3 writing lessons from infographics

Infographics are sweeping the visual marketing landscape, but they also hold surprising lessons to help writers punch up their copy.

Infographics reach 54 percent more readers than blog posts do and can increase content marketing profits by as much as 12 percent, according to Contently.

The popular visual format can also teach writers how to improve their content overall. Here are three crossover lessons you can apply to your copy:

1. Be creative—brainstorm your hook. “The infographics that get attention feature ideas and visuals that no one has ever heard or seen before,” says Karl Gude, a former director of information graphics at Newsweek and The Associated Press, who now leads the information graphics program at Michigan State University’s School of Journalism.

“It’s the same with PR writing,” he says. “Creativity and coming up with a unique approach to a tired old topic are hard work, but worth it.”

Gude warns that you run the risk of being predictable and boring—and getting ignored—if you don’t set aside time to brainstorm new ideas.

“There are several techniques you can learn about and use, such as brain writing and random word association,” he says, “but the most important components to being creative are a willingness to think differently, to invest the time it takes and to ensure that a corporate culture of creativity surrounds you.”

Register for PR Daily’s Jan. 27 virtual summit “Engaging Infographics: Create Visuals That Increase Reach and ROI” for more tips from data visualization experts Karl Gude, Randy Krum and Laura King-Homan.

2. Keep copy concise. “People can easily fall in love with their content,” Gude says. “There’s a tendency to want to include everything you researched or wrote—not only for a graphic, but for any PR document.”

This can create cluttered and unsuccessful graphic visualizations. It can also create PR copy that is too long, dense, overwrought and off-point—whether it’s a press release, news alert, post on Medium, white paper or annual report.

“The solution is to choose a few key points you really want your readers to know, and stick to them,” Gude says. “Don’t overwrite, either.”

David Poulson, a colleague of Gude’s at Michigan State University, teaches academics how to write more effectively for the public. One example he shares is a scientific paper he came across titled, “Grasshopper and Locust Farming as a Sustainable Source of Protein for Non-Ruminant Livestock and Humans in Kenya.”

Poulson offers a shorter alternative: “Eating Bugs.” Which would you want to read?

3. Target audiences with relevant content. “Many people have a ‘one size fits all’ mentality when it comes to infographics,” says Gude. “They work hard to create a single infographic on a topic like, say, lung cancer, and that becomes their go-to graphic to send to everyone.”

The problem? “Content a cancer patient would be interested in would be very different from content a lawmaker would need in order to consider more funding for the disease,” Gude says.

It’s the same, of course, with PR copy. His solution is simple: “Craft different messages on the same topic to send to different audiences.”

Brian Pittman is a Ragan Communications consultant and webinar manager for PR Daily’s PR University. Infographics and data visualization experts Karl Gude, Randy Krum and Laura King-Homan will share more tips in PR University’s Jan. 27 virtual summit, Engaging Infographics: Create Visuals That Increase Reach and ROI.”

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