Public relations professionals have always been storytellers; however, the way people prefer to receive information has shifted, placing a higher value on visual content as opposed to written. Visuals are processed 60,000 times faster in the brain than text, so it would only make sense that the age-old method of storytelling transform into what we are now calling storyshowing.
The rise of the Internet and smartphones, paired with the popularity of social networks, has created a new breed of customers with fly-like attention spans. Traditional methods of communicating aren’t working like they used to. It may be a whole new ball game now, but it’s an effective one. The problem is, it has become a little too effective. People are now inundated with stories shared across the Internet. What’s happening as a result? A transformation in storytelling is taking place. Content must become easily digestible so a brand’s voice can be heard above the fray. To do so, one must not simply tell a story. One must now show the story. The result is the introduction of visual content marketing. But does the application of this method make sense in the business-to-business tech space?
McGrath/Power has been in the business of communicating brand stories for more than 30 years. I, myself, have been helping to tell brand stories since the rise of social media. I’ve found that when we recommend using social media to tell a brand’s story visually, B2B tech brands are the hardest to convince. It’s easy to see how visual storytelling fits into the PR and marketing efforts of a business-to-consumer brand, not only because it suits the audience but also because the multimedia visuals are typically more appealing to the eye. It’s difficult to make microchips and Big Data look sexy, but it can be done. And it should be done because communications is no longer about storytelling. It’s about storyshowing.
The first step to storyshowing is knowing the story a brand wants to tell. For a company like Intel that has a long history to build off of, creating a story comes easier. For smaller or emerging B2B tech brands, they need to pull from their beginnings, no matter how recent, and tie that into the technology they’re creating and how that solves a problem for their audience. While the story is the foundation, content built upon the foundation must align and be sturdy enough to support the whole structure. What topics, trends and verticals can a brand provide point of view on? This is where the meat of the day-to-day content comes from. The way in which a brand relays that content must change, though. Press releases, white papers, blog posts, etc. still play a critical role in telling a brand’s story, but driving and maintaining engagement around PR collateral has become trickier. Visuals are not only encouraged, they’re highly recommended to first show the story you then want to tell through supporting content.
Storyshowing comes in many forms, including images, photographs, infographics and videos. A balanced mix of these forms will keep an audience more engaged. In fact, posts with visuals receive 94 percent more page visits and engagement than those without. Brands don’t have to look far to find inspiration for visual content, either. They can play off of their key differentiators, end users’ stories, company culture, and more.
Take a look at IBM. On the face of it, their areas of expertise might be difficult to explain; however, they take a different approach to telling their story. They don’t just look at their technology, but the benefits that technology brings to end users. Their Tumblr account alone is testament to how creative a B2B brand can get with visual content. Why write a blog post about cloud computing solutions, when you can create a video that speaks to the benefits of cloud computing and incorporate that into a short post? Similarly, a data storage brand can post an image of a server room with a text overlay of a key data stat from their recent survey. This could link back to a report on the full survey results. The content may not be obvious at first, but the options are endless, and thanks to new tools, they’re easy to transform into visuals.
From Vine to Canva, the tools with which to create visual content have grown exponentially with the demand for it. You no longer need to have a degree in graphic design to create stunning visuals. Start with a tool like Adobe Color to determine a color scheme. Next, use a tool like Canva to create an image that visually explains the message being relayed. Then upload that image to social channels and watch engagement increase. Content like this can easily be created and posted in a matter of minutes. That visual content will then begin building up on social channels to show a brand’s story.
Even if the visual content is there, however, if it doesn’t show a consistent story and tie back to a brand’s end goal, it’s all for not. The approach taken to storyshowing should always spur an audience to take action, whether it’s a “like,” “share” or a visit to the brand’s website. This is why it’s important to not only create visual content but make it engaging. Take the audience on a journey through videos and images and help them come to a conclusion about a problem they’re experiencing. You never know when one image could turn a prospect into a customer or a customer into a brand advocate.
I find it ironic that storyshowing in the B2B tech sector is often not factored into PR efforts because it’s through this very technology that modern-day storytelling came about. Advancements in the tech sector have enabled brands to reach larger audiences and do so in such a way as to turn them into brand advocates. Now that’s a story to show, and B2B tech brands need to get on board or get left behind.
This article first appeared in the November issue of O’Dwyer’s.