Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Beware: infographics are not the be-all and end-all of great communication

I’m a big fan of infographics: those nifty visual ways of presenting often complex information quickly and clearly. Done well they help make the patterns or trends in data highly visible. Perhaps the best, and most long-standing, being the London Tube map.

And if a cursory glance at Facebook or LinkedIn is anything to go by, the rest of the world is a fan as well.

Yet, I’m also worried by the proliferation of infographics, often to the exclusion of well-crafted copy. 

I happen to be someone who responds well to visual interpretations. My thought process is often aided greatly by the use of mind mapping techniques – in fact my articles on this blog start with a mind map.  Yet I’m also painfully aware that there are many people for whom the visual representation of data, facts or information leaves them cold and unengaged.  For them, the written or spoken word carries much more weight.

There can be no substitute for a well-argued piece of prose or a clever strapline. Why? Well, the written or spoken word can often engender something that visual representation may not:  an emotional reaction in the reader. That’s why novels have survived the advent of the movies and television.  Why speech radio continues to attract a sizeable audience.

By all means use infographics to enhance or simplify your messaging.  But please don’t assume it is a full substitute for copy if you want to engage all audiences fully.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Time for PR to adapt or die: 4 key actions

Public relations has had a chequered history.  Often seen as the fluffy poor relation to advertising or direct marketing, PR has often been one of the first areas to be scaled back in troubled times.

As markets pick up and business confidence grows, PR faces yet another challenge: how to reposition itself as a valuable channel in the marketing mix. 

Traditional PR, characterised by press releases, press launches, journalist relations and PR stunts, has to adapt to the modern marketing landscape or risk being sidelined to ‘nice to have’ status. Or, worse still, disappear altogether.

To survive, PR professionals, whether agency or in-house, need to address four key issues:

Integrate with the wider strategy: it never ceases to amaze me that many organisations see PR as almost stand-alone.  Separate PR teams with their own strategies seems to have been an acceptable approach.  If PR is to survive, it needs to be fully integrated in the wider marketing strategy and team, in the same way that digital has, at least in many forward-thinking organisations. 

Embrace digital and recognise your audience has changed: PR needs to move on from its traditional focus on print and broadcast media and fully embrace digital channels.  For example, failing to include blogger outreach activity when promoting a news story or launching a product means a significant and influential audience is excluded.

Recognise that PR is part of a wider content strategy: content strategies and plans are not just for digital teams.  PR professionals need to consider how they can align with digital activity, reinforce the messaging and repurpose content to achieve an integrated approach to brand, product or corporate messaging.

Reconsider the traditional metrics:  ‘advertising value equivalent’ is a blunt tool to measure PR effectiveness borne out of the need to justify value in the face of the threat from advertising. Instead, PR professionals need to focus on learning from their digital colleagues and start talking about relevant reach and engagement.

Whether PR survives as a stand-alone discipline remains to be seen.  What’s clear is that it needs to adapt to survive by embracing the modern digital world.