guided by this mantra from Phil Gilbert who’s leading the charge in immersing IBM in design:

“Design is everyone’s job. Not everyone is a designer, but everybody has to have the user as their north star.”

You could say something similar for communicators as in “Everybody has to have the reader/viewer/listener as their north star.”

One final piece of guidance —

It sounds simplistic, but as you come across imagery that you like — they could be add in a magazine or the back of bus stop — capture the images. Tape them around your desk.

While this technique is not scientifically proven, I believe this form of osmosis will advance your visual storytelling expertise.


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