By Sally Falkow, APR, President, PRESSfeed
Three hundred PR professionals braved the heat wave in New York City last week to find out what’s working, what’s new and what’s hot in the world of PR and media relations. A recurring theme throughout both days of the conference was the increasing importance of including visual material with content.
Sean Morgan, CEO of Critical Mention, set the stage in the opening keynote with these statements:
- Newspapers are going to be the next broadcasters: Don’t rule out newspapers as a medium just yet. They’re adapting to the new digital world and are rapidly becoming a video medium online.
- You have to tell your story in sight, sound and motion: People respond to the visual. It is no longer enough to have your stories in text only.
- Every company has become a media company: Think like publisher.
The need for visual content was reinforced by almost every speaker: The food bloggers all said that having excellent photographs “at the ready” would make a pitch much more appealing and more likely to be used. Recent surveys bear this out:
- 87% of journalists want easily accessible images – 2012 Survey PWR New Media
- 80% of journalists polled regard access to images as important or very important – TEKGroup 2012 Newsroom survey
- The inclusion of photographs, videos and graphics with a pres release can dramatically increase views – PR Newswire
- 79% of journalists say including an image increases the chance of the story being picked up – 2012 Survey PWR New Media
- Images and video on the Facebook Timeline create a 65% increase in engagement with fans – Simply Measured
- Eye tracking studies show that viewer pay more attention to photos and images containing relevant information – Jakob Nielsen
Doug Simon of D.S. Simon gave a sneak peek of the 2012 Web Influencers survey results and revealed that almost 90% of web media sites now use video – harking back to Sean Morgan’s point about newspapers becoming broadcasters. And it’s not just the newspapers: Southern California Public Radio now has a section of their site devoted to video and at least 30% of all media websites will take outside video content.
This is a huge PR opportunity, yet when the room was polled as to whether they routinely add visual assets to news content, only 10% raised their hands. The 2012 PRESSfeed survey of PR professionals found that just over half (52%) answered “yes” to that question. The study showed that 68% of Fortune 100 companies have image galleries and 48% have video material available in their online newsrooms. For mid-sized companies and those on the INC 500 list that drops down to less than 25%. Most online newsrooms still list press releases in a text-only format.
When 80%+ of journalists, bloggers and editors of media websites request images, video and other visual material, and somewhere between 10% and 50% of PR people include them with news content or offer visual assets in their online newsroom, PR is definitely not keeping pace with the needs of the media or the public.
The growth of Pinterest is a testament to the growing popularity of images and video. Better Homes and Gardens (BHG.com), Martha Stewart Living and Whole Foods are very active on Pinterest and it has become a top referrer of traffic to their sites. How do you know if you should be using Pinterest for your brand? Watch your analytics. When Pinterest traffic starts to show up as a growing referrer of traffic to your website that’s the time to set up your own boards and engage with the people pinning your content.
Another way is to see what gets pinned—the top subjects on Pinterest are design, style, crafts and fashion, so Pinterest is a must if your business fits into any of these categories. If your business lends itself to great images, such as a hotel or destination, or you have great shots of your products, Pinterest will work well for you, too.
Can Pinterest do more than just drive traffic? A recent eye tracking study found that people like brands better after viewing their Pinterest pages. The majority of participants said that viewing a brand’s page improved their opinion about the brand and said they were more likely to purchase something from it.
Similarly, Facebook’s new timeline upgrade also shows that visual content drives engagement. The graph below clearly illustrates that Facebook comments and likes for photos and videos on brand pages increased since the new timeline launched. The Simply Measured study this chart is drawn from reveals that brands saw 46% jump in content engagement on Facebook pages after the timeline upgrade—and, as referenced above, video and photos created a 65% increase in engagement.
We live in a visual world and the Internet has become a visual medium. How journalists source and report news has changed. What they want from PR has changed. Where and how people find their news has changed—they respond to and engage with visual content.
To get our messages out to the media and the public our approach to publishing news content has to change too. PR practitioners have to produce interesting, useful, relevant content that is visual and stimulating; content the media wants to use and the public wants to share.
Check out the following video tip with Gary Vaynerchuk for further insight about the role of visuals in content marketing—and how you or your clients should be engaging audiences, media or otherwise, online: