Seeing the Big Picture: How PR Pros Can Use Infographics to Tell a Story

by Shawnee Cohn, Media Relations Specialist, Business Wire/NY
MRT

Shawnee Cohn

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but what about a thousand hits? Defined as “graphic visual representations of information, data, or knowledge,” infographics are more likely to be shared via social media than your standard text article. Therefore, both journalists and PR professionals are taking notice of this visual phenomenon. (Need some examples? Take a look at this slideshow from Mashable).

Here at Business Wire, we encourage clients to create infographics and include them as Smart News release assets in their press releases. For example, Kaplan Test Prep recently utilized an infographic to summarize their annual survey results. Convio also offered a visual look at the data included within their press release about online giving, and Mashable later republished that same infographic.

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So if you’re a PR professional embarking on the infographic challenge, what do you need to know beforehand? The Publicity Club of New York recently hosted a discussion about these popular visual representations of data. The panel included:

Here are some highlights offered by the experts:

Infographics help us cope with information overload: With the abundance of raw data that is available to consumers today, the average person’s “attention span is declining,” and infographics are an effective way to spark a reader’s interest, says Spurlock. Pachal agreed, stating that infographics are “more clickable” than other multimedia, such as video, which may turn a reader off since it usually requires sound, as well as investing more time to watch. Consequently, including the word ‘Infographic’ in your press release headline is a great tactic to increase your number of hits.

Not all infographics are created equal: If you’re compiling numbers into a graphic, yet those numbers do not relate, the purpose of the infographic is lost, notes Spurlock. Bergmann agreed, suggesting that PR pros evaluate the usefulness of an infographic on a “story-to-story basis.” At the Associated Press, staffers are very interested in interactive graphics as well as animations. However, Neesa pointed out that “not every story renders well into a visual,” and PR pros should be cautious of jumping to the assumption that every poll translates into a legitimate news story. The panelists agreed that pitching an infographic that blatantly promotes your brand is a major faux pas. If your visual looks the least bit like propaganda, any legitimate news organization will be reluctant to post it, as it could hurt their brand value, says Bergmann.

Be clear and concise; editors and readers will thank you: One of the main advantages of creating an infographic is that it allows you to “mold and present information in a way that’s clear to the reader,” commented Bergmann. If you cram too much information into your graphic, you’re defeating its original purpose. Pachal mentioned that your infographic should easily translate to Pinterest, which drives much of the online traffic today. Whether you’re pitching an idea for an infographic or an actual infographic itself, make sure you are presenting “tabulated, nugget-style information,” suggests Neesa. Focus on how you can break the product/idea up; if your information is already organized for the visual staff at a news outlet, this makes their job that must easier. Lastly, stick to the facts, and facts only. The editorial team will vet and research the data you present before they post or link to your infographic, so you must be absolutely sure that your methodology and sampling are valid beforehand.

For more information on the Publicity Club of NY, visit www.publicityclub.org. You can get the latest news with photos/multimedia by registering at www.businesswire.com.

3 Responses to Seeing the Big Picture: How PR Pros Can Use Infographics to Tell a Story

  1. maxbeggelman says:

    I wouldn’t go all-in on infographics just yet, as they still have many major weaknesses. For example, image text can’t be searched and is invisible to major web crawlers and other utilities that mechanically process text. While infographics tend to have a better chance of spreading virally than text, they depend entirely on that viral nature for distribution, since search engines and other common methods of finding relevant content on the web are incapable of interpreting infographics.

    • Phil Dennison, Senior Marketing Specialist, Business Wire says:

      That’s a fair point – in the context in which we’re recommending them (i.e., in conjunction with a press release), they’ll hopefully be surrounded by text which is properly optimized for search and can be crawled and indexed. And, of course, image file names and captions should always include search keywords as well. Using just an infographic with no supporting text, however minimal, can definitely be a recipe for wasted effort; where you put it and how you bring attention to it are just as important.

  2. [...] relations sites, including BusinessWire, agree that infographics can and should be used in order to provide data to publics without added [...]

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