Create better infographics in 4 steps

Behind every successful infographic are a sound strategy and distribution plan. Here’s what you need to create both.

When was the last time an infographic made your job—or at least your day—easier?

It took me a couple of beats before I could think of an example.

Visuals are a great way to amplify your content’s reach and effect, but some brands churn out infographics, e-books and social media images without stopping to think how those pieces can help people.

People don’t share brand content simply because it has a compelling headline or significant advertising dollars behind it. They share it because it provides actionable, valuable, non-promotional tips they can apply to their work.

The next time your team is drafting a new piece of visual content, ask the following questions about its intent, value and potential reach before you pour hours and dollars into the project:

1. Are we marketing or teaching with this content?

If you create an infographic that exists only to promote your brand, you significantly limit the number of readers who will download, share and engage with your piece. That means you’ll lose opportunities to attract potential customers.

Today’s consumers face a deluge of advertising every time they go online, and they’re discerning about brand intent. Audiences are overwhelmed, so use that fatigue as an incentive to create content your readers can use. Instead of slapping your brand message onto an infographic, embrace the opportunity to highlight your expertise and stand out from the crowd.

If you want to comment on an existing conversation that’s gaining traction in your industry, offer a fresh angle. For example:

  • If your organization creates security software, your customers have already seen plenty of infographics illustrating how to avoid a data breach. Instead, they might be interested in a detailed guide for detecting a point-of-sale systems breach on their network.
  • If your organization provides event-planning services, delve deeply into a more nuanced topic, such as tips for executives preparing to deliver keynotes at industry events. This kind of teachable content establishes trust with new prospects.

2. Does the piece get straight to the point both visually and textually?

Your reader should be able to understand your infographic’s message within a few seconds of scanning it. Sure, you can add flow charts and text effects to create a more interesting visual journey through the piece, but beware that overwhelming your reader will cause her to close the page.

Think of the websites you frequently visit. They probably have clean, responsive designs that aren’t cluttered with excess information or advertising. They probably also have clear keywords in the text that help readers find the information they’re looking for. The same principles apply to infographics.

3. Where is our information from, and how can readers use it?

The data behind your infographic (or any other piece of visual or editorial content) should be relevant and interesting to a wide audience. It won’t matter if your infographic is compelling and informative if it’s backed only by skewed survey results or findings that apply only to your brand.

As you choose your source material, consider the ultimate goals of your infographic and overall marketing campaign:

  • If you want to establish your brand as an industry leader, educate readers about problems they didn’t know they had or share fresh commentary on a topic, an image-based content strategy can help you accomplish those objectives.
  • Are you hyper-focused on generating new leads or securing funding? That’s fine, but if that’s the only takeaway a reader can glean from your piece, your infographic might not be as successful as you’d hoped.

4. How will we distribute this content?

There’s no such thing as pixie-dust PR, and there’s no magic trick to guarantee content will go viral. You need a strategy that aligns with your overall PR and marketing plan, a solid distribution approach, innovative thinking and workable takeaways for your readers.

Spend at least as much time distributing content as you do creating it, and consider how you’ll measure the piece’s return on investment:

  • Capture emails from readers interested in downloading the full version of your infographic or a complementary article.
  • Embed links that drive visitors to engaging, informative landing pages on your website where they can learn more about your organization.
  • Engage with visitors in ways that reflect their interest in your organization and help you qualify leads to send to your sales team.
  • Break the infographic into smaller pieces that people can quickly share on social media.
  • Repurpose your infographic’s findings into a blog post or podcast, or pitch a story to the media.

Think about the last infographic that stuck in your mind, taught you something or made your day a little easier. Approach it as a consumer, not a marketer. If you asked its creators the above questions, what would they say?

Also pose those questions about the last infographic your or your team created. If you’re not happy with your answers, adjust your strategy.

A version of this article originally appeared on MarketingProfs.

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