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Evolving PR for the Digital Age: The Visual Social Explosion

The expression “a picture is worth a thousand words” has evolved throughout the digital age, as the visual web continues to explode.  The year-over-year growth of the image and video sharing realm is close to 70%, according to Mary Meeker at the State of the Internet Conference earlier this year.

Yet every day I hear the story of clients insisting on producing five minute videos that will be so captivating they’ll “go viral” or will ensure that journalists are intrigued enough to do a story.  So here is the midyear reality check.  First, let’s look at what’s trending, and then let’s take a look on how to leverage it.

The Visual Web and Evolving PR

Photo/image centric networks are the clear winners in this market, and sharing is happening constantly on mobile devices.  According to comScore data, 1.8 billion photos are uploaded to the internet every day.  Instagram moved to a more general audience (a shift from its original male-dominated audience) with almost 70 million unique visitors, up from 40 million in 2012.  Pinterest continued its female dominated user status and grew to approximately 60 million unique visitors, up from about 40 million the year prior.  Vine and Snapchat gained traction, and traffic soared as both platforms had over 20 million unique users by the end of February 2014.  Tumblr’s audience remained relatively stable with a net audience increase of about 10 million unique visitors.

Evolution of Communication Impacting the PR Evolution

The other half of the story is where audiences are viewing the images, and that is largely on mobile devices.  Intuitively, no one is surprised about that, as most of us participate in that trend.  However, the numbers are staggering.  According to BI Intelligence, approximately “60 percent of social media time is spent on smart phones and tablets.”  That means you have a better chance of engaging audiences on mobile social networks as that is where your audience is spending a lot of their time.

As a PR practitioner, how to do you effectively reach, engage, and spur audiences to action on mobile using images?  There are many ways you can take advantage of this visual social media explosion and the fact that your audience can access your visual messages via their mobile devices almost any time they like.

Leveraging the PR Evoution

Keep it simple.  This, of course, is easy to say, but less easy to implement.  But here are some important points to remember:

Think Twitter when pitching.
Twitter allows 140 characters for its users to get their point across—and that has become people’s attention span. So shorter is always better.

Choose words carefully.
Broadcasting that a product is “super exciting” just isn’t.  Always include a unique differentiator that will capture the audience’s attention long enough to ensure they click on a link.

Use a texting tactic.
Using simple text—no bolding, italicizing, or colors—will help ensure formatting stays intact as it is accessed across numerous types of devices, networks, and operating systems.

Be engaging.
In social media, people expect conversational language.  Pitch like a human and discard buzz words that turn people off.  For “old schoolers,” that just means it’s okay to be a bit more casual in your approach on social media.

Social media and the explosion of video and image sharing sites and technologies really does offer PR practitioners and companies alike a wonderful new realm in which to communicate with audiences.  Understanding its power and growth can help us deliver messages in ways our audiences most enjoy, which makes for greater engagement and campaign success.


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About Bobbie Wasserman

Bobbie Wasserman, M.B.A., is managing director of Wave2 Alliances, a firm that builds or restructures corporate communication departments for multi-channel companies. She has worked with several direct selling firms, including in-house as VP of Public Relations for ViSalus and is a former VP of Corporate Reputation and Crisis Management at Edelman.

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