Public Relations Tactics

Get the Picture: Communicate With Captions

September 30, 2016

David Ogilvy famously said that by the time you’ve written your headline, you’ve spent 80 cents of your advertising dollar.

The same is true of your other display copy — like captions (aka cutlines) — as well. Too often they’re the first thing readers read. But they’re the last thing PR pros slap together.

Their loss. Captions can be workhorses of communication when handled correctly. That’s because:

  • Images receive the most viewership on a page, according to eye-tracking research by The Poynter Institute. That makes the caption under the image a PowerPoint for communication.
  • Captions get 16 percent more readership than text, according to Poynter research.
  • When you tell people what to look for in a picture, this can increase comprehension, according to research by W.H. Levie and R. Lentz.
  • If you remove the captions from a series of cartoons, this reduces recall by 81 percent, according to a study by Richard E. Mayer, et al. And it reduces problem solving, or the ability to apply the information, by 66 percent.
  • Text that’s larger or bolder than body copy gets more readership. Caption-style stands out from the text.

As a result, captions offer an opportunity to draw the reader in and communicate to flippers and skimmers.

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