Public Relations Tactics

Cision’s Heidi Sullivan on visual storytelling

August 6, 2013

To stay relevant today, PR professionals need to talk about visual storytelling and they need to learn to create better visual content.

“Content and storytelling is becoming front and center,” said Heidi Sullivan, vice president, global media research, Cision, during her session at the 2013 Digital Impact Conference, “Social Goes Visual: Engage Others with Powerful Multimedia Content.”

Visual stories are much more engaging than text-based communication: 90 percent of the information that is transmitted to the brain is visual, and pictures or video posts on Facebook generate 65 percent more engagement than text-only updates. In 2012, Pinterest and Instagram were the fastest-growing social media sites.

This heightened engagement drives behavior: Pinterest has 7 percent the membership of Twitter, yet produces almost as much of the amount of referral traffic.

These social media sites offer public relations a unique opportunity to own the brand story, Sullivan said.

However, you need to know what you’re trying to accomplish before you commit to a visually driven social platform. Sullivan offered the following points to consider:

  1. Do you rely on driving a high volume of traffic to a website?
  2. Do you have high-quality visual content?
  3. Do you have an ongoing method for creating high-quality visual content?

Picking your platform

If you’ve decide to engage with visual content, then be prepared to make a commitment. “It takes a lot of time. So map out your strategy and make sure that you have the energy to maintain the [social network],” Sullivan said. “You don’t want to have a ghost town out there where you’re not regularly posting content and interacting.”

Take the time to ensure that you’re picking the best platform for your target audience. You need to become a part of the community that you’re participating in and engage members in a natural way, Sullivan said.

Different social networks and types of content are linked to different outcomes for your brand.

For instance, Pinterest is ideal for showcasing lifestyle-related content that showcases your brand’s personality. On Instagram, you can share exclusive photos and “sneak peaks” to build engagement and quickly expand your audience.

But no matter where you’re posting, remember that quality remains paramount. “Really, it’s all about great original content,” Sullivan said. “If your content’s not great, people aren’t going to click on it. If it is great, it’s going to get way more attention than traditional text.”  — Kyra Auffermann

Check out #PRSADIConf as told through social media posts here, or follow @PRSAevents for news on upcoming PRSA events.



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