The number one skill an effective communications professional needs? Writing, of course. It’s no accident that most college public relations programs are housed in the journalism department. Clear, concise, effective writing technique is critical to conveying your organization’s message – to the media, to employees, to investors, to the community.
But as information overload continues to shrink our attention spans, it becomes increasingly important to figure out faster and more compelling ways to tell stories. Written pieces certainly have their place and purpose, but an eye-catching chart, infographic, or photo set may convey your message more memorably and in less time. Presenting information graphically forces us to trim away the superfluous details that can clutter our writing. If you’re pitching a story to a swamped journalist or busy blogger, getting right to the point is always appreciated. Often an infographic can do this better than your writing can.
Two of my favorite “just for fun” blogs are Strange Maps and Flowing Data, which both curate interesting data visualizations from across the Web (I also check out Information Is Beautiful on occasion). One of the primary reasons I keep up with these blogs (other than the fact they’re just plain fascinating) is that I can consume the content pretty quickly. Whereas a 1,000-word blog post requires 20 minutes of my time to get through, I can check out a stunning graphic in just a few minutes. I’m also more likely to share an interesting chart or graphic to Facebook or Twitter.
Need another example? Think about how effective The Oatmeal is at presenting information. Their comics are funny and memorable, but also educational. One of my favorite Oatmeal posts is 20 Things Worth Knowing About Beer (shocker). Sure, this could have been written as a list-style blog post and contained all the same information, but it’s so much richer and more compelling when presented visually (and much more viral).
PR pros, especially those of us who are “classically trained” in journalistic writing, tend to talk (write) too much. I’m certainly guilty (heck, I’ve just devoted 400 words to a post about how we should write less and use data visualization more). We’re verbal people who use words as our go-to tool for telling a story. Often it doesn’t occur to us to present information in a different format.
Sometimes we need to think beyond words on a page or screen. How can we quickly and compellingly convey our stories, in a way that will engage audiences and encourage them to share the information? Try some eye candy. Find a graphic artist (or experiment yourself) and adapt wordy stories to appealing visualizations. Information is indeed beautiful.