We live in a visual information world.
If you doubt it, just take a look at Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn.
What does that mean for the communications professional? What does it mean for the business person?
In both cases, telling a story will mean more than words. You will need to think about graphics, photography or video to make your content stickier. And that visual component needs to advance or illustrate the written word.
Generally speaking, graphics are great for making numbers and statistics more approachable, video is perfect for showing how to do something or creating a mood in a longer form, and photography is great for capturing that one special moment.
As a communications professional who is also a photographer, I am always on the lookout for good visuals to help my clients and our business. Over the years, I’ve come up with a few guidelines that work for me, particularly in regard to photographs.
A photograph should advance the story you are trying to tell.
Like a quote in a press release, a photo should illustrate your point and move the narrative forward. Is your company making a donation to a local park for playground equipment? How about a photograph of your executives with children playing rather than the traditional standup check presentation?
A photograph should be consistent with your overall brand.
For me, a brand is the sum of all components being offered by a company as they are experienced by the end user. In other words, a brand isn’t a logo or a color scheme or a name. It is the thing you have promised through the eyes of the person you have promised it to.
If your brand is about getting things done, show that. If it’s about luxury, show luxury. If your brand involves corporate citizenship, illustrate it.
In the course of my career, I’ve seen a lot of brand guideline books. The best ones include guidelines for photography and other visuals in addition to other things like fonts and color schemes.
Some photographs are for business development; others are for personnel and culture development. Understand the difference.
Consider your audience. If your message is for potential new business, illustrate your strengths and capabilities. If your message is for internal culture, reflect that culture.
For example: Consulting company A offers high-end, high-priced advice to businesses. That calls for visuals that illustrate experience, dependability and results. At the same time, consulting company A is working to recruit new talent by emphasizing company culture. Those visuals might be more relaxed and casual.
The need to be careful with company resources is always there. But as we all know, with the internet, things live forever. A poorly crafted, technically incorrect photograph reflects on your brand and will influence decision-makers in ways you will never know about.
Go for technical and thematic quality instead of “this will be good enough.”
Spending money for quality on the front end will reap rewards on the back end. Always.
Trends come and go. Consider a classic approach or be ready to change as trends change.
It is tempting to give in to the latest trends on social media. And, if your company is about trends, that may be the perfect approach.
As with any communications strategy, the important driver is the target audience. For most businesses, it is not the overall Instagram, Facebook or even LinkedIn audience; it is more likely a small subset within those platforms.
The goal is to be consistent with your messaging and visuals for your target audience. Those are the folks who matter most to your business goals.
Visuals may be the first impression a potential client has of you and your company. You owe it to yourself to put your best photograph forward.