Monthly Archives: August 2013

When words are not needed – the power of an image

Typically, good communication means choosing the right words and phrases so your message is easy to understand. However, the most memorable examples of good communication may not be what we read or hear. An image can be a more powerful – and effective – means for getting a message across and invoking an emotional or behavioural response from your audience.

I’m going to refer to this as visual PR. But I’m not talking about a photo opportunity with an oversized cheque and a beaming CEO. Rather, it’s using innovative visual ideas to get into the hearts and minds of your audience. In turn, it helps to educate, inform, persuade or challenge their views, beliefs or behaviour.

This is important because visual communication is more memorable. According to developmental molecular biologist and author of Brain Rules, Dr John Medina:

“We are incredible at remembering pictures. Hear a piece of information, and three days later you’ll remember 10% of it. Add a picture and you’ll remember 65%. Pictures beat text as well, in part because reading is so inefficient for us. Our brain sees words as lots of tiny pictures, and we have to identify certain features in the letters to be able to read them. That takes time. ”

So a picture is worth a thousand words. However, not only pictures but any visual event or display we witness either first hand or via print, television or the internet can be interesting or moving enough to stake a claim in our memory banks. Obviously, just remembering an event or image doesn’t necessarily count as a successful campaign in PR terms. However, it is the first step in the process and one from which your campaign can be built.

A place to remember - TACThe Victorian Transport Accident Commission’s A Place to Remember display was an effective example of this visual approach. The campaign centred on a 67 metre long table surrounded by 262 empty chairs placed in a busy thoroughfare in central Melbourne in December 2012. Each place at the table represented a person who lost their life on Victorian roads that year. (Unfortunately, a further six chairs were added to the table during the course of the campaign.) As an added touch, passers-by could leave messages of hope and safety at the table which were then posted shared on social media, enabling the message to be spread even further afield.

Sea of hands - ANTARThe first Sea of Hands campaign used the idea of a petition but made it much more interesting and impressive.  In October 1997, thousands of plastic hands in the colours of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags were placed in front of Australia’s Parliament House in Canberra. Each hand was signed by people who supported native title rights and reconciliation. The power of the campaign was the sheer enormity of the installation and its placement in front of Parliament House. The campaign, created by the group Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation, clearly targeted Australian politicians. Not a single Federal politician of the time could have missed seeing the display.

JFK oval office

Cecil Stoughton, White House / John F. Kennedy Library

A fascinating or thought-provoking photo can also offer opportunities for good visual PR. Among the first politicians to recognise the power of an image was John F Kennedy. Soon after becoming US president, Kennedy installed Cecil Stoughton as a photographer within the White House. Stoughton had unprecedented access to Kennedy and his family and many of his photos are now among the most iconic images of the time. Among the most memorable is that of the president in the oval office with his two young children playing in front of him. Stoughton took the photo on October 10, 1962 and, in a 2004 interview with National Geographic highlighted its media reach:

“One day I was just sitting outside the President’s office and I heard all this noise and he waved me in. The children were dancing in the Oval Office and the President was clapping—he was doing fatherly things and the children [were] cavorting and competing for his attention. I snapped 12 frames. That afternoon the President flipped through the pictures and chose one to send to the press—it showed up in every metropolitan daily in the U.S. and around the world.”

Of course, the examples I’ve discussed here are neither the only nor necessarily the most innovative. However, they are the images that have stuck in my memory. I am sure there are many more good examples of visual PR that you can recall and share with us.


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5 ways peak industry & advocacy groups can get more from social media

Do a quick internet search and you’ll discover a flood of information and advice on social media marketing aimed at how businesses can jump online to promote themselves, products and services. However, search for articles on how non-commercial organisations can maximise this new media tool and the results are disappointing to say the least.

Social media is what it says on the label. It is about being social, being part of the conversation and being involved. Increasingly social media is also becoming a means for people to be informed and share their views with like-minded users. Earlier this year, Sensis released the results of its 2013 social media survey and found that for Australian online users getting information on news and current events was the fourth top reason for being on social media. Also in the top ten was to find people with the same interests.1

Therefore, peak industry, special interest and advocacy groups have a wonderful chance to leverage from social media outlets to promote programs, campaigns and projects. If you are part of one of these groups, here are a few ways your group can build its social media presence.

Promote your members’ achievements and successes

Membership bases are a wealth of promotional opportunities. Many of your members are probably already social media savvy and are promoting their own successes. Make sure you follow them and share their stories. If a member is not online but still has something to say, create the content yourself and let the world know about it.

Raise awareness of your programs or campaigns

Peak industry and other special interest groups are usually established for a particular mission – predominantly to advocate for your members’ interests.

Social media is a great forum to support and promote that mission. However, your posts must be interesting and relevant. Use statistics or solid facts to promote a message and avoid unsubstantiated or sweeping statements. There is a fine line between strategically communicating your message and spamming your followers.

Be an active participator

Your organisation is most likely a stakeholder to other groups or authorities. Many of these agencies – including all levels of government – are increasingly using social media to generate discussion and get feedback. Be an active participant in these discussions to ensure your members’ interests are voiced. However, always be professional and polite in your responses if you want your views to be given the regard they deserve.

Monitor what others say about issues important to you

Social media is a handy resource for gathering information. Lots of people are talking out there and some of them will be discussing issues or ideas important to your organisation. Do you know what they are saying and why they are saying it?

Pinpoint key words or phrases which relate to your campaigns or projects and regularly search for what people are saying about them. You can then discover the reasons why people may or may not support a particular issue or project, giving you valuable insight into how to better communicate your message.

Identify and engage with advocates and allies

Once you have completed a few keyword searches, you should be able to identify other social media users who share your organisation’s views and values. Make sure you follow them, share their posts and engage in online discussions with them. These individuals or groups may then share your posts and become an advocate for your campaigns.

Increase your membership

I know the title says five ways of getting more from social media but this is the bonus benefit. All this proactive use of social media will raise awareness of your organisation with the potential to attract new members. If people see you are active and successful communicators, they will also want to be part of the action.  Therefore, provide links from your social media profile to your website so it is easy for people to sign up to your group or campaign.

1 2013 Yellow™ Social Media Report, released by Sensis, May 2013

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