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A picture paints a thousand words

The art of visual storytelling

You wouldn’t be wrong in assuming that one of the core competencies of a good communications professional is the ability to write well.

However, in an age where attention spans are shrinking, visual, media-based communication provides a fresh opportunity for internal comms teams to tell their organisation’s story using picture and videos.

 

The science behind a story

Our memory chunks information into groups of three to five blocks. Storytelling helps with the chunking process, because typically stories are grouped by chapters. Stories also add value to an idea – they provide the reader or listener with context, helping them to attach meaning and relevance to the information provided.

Simply put, the smaller the amount of information provided, the easier it is for the audience to digest it.

Let’s get visual

The way in which stories are told now has changed. Social media and smart devices mean a story can be captured and shared instantly.

Imagine an altercation breaks out at your bus stop. You take a picture of the culprits, post it to Twitter or Instagram and watch it go viral (…maybe). The instantaneous nature of some social media platforms leaves little room for an edited version of the truth.

Individuals have come to expect, and as a result crave, this type of information. They want the raw and unfiltered version of a story as soon as it happens, which is why a single image can be so powerful.

As internal communicators, we now have an exciting challenge to tell our organisational narrative using images. But how do we maintain authenticity through visual storytelling, without using words?

 

A (single) picture paints a thousand words

Organisations aren’t built on processes and products, they are built on people. People who come in all shapes and sizes. From different backgrounds, with different skills and experience levels.

Instagram, Pinterest and other social networks have presented photographers with the opportunity to tell a story through just one picture. Photographers like Martin Schoeller (images below), and Brandon Stanton (founder of Humans of New York) have utilised portraiture to tell a story with just one powerful image. Angles, subject positioning, and colour-play all help to add layers to their pictures. Think of those layers as chapters and context, leaving room for the viewer to add meaning and relevance.

 

 

The raw and unfiltered nature of portraiture also provides a breadth of space for authenticity. Seeing raw, unfiltered imagery highlights the things that make us different, which are often also the things that make us special.

Portraiture can help showcase the ‘who’ behind every ‘what’ in your organisation, creating a personal connection across all levels of the business.

So, next time, instead of hitting the keyboard, why not pick up the camera first?