"A picture is worth a thousand words." We’ve all heard this saying at one time or another, but due to the advent of technology, an ever-changing media world has been born. A world that moves extremely fast and changes in an instant.
This leaves companies looking for new and inventive ways to capture attention and quickly tell a story. It’s funny to think that in the world of 2016, where technology rules our daily lives, storytelling has actually taken a page from the past. Long ago it was cave paintings, monuments and basic mementos that visually told the story, and now in 2016, visual storytelling is again the preferred method.
The power of today’s visual storytelling phenomenon is the impact of technology on the visual storytelling process. This is where the use of infographics, macros, animated GIFs and even videos come into play. Naturally what’s even more important than the visual tactic is the communications objective and strategy. Storytelling always has a purpose. Going back to the pillars of communication, the original purpose of storytelling was to either inform, remind or persuade.
Inform = Saturation = Repetition
Informing the customer that your company is relevant in the marketplace is a matter of capturing attention. In the media landscape of today, this requires complete saturation. This will produce the repetition needed to gain attention; from there, the conversation and storytelling process can begin. However, you only have a short period of time before the customer becomes bored or disinterested and moves to another topic. This is where visual storytelling can be impactful: with a solid objective and strategy, the visual storytelling tactic can become rich in content and full of information that is interesting from multiple points of view. As a result, the experience will leave the customer with a clear impression, and the repetition will build the awareness needed to move the customer into the inform stage of thinking.
Remind = Start a Conversation = Engage
With the limited attention span and bandwidth of most customers, the goal of reminding a customer has truly become its own art form. From using targeted messaging to integrated and even interactive communications, the path to finding the right mix can be daunting. This is where laying the objective to strategy foundation plays an even more important role. Reminding a customer goes beyond mere attention and moves into the arena of engagement. An analogy: If the business objective is to grow and the strategy is to differentiate, then the communications objective will be to start a conversation, while the communications strategy will be to engage. Visual storytelling is ideal for this: We all have clearer memories when multiple senses are impacted during an interaction. That makes visual (including video with sound) a preferred medium for reminding your customers.
Persuade = Influence = Action
As ancient as the act of selling, persuasion has been a staple for human existence. At the root of persuasion comes the simple act of defining the benefit(s). To persuade a customer goes beyond engagement and moves into influence and action. Persuasion is personal, as customers are showing a level of trust when they choose to be influenced and take action based on a specific request. This is where visual storytelling can be especially impactful, as it can attract a customer to the core selling principles of explaining how a given product or service can help that customer save money, save time or save peace of mind. Remember, the idiom "seeing is believing"; it is visual storytelling that makes this possible, as customers have the opportunity to study the benefits of the product/service and understand its impact. This opportunity can create a level of influence that makes the customer believe, trust and then become an advocate for the message. As a result, the customer is then motivated to take action and fulfill the wants of the company. All of this is not possible without a meaningful and impactful storytelling experience that is rooted in the simple act of persuasion through the defining of the benefit(s).
Visual storytelling is often considered more of an art than a science, but it is rooted in the principles of knowing your target market and understanding its needs. Communicating via visual storytelling requires a level of due diligence and mutual alignments between the message deliverer and receiver. As technology has increased the volume of information and number of communications channels, it has required communicators to become more disciplined in the methods of customer outreach. This creates a landscape that is ripe for messages that rise above the noise and deliver the inform, remind or persuade experience for its given target market.
Dwayne Roark is global business communications director at The Dow Chemical Company. Follow him at @DwayneRoark.