Why PR is Becoming a Visual Game (and How to Win)

Wonka meme

Remember when you were a little kid and your parents asked you to pick out a book to read? Did you gravitate toward the one that was a sea of black-and-white letters, or the cool one with lots of colorful, eye-catching photos?

In high school geometry, which was the better textbook? The one that wrote out how to determine the surface area of a trapezoid, or the one that showed you?

Even now, are you more engaged and likely to retain information with presentations that are strictly verbal, or ones that have graphics and charts?

It’s a fact: human beings are visual creatures. As a general rule, we remember 80% of what we see, compared to 20% of what we read and a small 10% of what we hear, a New York University psychological study found.

Applying this to PR, an industry in which the main objective is to communicate positive messages about a brand or person, Wharton School of Business researchers determined that presentations based on visuals were found more compelling and convincing than those that were only verbal.

Furthermore, 67% of the audience in the study said that merging visuals with verbal aids were all the more effective. So how can we, as PR professionals, leverage these findings to the advantage of our brands?

Get Social

With the popularity of visually-driven social media networks like Pinterest and Instagram, there’s no time like the present to socialize your PR strategy.

pinterestPinterest is especially great since a pin can link directly back to a website. If you pin a PDF of your fresh press release and put some compelling preview text in the description, your audience will not only want to read that particular release, they’ll be taken to your news room, blog, etc. and likely read many more. And check out your team. And explore your website.

In an industry like hospitality, make sure to load your website and e-menu up with lots of great photos showcasing your space, food and amenities. With one click, users will be on your site and one step away from making reservations.

instaInstagram isn’t to be forgotten, though. Although it lacks the referral power Pinterest has (at least for now), it’s a great vehicle for furthering community relations efforts or raising awareness of your brand offerings.

For example, nonprofits can benefit immensely from showcasing their volunteer efforts and positive impact in real time, while a fashion line can post sneak peeks of their new collection and the behind-the-scenes design process to get fans excited to buy.

With a few well-placed hashtags, even non-fans will be in on the action. Networks like Facebook and Twitter, as well as outlets like blogs, can also add to your visual storytelling power in their own unique way.

Create a Better Press Release

Notice I say “create” rather than “write.” That’s because although words still rule in PR, the changing face of the industry requires a little something extra for maximum connectivity and traction from both consumers and media.

As mentioned last year in our piece on putting together a great press release, adding just one photo to a release will increase views by 14%. Applying elements like more photos and video continues the upward trajectory, culminating in 77% higher consumption when visual education tools like infographics comepolaroids into play.

This all depends on the industry, too. B2C brands will do well with high-quality photos of their products or properties, while B2B people may be more receptive to charts and graphs.

As with any PR effort, think about your target audience when adding visual elements to collateral like press releases.

Get Ready for Your Close-Up

If you’re not sprinkling video into your PR plan at least occasionally, you should be.husky

ComScore found that in the US alone, people watch more than a billion online videos every day. Why?

They’re dynamic, typically easy to consume and people equate them with entertainment. Video makes it simple and fun to showcase brand philosophy, spread the word on updates and give a glimpse at the human side of a company, which consumers love.

If you’re trying to rebrand a respected, but traditionally conservative corporation, try a regular feature showcasing employees doing volunteer work or shadowing them for a day on the job. If you’re a tech-savvy company, dabble in mixing up your written press releases with video ones.

Video is also a great tool for media relations. At (W)right On, we’ve had great success creating client b-roll and sending on to news stations for high-quality, late-breaking event coverage – plus, it allows you to pick and choose the footage you want to show off. And, video is a fast way to introduce people to who you are as a company, piquing the interest of potential customers, media influencers and even investors.

What other ways have you found visuals instrumental in a successful PR program? Tell us in the comments or find us on Twitter.

Being a Know-It-All Isn’t such a Bad Thing


The know-it-all: you know that person. It seems everyone has one or two in their life. The not-so-humble person who elicits an eye roll every time he/she begins to speak. The person who pontificates on everything, and the minute you bring up something new, they claim to have known about it yesterday. They’re annoying, right?

But in the field of communication, we have a responsibility to be know-it-alls in the least obnoxious way. What do I mean?

Chance Shay and I went to a presentation on influencer marketing where Mark Fidelman quoted Google’s Eric Schmidt, saying that every two days we create as much information as we did from the beginning of time up to 2003. Every day it seems that there is more and more information to be consumed, and it’s tougher and tougher to cut through the noise. That presents a challenge for marketers because it makes it more difficult to reach customers in a meaningful way. But it’s also a challenge because technology is forcing us to do more than ever before. We have to be the experts. We have to filter through the junk for our clients so they don’t have to. We have to be ahead of trends so we can present the best possible ideas for our clients. Phew!

It’s a tall order, but that’s why I make it a personal mission to be a know-it-all. And in the best way possible: you won’t find me bloviating at the water cooler. But I do like to share trends and important articles with my clients the second that they’re relevant. I also think it’s important to incorporate up-to-date information into my work in real-time so I’m serving clients to the best of my ability.

That means taking time daily to stay on top of it all. But I’m no magician and I don’t have a 25th hour in my day. To make it work without being a time suck, I use a number of resources and work-hacks. Here are some of my favorites:

  • The Skimm: a daily enewsletter that skims the headlines & provides the most important information in a simplified manner.
  • The Muckrack newsroom: I visit this once a day to read the stories that are the most tweeted by major journalists.
  • To accompany that, I subscribe to the Muckrack enewsletter. I hate email newsletters just like any other schmuck. So if I sign up for one, I like it to do multiple things for me. This one also highlights the day’s most important news but it also reports on changes at major publications.
  • Newsle: enewsletter with news stories that feature your Facebook friends & email contacts. This serves as an alternate way to monitor for client stories, but it’s also a great tool for networking. What better way to reach out to a contact than by sending a quick note? “I saw your article in Forbes! Congratulations! And by the way, I’d love to catch up soon.”
  • Twitter lists: I have created twitter lists for media, colleagues in the industry, brands I’ve got my eye on, and clients/partners. I also get push notifications to my iPhone every time @BreakingNews tweets.
  • Feedly: the RSS reader of choice to keep up on all my favorite industry blogs, including but not limited to: Mashable, TechCrunch, PRDaily, All Things D, The Verge, Fast Company, Venture Beat, Forbes, NYT Bits, Inc., Waxing Unlyrical, Sarahsfav.es, Spin Sucks, Brian Solis, and more.
  • MediaGazer & TechMeme: MediaGazer aggregates the day’s top news stories and TechMeme does the same for the tech industry.
  • Cir.ca iPhone app: a beautiful iPhone app with the day’s top headlines, presented in a user-friendly format. Perfect for when I’ve got five minutes in between meetings or I’m waiting in line at the grocery store.
  • The Li.St: One of my favorite enewsletters from media veterans Rachel Sklar and Glynnis MacNicol (Huffington Post, Mediaite, Business Insider, Mediabistro). It comes out only a few times a week, but I read it to the end every time.
  • TED and NPR iPhone apps: I only have time to consume my beloved TED talks or NPR while I’m driving, running, or at the gym. These apps make it possible.

What are some of your favorite tools for being a know-it-all? Feel free to tell me in the comments.

Labels: feedlyknow-it-allmediagazermuckracknewslepublic relationsSan Diegoskimm,techmemetips

The Next Big Social Media Platform


In a recent discussion about opportunities to engage a lackadaisical customer base, a client asked, “What are the kids using these days?” Regarding social media, it’s something we hear often.

Sometimes the question is “what’s the next Facebook,” or, “are people still getting information from (insert name of platform),” but at the heart of the query is an understanding that social media is powerful and the landscape is ever-changing. It’s not 2007; businesses have caught on and understand that information isn’t consumed as it traditionally was. Chat up your friends around the water cooler and it’s likely that they’ll cite an article, meme or trend that they discovered through a “new media” channel (social networks, blogs, vlogs, etc.).

So, the question remains: what’s the next big social media platform?

To understand the next standout social media platform is to first understand basic principles of how people communicate. Second, it’s to understand the latest ways the Internet is being used.

Humans are thoughtful, emotional and social creatures. We express thoughts and feelings through speaking, touching and body gestures. When we do this with other humans, we call it socializing. While socializing, we anticipate cues to help us gauge impact, interest and agreement that will influence how/ what we communicate going forward. We prefer to socialize with others who have similar view points, or at least similar approaches to communication, although diversity keeps things interesting. We communicate to achieve outcomes, express ourselves or even just pass the time. This is human communication in a nutshell.

Figuring out how the Internet is being used is much more difficult, but to simplify, we can split the answer into two components: occupying through content and fulfilling a need. The guy who’s leaving YouTube comments that have nothing to do with the video is occupying himself by producing content. There’s no goal he’s trying to accomplish through his actions, nor is his commentary part of a larger plan. He’s commenting because it’s easy and he is entertained by others’ responses. The key here is it’s easy.

Fulfilling a need is simpler to understand. Two examples of innovative Internet applications that address needs are WebMD self-diagnoses and EBay’s new Group Gift, which allows a group of people to pitch in on a present. For businesses, it’s important to understand how customers are fulfilling their needs on the Internet. That serves as a foundation to determine what social channels to focus efforts on and what approach should guide their overall social media strategy.

In our experience, there are steadfast social media criteria to help determine what the next big social media platform will be:

  • Appeal – If the platform is too niche, it won’t get mass appeal (although hyper-targeted platforms can be incredibly effective for certain brands, but that’s for another blog)
  • Solving a new need – Providing a solution to something people didn’t realize was a problem
  • New way of solving an old need – Solving a problem better than a previous solution
  • Scalability – Ease by which new users join and connect, and degree to which connecting and growing circles improves the experience
  • Simplicity – For something to catch on, it has to be easy for the general public to do because if it can’t be figured out by a quick trial, people will move on

Based on these criteria and my diligent research, I present to you the three apps most likely to be the next big thing:

  • Circle – A mobile app that shows you what’s happening nearby right now and adapts to your location to provide useful information anywhere you go. Sound familiar? Ashton Kutcher is a key investor in the Palo Alto-based venture. The app has amassed a user base of 12 million spread across more than 1,700 U.S. cities. The app claims a million users join every month. Uniquely, Circle doesn’t try to make you build a new network for the app, but instead uses the contacts already in your phone. Sharing your plans with friends is incentivized by earning points which can be redeemed for real life value, such as an Amazon gift card or a weekend in Las Vegas.
  • Nextt –  Ever scroll your Facebook feed and think, “Who cares?” That’s because what’s shared on Facebook, and many other sites, are happenings of the past. Nextt focuses on the future and, more specifically, your circle of friends’ future. Nextt solves the main problem of online social networks, which is preventing you from interacting with friends offline. You know, like when you’re with friends at happy hour and everyone’s nose is in their phones. To solve this, Nextt gathers you and your friends in one convenient place to effortlessly organize and plan upcoming gatherings.

What’s Nextt for you? from Nextt on Vimeo.

  • Highlight –  This app is a location-based social network that makes local searches more social. Highlight draws data from friends and feeds you information about those around you. Whether someone is biking past your apartment or a pal just wrapped up at work, Highlight will tell you everything you could ever want to know about your friends. Sound a bit intrusive or creepy? Let’s be honest and agree the notion of privacy is much different than it was a decade ago, not to mention that it’s up to you what amount of data you allow the app to share with friends.

Platforms like Facebook and Instagram allow friends to share events of the past. Twitter and Foursquare allow communication surrounding the present. Nextt will usher in the new wave for social media: the future.

As a bonus, I came across some wacky and poorly thought out social media platforms and apps while researching this post. For your entertainment, here are the Bottom 3 newest social media apps. Enjoy!

  • Yo – This app asks you to build a circle of connections so that you can merely send people a “yo” message. That’s it. Seriously. Somehow, the app secured $1 million in initial seed funding, but considering it has no revenue stream and a use that’s more novel than captivating, Yo (in its current state) is heading for the app graveyard.
  • Yik Yak – An app that allows people to anonymously share messages with people in their area without actually knowing them. This article brilliantly quipped that Yik Yak “combines comment section trolls, schoolyard bullies, a person’s random thoughts and a whole lot of f*bombs” and questioned its usefulness after causing two false school evacuations in a week.
  • WhatsApplebee’s – Ever find yourself in an Applebee’s (drawn in by a “two for $20” combo, no doubt) and felt the urge to chat it up with fellow patrons without having to stop chewing the gummy sirloin you ordered? WhatsApplebee’s (not officially affiliated with Applebee’s) allows you to chat with other patrons, but it only works when you’re in an Applebee’s. “That’s awesome,” said no sane person ever.