Seeing is believing: bad visuals will ruin your content marketing campaign

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Content marketing is bubbling up here at The Hodges Partnership. Jon heralded its arrival the other week. It’s been the running theme in most of my blog posts the past year. And other people feel the same way. According to one article, 93 percent of marketers employed content marketing to some degree in 2014.

But if you aren’t careful, you will sabotage your content marketing campaign by making this one common, but critical mistake—you aren’t willing to invest in visuals to enhance your written content. Professional photography, professionally designed graphics, professionally produced videos. Do you see what I’m getting at?

Yes, everyone agrees on the basics like including an image with a Facebook or blog post, but the quality (and usage rights in some cases) of the visual seems to be an afterthought. Why? Cost. Most people don’t have a proper understanding of how much time, skill and creativity goes into the work of professional photographers, graphic designers and videographers. And when we don’t understand something, we devalue it.

Here are some of the most common responses organizations give when pressed to properly invest in professional creatives—and what goes through my head when I hear them:

  1. It’s too expensive. (“Yes, but it’s worth it.”)
  2. Well my teenage daughter is into photography, she can take pictures for free. (“There’s a lot more to photography than having an entry-level DSLR.”)
  3. Don’t worry, some of our staff got some iPhone pictures. (Silently shaking my head…)

In my mind, here’s the disconnect—organizations aren’t thinking of themselves as content creators, similar to a magazine or a newspaper. Someone on your content staff needs to play the role of editor, who knows how to tell your company’s story as it relates to the broader industry and has a sense of how to tell that story visually.

Stepping off my soapbox, here are some helpful tips and resources to get you started:

High-resolution images

At a minimum, you need a core collection of high-res images: headshots of your thought leaders, products, recently completed projects—any tangible thing that you want to promote. It’s among the first thing any reporter will request, and believe me from experience, can be the determining factor for a reporter deciding to move forward with the story. Extra credit if you have an easily accessible vector copy of your company logo.

Stock photography subscriptions

Stock photography is a great way to get a lot of professional images for far less than you’d pay a photographer. Many like ShutterStock or iStock offer a flat monthly rate that allows you to download a certain number of images per month to use in blog posts, Facebook or LinkedIn updates, etc.

Know how to story board

You don’t need to have a picture, graphic or video for everything your company does, but at the very least, you do need to know how to visually communicate whatever story you’re trying to tell. It’ll not only help you determine what visual elements you need for your content, it’s essential when pitching media, especially broadcast.

Bottom line, if you aren’t willing to invest in visuals, even if it’s stock photography, your content marketing successes will be muted at best. The hard reality of content marketing is if you don’t take it seriously, your customers won’t either. 

(Image by Alex Proimos on Flickr)

Greg Surber

Greg Surber, APR, is a public relations strategist through and through. He works on a variety of accounts, leading research projects and content strategies, but he also has extensive experience with more traditional PR efforts including national and trade media relations campaigns.

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