A blog about digital government, communications, citizen satisfaction & engagement, GovDelivery, and other e-government issues

Guest post by Jim Garrow, Operations and Logistics Manager, Philadelphia Department of Public Health


When I imagined the future of government communications, I would envision morning meetings, where the comms team (ha!) gets together, each over their own personal blend of Starbucks or locally-sourced coffee (double ha!), discusses what news is breaking, reviews where the competitors are and what their goals might be, then the team lead blesses the talking points for the day and everyone dashes off to their well-appointed, yet obviously industriously worked-in offices (triple ha!).

Aside from the fact that I obviously dream about some fantasy-land, there’s more wrong with that statement than is obvious. You see, I talked about our competitors and how my fantasy comms team would defeat them gloriously, just in time for happy hour. While it’s obvious that very few folks in government communications are concerned with our competition, and it’s even more obvious that our competitors number more than most of us can count to, that’s not the problem. You see, our biggest problem isn’t losing the battle of our public’s minds and action to some nefarious industry or trade group, it’s losing that battle because no one’s heard us. It’s losing because we’ve become irrelevant. It’s that we’re not number three or four on our public’s priority list, it’s that we’re number 100, or 1,000.

A consultant that I follow on Twitter, Steve Woodruff, had a brilliant post on exactly this topic a couple of weeks ago, and I just couldn’t shake how his message, while crafted very explicitly for the consulting world rang just as true–maybe more so–for government communicators.

[Y]our biggest competition isn’t the competition. It’s the noise in your client or prospect’s mind. It’s the boss – the kids – the schedule – the office politics – the latest health problem – the job search – the fantasy football league – tomorrow’s big presentation – the upcoming vacation – the overloaded e-mail inbox.

Don’t believe me? Monitor what’s coursing through you brain for the next 2 minutes. See what people who are fighting for your attention are up against?

Now I know I just said that we don’t care about the competition, so you’re thinking, “how does this relate to us?” It relates because we’re worse than those consultants that are so concerned with what other consultants are doing. We’re worse because we (to a large degree) still think that our messaging is the only game in town. That we speak and, as we’re the government, people should listen. We shout into that ether with full faith and belief that our message resonates above all other messages. But it doesn’t work like that.

Want to know how I know? Go back to that little two-minute exercise Steve had you do. Now think about the last message you published for work. Where did the action that message implored you to undertake rank in your two-minute ordering of life? Was it one or two? Three or four? Or more like 100 or 1,000?

And the cacophony of life is only increasing. More social networks, both in meat-space and cyberspace, more responsibilities, more deadlines, higher productivity, fewer financial cushions. You know what we need to be concerned with?

The signal-to-noise ratio. How do we put forth such a clear signal that we stand out in the minds of our clients?

So, how do YOU do it?

To see the original post, click here.

Emergency communications is a critical process to get right. It literally is the difference in saving more lives when a disaster strikes. So, what exactly is the one-two punch needed to be truly effective when communicating with the public Red boxing glove concertina on white backgroundduring emergencies?

Maximum outreach plus multichannel distribution. This combination is an absolute necessity for today’s emergency communicators to be truly effective.

In my other recent posts on emergency notifications, I mentioned how reaching the maximum number of people during emergencies can help to save a lot more lives. Maximum reach needs to be a main goal for all government organizations, particularly Offices of Emergency Management. Just having a large list of subscribers doesn’t allow you to rest on your laurels. You have to actually be able to reach them when you need to. That’s why it’s critical that you use a multichannel approach when sending emergency notifications.

Think about all of the communication tools we use. Between the multiple email addresses (work, personal, etc.), mobile phone for voice and text messages, various social media profiles, and home landline phone, the number of communication channels goes on and on. This is why it’s critical for you to use multichannel distribution during an emergency. When an emergency hits, you need to use multiple channels to ensure that people get the information they need in order to take necessary precautions. Bottom line: by sending out emergency notifications through multiple channels, you are much more likely to reach them.

Many government organizations are still using a system in which they are relying solely on a landline channel to try to get a hold of people in emergencies. The problem with this approach is that a lot of people no longer use their landline phones, and those people would have to be home to get the emergency alert. With a robust, single-platform, multichannel system, you dramatically increase the chances of reaching citizens, wherever they are at the moment you’ve sent that message.

Easy Button1Maximum outreach, along with multichannel distribution, are key elements in reaching people in emergencies. There are solutions that provide multichannel communications, making it easy to integrate all of these emergency communication strategies, such as email, voice messages, SMS/text messages, and social media postings. When you have these in place, you can create one message and push it out through all of these channels at once. It’s like you’ve just pressed your very own “Easy” button!

Join us for the fourth and final podcast for more information on the power of combining maximum reach with multichannel distribution in emergencies.

Anyone who’s ever returned from vacation to an overflowing inbox knows that email, while infinitely better than the Pony Express, can still be a lot of, well, work. Add on curating weekly e-newsletters and managing multiple LISTSERVS and arrow targetsuddenly that old pony isn’t looking so bad anymore.

Earlier, we learned about the solution to this dead horse problem: Digital Communication Management (DCM). Let’s break it down further and explore why a good DCM system is so important for both the direct message your agency is delivering, and the indirect message you want to convey.

We know that email is an essential tool for nearly all businesses and government agencies. It’s one of the most effective and efficient ways to share your message, and it’s revolutionized the way average people communicate—but that doesn’t mean it can’t be better. In using listserv technology, government organizations are taking a step in the right direction by allowing citizens to sign up for separate email lists based on their interests so they receive relevant content. Although curating content for each list is a lot of work, deciding what to include and what to leave out sends the message to readers that your agency knows what’s most important to them. Unfortunately on the stakeholder end, if they no longer want to receive information, they have to manually unsubscribe to each list separately. This can be cumbersome and can discourage stakeholders from opting in to receive other information from organizations in the future.

So how does DCM fix this problem?

Push vs. Pull

When it comes to marketing, the private sector is all about one word: push. Private sector companies push their brand, push their products and push their message. So it’s no surprise that their email marketing practices should follow suit. By carefully curating exactly what information they want to pass onto subscribers, businesses always maintain the upper-hand. Anyone who’s ever gone to the mall to buy a pair of jeans and come home to an inbox stuffed with promotional emails knows just how frustrating email marketing can be. So as a government agency, it’s critical that your citizens aren’t subjected to such intrusive practices.

With a public sector digital communications platform, your government organization allows the stakeholder to choose what updates they receive. DCM flips the controlling push tactics into an empowering pull tactic. Instead of having information pushed on them, citizens are able to choose, and therefore, pull only what they want to know about. Think of it like visiting the library. If you wanted to find a book on whales but every time you entered the room a librarian shoved a pamphlet about the latest building renovations in your face, you probably wouldn’t be too pleased. The same concept applies here. But a robust public sector communications platform goes beyond just allowing stakeholders to pull information. Instead of having to manually search through an entire government website (or library) to find what they want, with a proper DCM system, citizens can simply subscribe to relevant pages and topics and have the information delivered right to their inbox.

Sending the right message

“Power to the people” isn’t just a catchy slogan; it should be a way of life when it comes to government communications. Deploying a digital communication management solution sends the message that you want your subscribers to have the most accurate, up-to-date information about the things that are important to them, and that you trust them to know what those things are.

To learn more about how a DCM system can help you send the right message in the most effective way possible, download this new white paper, The Transformative Power of Communications: Digital Communication Management for the Public Sector.

Almost as soon as email was created, people started creating email lists so they could reach others with related interests. Email list software like LISTSERV became a vital way for communities of people to interact with each other.

In 2013, email is still incredibly valuable as a Email @communication channel, playing an important role in government communications. Agencies can use email for regular outreach and emergency communications, updating citizens about services or events of interest to them. (See my previous blog on Email Finds New Life in Integrated Campaigns.)

But maintaining separate email lists is no longer the best way to manage email subscriptions at the scale that most government agencies need. Each new email list adds management overhead and cost. And while subscribers like very detailed, targeted subscriptions, they don’t like having to manage many individual subscriptions, so they are less likely to opt-in for updates.

A new class of Digital Communication Management (DCM) solutions replaces email lists and adds essential automation and integration capabilities to subscription management. With DCM, government agencies can use email more efficiently and effectively to manage citizen communications.

Defining Digital Communication Management (DCM)

A DCM solution is much more than simply a collection of email lists. By consolidating subscription management and automating the creation and distribution of content across different subscriptions, a DCM solution transcends the limitations of email lists.

  • Agencies can create many different subscription options without additional management overhead.  People are more willing to sign up for notifications from very specific lists of interest to them.
  • Citizens or stakeholders can manage their subscription profile from one location, easily adding or changing their subscriptions.

A DCM system automatically monitors websites for new content and generates updates for relevant subscribers – reducing effort for government staff and ensuring timely notifications. And it integrates easily with other channels, such as text messaging, RSS updates and social media.

Making your own case for DCM

For most government agencies, deploying a DCM solution delivers a rapid return on investment in cost savings from reducing paper processes and shifting interactions to cost-effective, digital channels. They can also help you achieve other goals of reaching more stakeholders, increasing citizen awareness of services and programs, and improving emergency communications.

GovDelivery offers a white paper, The Transformative Power of Communications: Digital Communication Management for the Public Sector, with information to help you evaluate the potential for DCM in your organization, including:

  • Guidance on calculating the Return on Investment (ROI) from DCM
  • Real-world examples of federal, state and county government agencies that have moved from email lists to cloud-based DCM, and their results
  • Guidelines for a successful DCM deployment

If you’re ready to leave email list management in the past, download this paper and see if a Digital Communication Management solution is right for your agency.

Co-written by Anne Doucot and Mary Yang

In my last post, I talked about how reaching the maximum amount of people that you can during an emergency can be the difference in saving more lives. And if you’ve been following along in the last couple of posts and podcasts from this series so far, you’ve also heard me talk about how important it is to get subscribers in addition to the use of a single platform, multichannel system. But, I know what many of you are thinking, once you get subscribers, how do you keep their contact information up-to-date?

With a single hey look hereplatform system that’s used by both your organization’s emergency communications department and public affairs office.

If you’re lucky, as an organization, you may only need to activate emergency alerts once or twice a year. That means, if your current system allows citizens to sign up to receive emergency alerts, that data may be quite old by the time you need to rely on it.

The solution to keeping contact information up-to-date is by using a comprehensive system that allows for both regular government communications and emergency notifications. The system should allow citizens to sign up for a variety of topics. With this kind of system, citizens can choose to receive updates on topics of interest and choose the method of communication they prefer (email, SMS, social media, etc.) The system should also allow citizens easy access to their profiles to provide updated contact data if they want.

As the communications department provides regular messages, the system will recognize if email addresses are still in use or if text messages are delivered. For organizations that use the same platform for their government communications and emergency notifications, sending out regular communications can continually test and cleanse the contact data for their citizens.

Join us for the third podcast for more information on how easy it can be to keep citizen contact information up-to-date.

For more analysis on current emergency notifications technology, download this recent Analyst Brief from IDC Government Insights.

sh Last week, one of the greatest cheesy movies of all time debuted on the Syfy channel. Sharknado.

In case you missed it, here’s the premise. There’re lots of really big sharks in the ocean and they’re all really angry. Due to some weird weather, the sea level begins to rise in Los Angeles and a freak tornado scoops up said sharks and rains them down on the city. 1990’s ‘C List’ stars Tara Reid and Ian Ziering (appropriately named ‘Fin’ in this film) take to the streets to kill the sharks and blow up the tornado using dynamite. Mayhem ensues. A cult classic is born.

I know what you’re thinking, “Hey pal, where’s the spoiler alert warning?!?!”

Sorry about that.

Obviously, this movie is designed to be a low budget, tongue-in-cheek, comedy/thriller that’s the entertainment equivalent of eating a box of Twinkies…at first the idea sounds delicious, but you end up regretting it by the time you’re finished.

The thing that’s most amazing to me about Sharknado is that it actually is a good case study in communications best practices, so here I’ve compiled the top 5 things a cinematic masterpiece like Sharknado can teach us about communications.

1)  Be trustworthy

You might be wondering what could possibly be ‘trustworthy’ about this movie. Well, it’s called Sharknado and features Tara Reid and Ian Ziering battling airborne sharks in a tornado…you immediately know what you’re getting with this one. No one is tuning in thinking this is going to be Spielberg’s next Oscar winner. You watch because you think the idea of tornadic sharks sounds funny.

In the same way, your messages need to be honest and transparent about what you are trying to communicate, even when the information might be difficult to deliver. Always give people the straight answer. People will be far more willing to hear tough information when they feel like you’re telling them the truth, but rarely forgive if they feel they’ve been deceived.

2)  Give your audience what they want

The folks in charge of programming over at Syfy know exactly what their audience is interested in. A quick Google search delivers a long list of awesomely awful movies Syfy has aired. These blockbusters include masterpieces such as Sharktopus, Piranaconda, Dinocroc vs. Supergator, Megapython vs. Gatoroid, and Dinoshark.

Clearly, there is a subset of the population who loves these kinds of movies and keeps coming back for the content they love.

This same approach works for communicators too. At GovDelivery, we advise our clients to offer a wide variety of topics that people might be interested in as subscription topics. That way, people can sign up to get the exact information they want.

For example, one person might go to the IRS website to look for information about filing personal income taxes. Another might search the site to find out how to file business paperwork to get a taxpayer ID number, and another person may want to know about the Wounded Warrior Tax Credit.

By allowing people to subscribe to only the information they find valuable, you can provide excellent customer service without burying people in superfluous information they don’t want or need. Your customers will be happy and you won’t be wasting people’s time.

3)  Spread the word

One of the things that Syfy did expertly with Sharknado, was create compelling content that people wanted to share and then get that message out to the masses. Sharknado generated more than 604,000 tweets in an 8 hour time period on the day the movie premiered. That’s 1,258 tweets per minute! The official movie trailer has been viewed over 2.5 million times on YouTube and the movie poster showed up all over my news feed on Facebook.

While not all of the information you need to communicate is as riveting as Sharknado, efficiently getting your message out to as many channels as possible is essential for ensuring maximum viewers. Try to find tools that will simplify the delivery of information. It will save you time and make sure you are catching your audience on their channel of choice.

4)  Capture people’s attention

No one can deny that Sharknado was attention grabbing. But what if you are talking about something more mundane than flying attack sharks? Just because your message isn’t flashy, doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to jazz it up.

For example, you’ve probably heard how the CDC made emergency preparedness interesting with their Zombie Apocalypse campaign. The US Census Bureau found a way to make economic statistics come alive with the America’s Economy mobile app. The Virginia Tourism Association tapped into the growing craft beer trend and created an interactive map for a craft beer tour. You know there’s an audience out there for that idea. Louisville, KY decided to try new ways of capturing people’s attention by putting city content into a new channel where people were already congregating. The Washington DOT even found a way to make traffic information compelling by using a map goof-up to highlight road improvements.

Before pushing your information out there, take a few seconds to think if there’s a way you can make your information more compelling. If you can capture people’s attention, you will have a better chance of them remembering what you want them to know.

5)  Don’t be afraid to have some fun

Sharknado is a great example of having some fun with your content. No one expects this movie to win any awards; it’s purely for entertainment purposes.

Remember your main goal as a communications professional; you are trying to get people to engage with your content, sign up to get additional information from you, and come back for more in the future. If everything you put out is safe, boring to read, boring to look at, in outdated mediums and doesn’t move anyone, most people won’t be back.

Even serious government organizations can have some fun every now and then. And, finding new and exciting ways of getting your material in front of the eyes of the public should be fun for you. Ask yourself, “What would happen if I went this direction to make my message more engaging?” Don’t stress yourself out with this. Take it slow. Bite off small pieces at a time and get creative. Maybe you’ll come up with something even more interesting than Sharknado.

There you have it, the top 5 things a cinematic masterpiece like Sharknado can teach us about communications best practices.

What things would you add to my list?

Oh, in case you missed it, Syfy is re-airing the movie in August. And in case you’re already a diehard fan, Sharknado 2 is already in the works! Syfy is even offering a chance to get in on naming it. You can submit your title ideas via tweet to @SyfyMovies using #Sharknado.

There are many ways to tell a story. In my last post, Jazz Up Text with Graphics to Capture Reader Attention, I discussed why infographics are so important to communicators – and to the story you’re trying to tell.

From comic-like images to instructional diagrams to traditional charts and graphs, visuals can increase readership and drive traffic to your website. But where do you start with creating a visual or graphic that helps you tell your story? Here are a few tips I’ve learned from developing infographics that you can easily use to make the most of the stories you need to tell.

Keep your audience in mind. This is first and foremost, as with any communication. What information would your readers find most useful? What challenges are your readers facing? How can you help them solve their problems? If you’re not sure, survey your readers. This can provide useful quantitative data that can be used in an infographic. Also, consider following your key stakeholders in social media forums for qualitative information that you can pull into a story.

Do your analytical homework. What are your top performing web pages and which ones fall short? What keywords are driving people to your website? Which resources get frequent clicks or downloads? Knowing what your visitors are already reading will help you understand the type of information they want most.

Shape your story. Once you have identified your readers and their interests, you can shape your story. Depending on the content you are publishing, certain graphics may be better suited to sharing your story more effectively. For instance, if you have information on the impact of the flu, a map is a great visual to help you tell that story. Or, if you want to share the average time it takes for a bill to move through Congress, a timeline can be helpful. Make sure you identify the sources of information on your graphic. Doing this builds trust and also serves as an additional resource if your audience wants to learn more.

CDC Flu Map

Publish your graphics in a dynamic design that appeals to your readers. Accompany the graphic with text and use the word “infographic” when naming it to increase search engine optimization. Post the graphic on your blog and social media sites. Infographics with accompanying text not only help you tell your story better, they are also useful for social sharing and increased website traffic.

Share your graphics as broadly as possible. And allow others to share them. Pinterest is an ideal place to post your infographic, since it’s a social network built around visual pinboards. Share on Twitter and make sure to use the hashtag #infographic to optimize your graphic in searches. You can retweet the infographic several times, using different text or statistics from the graphic to generate increased viewership. Strategically choose which Google communities to share with for greatest impact. By now you probably have a visual in your own mind of the ripple effect you are creating as the audience for your key messages grows exponentially.

Decide what you want to measure. Before posting an infographic, decide what you want to measure so that you can determine if the communication is a success. This can be dependent on your mission goals. How many people have clicked to view your infographic? If the infographic is part of a larger campaign, like the StopBullying.gov infographic mentioned in my earlier post, include a call-to-action and measure the response. Which sources are people downloading from most (newsletter signups or other resources)? Has the interaction on your social media sites increased? Do you have more visitors to your website and more followers on Facebook? Are people sharing your infographic in their networks?

Release your infographic at the right time. Releasing your infographic at the right time can help maximize impact. A great example is the infographic released by the United States Census Bureau on Memorial Day honoring America’s veterans. There wasn’t a specific call-to-action, but it was timely and relevant with the US holiday and generated more traffic to the Census website.

US Census Bureau Memorial Infographic

These are some of my tried-and-true tips. How about you? Have you started incorporating infographics in the stories you tell for your organization? What tips do you have for other government communications professionals looking to enhance their messages?

To read my last post, click here.

In my last post, I discussed how a siloed communications system doesn’t work in emergency communications. The term, silo, refers to departments within an organization working separately with little to no communication with each other. For example, in the public sector, emergency notifications are typically handled separately from the communications team.

Taking full advantage of technology and the wide variety of communication tools available is often a bit slower on the adoption scale for government organizations. Add to that a siloed communications approach, and you have a combination Emergency Informationthat creates both inefficiency and ineffectiveness in reaching the people you need to reach in emergencies.

In a crisis situation, reaching the maximum amount of people that you can within the community that could be affected can be the difference in saving a few lives versus saving a lot of lives.

The Town of Ocean City, MD, discovered this need firsthand in 2011 when Hurricane Irene devastated the area. In the aftermath of the storm’s destruction, residents felt that the town’s communication could have been better before and during the storm. The town knew it needed a better communication system and a more flexible way to quickly get messages to more residents, especially in times of emergencies.

Ocean City administrators began using their website as a way to gain subscribers with the help of a digital communication management system (DCM) and started offering various topics that would be of interest to residents, allowing people to sign up for information and emergency alerts. When Hurricane Sandy hit the following year, the city was prepared, pushing important information alerts out to residents via SMS/text messaging and email.

So how can your organization gain more reach?

By making it a priority to get as much information as you can from your stakeholders before an emergency. What type of information and how much you gather will depend on your organization, but you must start with the basics, such as phone numbers, email addresses, home and work addresses, and any other contact information that you need from your stakeholders. Getting this information before an emergency strikes allows you to proactively get critical information out to residents, which can in turn potentially save someone’s life.

Join us for the second podcast for more on the importance of getting rid of siloed communications, and achieving maximum reach in emergencies.

Guest post by Jim Garrow, Operations and Logistics Manager, Philadelphia Department of Public Health

When I follow emergencies unfolding online, I follow them using Twitter. It’s where news breaks these days. The problem is that it keeps breaking. Over and over and over again until the entire situation is a mish-mash of unhelpful posts.

Let me explain.

See this post?

Topical, relevant, timely, eminently share-able, excellent. And it was shared, at least four times. Viral emergency messaging for the win!

But what you don’t see on this snapshot is when those retweets came. I know that at least one of them came around 10:30am that day, which was when I saved the tweet. I saved it because, well, a tweet about a Severe Thunderstorm Warning at 10:30am doesn’t do much when the Warning ended at 10:15am, and the storm about ten minutes before that.

Now, imagine if the original OEM tweet didn’t have a time on it. Every retweet thereafter runs the risk of alerting people to information that is out-of-date. Runs the risk of unnecessarily scaring folks, inflaming folks, misleading folks. And in some emergencies the cost is much worse than confusion. Think of the Oklahoma tornadoes from last month, when some meteorologists told people (incorrectly) now was the time to go home to avoid the storm. Delays in delivering that information could have life-threatening consequences.

The absolutely amazing Greg Licamele discussed a similar topic recently around flash flood warnings in the DC area.

Two-day old info is obviously not true and storms are not minutes away. It’s impossible to “train” casual Twitter users to manually add a date and timestamp, so those of us in the response business must be diligent to timestamp our info when appropriate so our own tweets are not errantly retweeted days later.

Greg recommends that Twitter update their time-stamping tool, which would be ideal, but in the meantime, I think that our good friend Marcus Deyerin had a great suggestion for what we should be doing in the meantime, very similar to what Philly OEM did:

If you’re sending tweets with time-sensitive info, add your own time stamp (e.g. 1015hrs).

Maybe we should include more, like a time and a date. Maybe more consistent messaging, such as posting when a message is out of date. In an information vacuum filled with a need for more, more, more, people will take the last thing you posted as the latest information, often incorrectly. And we should be careful about what we retweet. You’ll notice that everyone that retweeted our Thunderstorm Warning above was an agency, so it was one of us that passed along out-of-date information. We can do better.

To see the original post, click here.

One small change can make the difference between your digital communications getting read or ignored. And it’s an easy change to make. Simply add graphics to your text and you’ll get more traffic, increased readership, and better search engine optimization (SEO). The increases can be quite dramatic.

High quality visuals are 30 times more likely to be read than text articles, and digital publishers who feature infographics grow traffic 12 percent faster than those who don’t, according to statistics published at CustomerMagnetism.com.

As part of Stopbullying.gov’s efforts to provide education and information around bullying, the organization sent an email bulletin through GovDelivery to introduce an infographic on its website. Understanding the power of graphics to help reinforce a message, Stopbullying.gov used the word “infographic” in the email subject line, which helped contribute to an increase in unique email opens by 48 percent (compared to other emails sent). The email itself was visually appealing and included a link to the infographic. This led to a dramatic increase in unique click-throughs – double the amount of any other email sent.

bullying bulletinThe use of charts and illustrations to present information has become a growing trend. The words “infographic” and “infographics” are searched an average of 547,000 times per month on Google. Recently, in a single month, 56,000 tweets mentioned infographics.

As you add relevant visuals to enhance your communications, you should see an increase in site traffic. Stories with graphics are much more likely to be shared, either through email or on social media sites. As your communications and graphics are shared, they should link back to your website, helping to build traffic. Infographics also increase SEO, which results in higher search engine rankings and more visitors to your website.

Why are infographics so popular?

Visual storytelling is a familiar and powerful form of communication with roots deep in our psyches. Ancient cave paintings are evidence that pictures provided our earliest method for communicating stories and ideas. Our visual sense remains strong. Psychologist Albert Mehrabian demonstrated that even today 93 percent of communication is nonverbal.

Visuals make it easier to understand complex information. That’s true for all of us, but particularly for the 60 percent of the population who are visual learners. People learn in different ways, and visual types learn best when ideas, concepts and data are associated with images. They would prefer to get information by looking at a pie chart, graph, timeline or flowchart, for example.

Infographics are powerful

Graphics can influence viewers. Advertisers have always understood the power of graphics. Pictures of babies and puppies are often pictured in ads because they elicit warm, positive emotions in the viewer who then associates that feeling with the product. Given that our brains process visual information 60,000 times faster than text, the influence of a graphic can be quick as well as emotional. Additionally,a 3M-sponsored study at the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management found that presenters who use visual aids are 43 percent more effective in persuading audience members to take a desired course of action than presenters who don’t use visuals.

Often graphics don’t have as much impact when they stand alone as they do when combined with text. Without text to explain what a viewer is looking at, an infographic can lose its power. Yet the text without the infographic can be dull and dry. It’s the marriage of graphics and text that makes digital communications featuring infographics powerful enough to engage visitors, increase traffic and ultimately build brand recognition

Given their power to influence audiences, enhance learning, increase readership and drive traffic to your site, it’s not surprising that infographics have become popular with professional communicators. Start thinking about what you need to communicate and learn about effective ways to do it with infographics. Stay tuned for my next post where I’ll share tips on how to create graphics with great impact.

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