Visual Story Telling 101

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February 9, 2017 by Kathryn Kuttis

This week, I asked students in J452 to use their strategic PR lens to think visually. We developed ideas for an infographic assignment and examined basic deign principles. As frequency consumers of visual information (i.e. the internet) we are all able to recognize good design when we see it. Surprisingly, many of the same tools for concise and clear writing apply to visual storytelling: identification of a core idea, repetition, use of evidence and audience engagement to name a few.

Between now and the end of the term, students will work to create an infographic that uses data to explain a complex issue. Ideally, we will have time for many pinups and revisions since visual work always takes at least twice as long as you think it will. There are many examples of clear and useful infographics including this one (which we might need during this project) that shows essential desk exercises for designers. I found it on Creative Blog’s 2017 list of  100 Best Infographics.

As technology continues to alter the media landscape, it’s clear that we are in a new era of visual public relations. In her article, The New Era Of Media: Visual Public Relations, Forbes reporter Cheryl Conner says, “In the next era of earned media, your visual content will mean as much (and perhaps even more) than your words. The time to become visually fluent as a communicator and an entrepreneur is now.”

Research suggests that more than 84% of all information will be visual by 2018. With big data growing bigger by the second, companies and organizations need communication professionals who can a visualize complex information in a way that tells a compelling story and connects with key audiences. Many SOJC students circle back a year or two after graduation to say that the visual communication skills they developed in Allen Hall continue to give them a huge advantage over their peers in the professional world. Most major brands (including SOJC grad-favorites like Nike, Starbucks and Adidas) have a culture of visual design. They expect their employees to present ideas in a visual format that is accurate, clear and beautiful.

Before students become obsessed with their own infographic development (and they will become obsessed) here are the news kernels for this week’s blog posts.

Quick tip: You can use any prompt you’d like for your blog response and you are not required to answer these questions. They are there to get your PR ideas churning but the rest is up to you.

‘Crisis of trust’ fueling rise of populist leaders, exec tells Chicago group (Chicago Tribune) How does corporate leadership play a role in our democracy? Can CEO be activists? Why is the Edelman Trust Barometer a smart branding tool for the agency? Is Richard a trust expert?

Take These Broken Wings ( How can a sports organization recover from such a painful loss. How does the brand story move forward? What messages would you develop for the Falcons to deliver to fans, financial backers and supporters?

Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus pull Ivanka Trump merchandise ( Why is it important for the brand to say this is not a political decision? How are groups like #GrabYourWallet able to enact change?

Instagram Stories or Snapchat Stories: How to Decide Which Is Best for Your Brand (PRNews) Here’s what your brand needs to know about both platforms. What other recommendations do you have for brands on social media?

Prince is coming back to Spotify—he would’ve hated that (Fast Company) Are artists right to walk away from Spotify? How does technology impact the distribution of music and shape a brand?

Clean-Eating Backlash: How To Find Nutritional Information You Can Trust (HuffPost) What makes a reliable expert? How can brands build credibility in a crowded field? What do audiences want to know about food? Are there other ways that media delivers nutrition information?

The Stunning Early Infographics and Maps of the 1800s (Atlas Obscura) Interested in representation techniques? Here’s a look at early visual story telling.

Van Jones, Jaden Smith Set To Speak At First-Ever Environmental Media Association Impact Summit (Forbes) How does this conference reflect the EMA brand? Why did they decided to host the conference now? What do they describe as their “sweetspot” How do industry conferences offer opportunities for public relations?

 TWITTER MELTS DOWN AFTER TRUMP TWEETS ABOUT “EASY D” (Vanity Fair) How is social media changing the way votes communicate with the new administration in Washington?

The Breakthrough: What American Journalists Can Learn From Reporting Under Putin (ProPublica) Is a story easier to understand when it includes audio? What’s the ideal way to communicate complex information to key audiences?




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If you share an interest in public relations, media and visual design, this might be a good place for you to hang out. I started this blog to exchange ideas with my students at the University of Oregon. They keep me (and maybe you too) at the forefront of social media, visual communication and career development. Here you'll find our best ideas, links and learning as we write, create and blog our way through a course on Strategic PR Communication.

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