PR Whiteboard

Show and tell: the new PR paradigm

Visual content PRThis post originally appeared as an article in O’Dwyer’s PR Magazine.

I’m a visual guy — and have always been. My earliest PR client was Kodak, many moons ago, in a time when it was common to pitch silver-halide film and the first consumer-facing digital cameras on the same phone call. Since then, I’ve represented a seemingly countless number digital imaging organizations (meaning I’m slightly old), and so has my PR agency. In fact, doing PR for digital imaging companies is a big part of our proud history, and an ever-growing part of our current portfolio.

So, it’s no surprise that I’m in the midst of sea-change in PR, one that has agencies worldwide working to help clients tell stories — visually. How did we get here?

As recently as 2000 the media business consisted largely of newspapers and magazines jockeying for print subscriptions. Letters to the editor and over-the-counter sales were the metrics pubs used to woo advertisers. It was a neat and tidy world back then, when the Internet was more distraction than attraction, and PR was about generating fat clip books for clients.

But in the intervening years an explosion of sorts democratized information-sharing. Joe Sixpack and Suzie Snowflake found a voice online, and the masses organized around topics of interest. Internet speeds increased exponentially, making it possible to quickly create and share text, digital images and video, meaning everyone could now be a publisher.

And publishers demand captivating content that either informs, entertains or drives the conversation forward.

Fast-forward to today. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and literally hundreds of other social sharing sites have become baked into the culture of consumers and businesses alike. To stand out – to add value to the stream – businesses especially need to create original content that their fans, investors and prospects feel compelled to view, read, and share.

The data points are omnipresent, but businesses that blog, for instance, enjoy nearly double the leads. A Facebook post with a picture or video enhances audience engagement by greater than 100 percent.

That’s why we’re prioritizing visual content in the PR planning process as a matter of practice. That’s why we’re encouraging our creative team to work hand-in-hand with day-to-day PR account staff, who are increasingly becoming more creative – and thinking more visually – from those interactions. I’m personally fueling this change away from the status quo by bringing in key talent who will help bridge the gap between text, copy, and rather traditional ways of story-telling, with high-impact images and visual information. I’m excited about this change — and pumped to be part of it.

We’re not pitching things we can’t do and then scrambling to manage vendors. We pitch an integrated story and create it all, from soup to nuts. That means clients have “one neck to choke,” and that’s easy to manage.

And we’re eating our own dog food. We wanted to get more eyeballs on our new creative studio (called Studio-C,) so what did we do? We created a survey for marketers that asked their opinions about visual content. We took the data and created a killer infographic that elegantly displayed the findings. Within a day of announcing, Forbes wrote a stand-alone piece about the content, imploring anyone within eye-shot to get cracking on visual content, or step aside for competitors who “get it.”

Every day businesses are becoming increasingly more receptive when discussing or experiencing how a concrete story gets even stronger with a powerful infographic, or a complex one gets easier to understand when conveyed with a well-produced video.

We’re a PR agency that has become something more, and clients’ eyebrows raise to their respective hairlines when seeing the positive impact at the intersection of PR, social media and creative — tools to help tell a story visually, and metrics that validate the initiatives

At the business-level, creative is all about new opportunity. Why be limited to a traditional PR budget? Why provide your client 80 percent of what a program needs to succeed because you’re hampered by a hole in your capabilities? I say buck the system: develop plans that are not only smart and strategic, but also comprehensive. Finish telling the story, or give your client’s story-telling some visual strength. Don’t limit the addition of visual power to one medium, but rather go with gusto, across platforms, aggressively

By philosophy, we “stick to the knitting” at Matter. We butter our bread with award-winning PR and social media, but creative services is a “new” and exciting extension of our belief that you need to act credibly, not just act.

Appropriately, clients are the major beneficiaries of the sea-change occurring in PR — and communications overall. Visual story telling helps clients tell any story better, and in turn do better business. It’s exciting — and far more important than that, it’s happening now. Are you encouraging change or being left behind? More importantly, are you leaving revenue on the table, resigned to let other firms take it?