Using Visuals in Content/Strategic Marketing

Mike Crawford
Mike Crawford

With today’s adult attention span being shorter than that of a goldfish, communicators have to try harder than ever to capture eyeballs. Whether you communicate to an audience on social media, through a blog post or even print media, visual elements must be included to capture the few brief seconds before the reader moves on to something else.

As easy as it is for me to describe a fire on a beach at sunset, you can process an image of it faster and have a clearer understanding of what I was trying to convey. Communicators have picked up on this and are using it to their advantage.

When it comes to marketing and public relations, brands are using visual elements more than ever to connect with niche audiences.

Two key strategies PR professionals should have in their toolkit for using visuals revolve around content and outreach marketing.

Similar to public relations, these communications tools create and maintain relationships with an organization’s key constituents.


Although PR and marketing are different from each other in several ways, they share the same goal: tell a brand’s story and raise its visibility.

Content marketing is a strategy that provides valuable and relevant material to a target audience. It can come in many shapes and forms such as microsites, blogs, ebooks, infographics and contributed articles.

The first goal of content marketing is to make the reader say, “Wow! I want to share this with my friends.” Then, their friends want to share it with more friends and the message’s concentric circles start to grow.

Akin to media relations, outreach marketing targets bloggers and key social media influencers who already are advocates of the brand or the industry where the brand operates.

To do this, a brand contact will reach out to these advocates and find ways to incorporate the brand into the advocates’ everyday life.

When executing this strategy, the most important thing to remember is that advocates are not just people who can talk about the brand, they are an extension of it.

These advocates build word- of-mouth coverage (the top reason behind purchase decisions) for brands. Relationships with these advocates should last far beyond one campaign.


So, how can a public relations professional execute these strategies, incorporate visuals and enhance their overall value?

Here are a few tips to consider.

• Use sites like Canva to easily create sharable graphics that can be included on the brand’s blog or social platforms.

• These graphics can then be shared with other outlets as repurposed content.

• If you want to go deeper, create an infographic.

• Infographics are a great way to present a lot of information in a snackable form.

• If you have instructional information to share, use step-by-step photos with text accompaniment to illustrate your how-to blog post.

• Or, use photos to create a SlideShare presentation and share with your social networks.

For content marketing to be effective, the content must be valuable and relevant to the audience.

Equinox, a fitness club with multiple locations across the U.S. has a health and fitness blog ( that provides post-workout recovery tips, information about workout gear and heart-healthy recipes.

Since Equinox facilities already host exercise enthusiasts, its blog gives the audience an outlet to further its knowledge about their health and wellness.


Here, you are reaching out to other communicators who love to share visual content with their audience.

• Send product photos or videos to be embedded in blog posts.

• Provide recipes to try with your brand’s ingredients.

• Send a personalized direct message on Instagram just to show some love and strengthen the relationship.

• You could even ask the advocate to have its audience create visuals while using your product, then share these images on your own social platforms.

When Animalz by ReTrak wanted to promote its kid-friendly retractable headphones just before the busiest shopping time of the year, it worked with its agency, M/C/C, and decided it was best to use outreach marketing to connect with moms and promote an unknown brand.

To do this, the agency created content including a press release with information about the volume-limiting headphones, photos, a BuzzFeed quiz and a product video. It sent these to targeted media outlets. The agency also worked with top mom technology and travel bloggers to secure product reviews for the headphones.

More than 24 articles were placed in traditional media outlets such as The Boston Globe, Newsday and CNET, which garnered more than 400 million impressions.

In addition, nearly 80 blog posts were written and customers were engaged through almost 7,000 tracked social media actions. These actions helped drive more than 50 percent of Animalz’s sales in 2014, with a year-over year increase of 1,755 percent.

Integrating content and outreach marketing into your marketing communications programs will lead to an increase in the amount of engagement with your brand’s target audience.

Instead of telling your audience what it needs to know about your brand, use these tactics (combined with visuals) to capture eyeballs and participate in a two-way dialogue.

Integrating content and outreach marketing into your marketing communications programs will lead to an increase in the amount of engagement with your brand’s target audience.

PR pros now are a part of the process that has a direct influence on sales.


Mike Crawford is president of Dallas-based M/C/C. He can be reached at

This article originally appeared in the April 13, 2015 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.