An infographic depicts information using graphics and text. If you search for “infographic” you’ll get more than 15 million results—some that are very effective and some that are explosions of bad ideas. So when should you use an infographic?
- When your message can be illustrated (visuals and words) better than described (words only)
- When you need to show relationships or flow of information
- When there’s data to explain that is meaningful to your viewer
- When you need to make something simple
- When you have a short time to deliver a complicated message
Like any communication tool, the key to making an infographic work is clarity, great design and spare but effective use of words. In this example we produced, the infographic provides an easy instruction for a new process. It lets the viewers decide how deep to go and where to start. Do they want to know why? What? Or just how?
Have you seen any infographics that you think worked well?
Social media is about sharing content in different formats—words, video or photos. So the first step in any social media strategy is to create quality content that your customers are interested in—and delivering it in a way that is share-worthy. Here are five tips to improve your chances:
- Use quality photos that are better than your competitors.
- Use video.
- Make your videos entertaining—when appropriate.
- Make your writing better than your competitors.
- Provide useful content that isn’t just about your company.
If you’re serious about social media, commit resources to monitor the conversation so you know what the crowd is saying about you.
Need some inspiration? >>
This short video brought a powerful response when shown to policy makers and stakeholders—and went viral among other state private education associations. It shows how complex messages can be simplified using an animated video technique.
We use our blog to provide short, easy-to-read tips on how to improve a business’s marketing and communications.
Even a simple but entertaining e-card like this—posted on your social media channels and website—can increase views.
So you have a new service. A new vision for the future. A new position you’d like to fill. Whatever your story, here’s a new way to deliver your message.
- Lead with a story that’s real and personal. Enter Estelle, above.
- Use a motion graphic video technique, which has no video footage—just sound and illustrations that are animated. It has all the rich visual elements of a video.
- The benefits of the service are all delivered in the story. It’s a little more subtle, but oh-so-persuasive.
Today we’re going to challenge you to think about new ways of connecting with your audience. Can you see using this kind of technique as a fresh way to deliver your message?
Recognition is one of the top things employees want in a job—yet too often it’s far too scarce. Yet watch any sport on TV and see how the immediate response of the crowd affects the players.
Recognition not only helps job satisfaction, but it acts as a rudder—steering the organization in its desired direction. Employees focus on what is rewarded and celebrated.
So how can you communicate recognition better in the workplace?
- Make personal communication specific, like this: “Your ability to bring disparate ideas together really made that meeting a success.”
- Make it more frequent.
- Recognize people in front of their peers.
- Send a note to the person’s boss, and copy them in.
- Use a picture of them in a corporate communication.
Need some inspiration? >>
This video celebrates the work of a hospital’s volunteers with photos of them at work. It’s an easy and fast way to say thank you to the people who make your organization successful—and it also can be used in recruiting, to give prospects a sense of your organization.
By showcasing employees talking about what it means to work at their organization, this video recognizes their employees, physicians and volunteers.
Not sure what to post that will interest your followers? This list of 10 ideas from Michael Hyatt can get you started.
- Share a resource. You can point people to a news item, a blog post, a website, a software tool or anything else you think would be helpful to your followers. Share the link to the resource.
- Repost another’s post. Occasionally, you will read something from one of your friends or someone you follow that you just have to share with your friends.
- Make an announcement. Whenever you post something new to your blog, select winners in your contest or start a new business, tell your followers and provide a link for more information.
- Reveal something personal. This is what humanizes you and makes you real. It is also what connects people to you and builds trust.
- Ask a question. One of the beauties of social media is that you can crowd-source your research. Use the “wisdom of crowds” to do everything from finding a great restaurant to solving a specific problem.
- Provide a discount. If you have an opportunity for your followers to get a deal or save money, share the love. Just be careful you don’t use this as an excuse for spamming your followers.
- Reply to a question. Remember that first and foremost, social media is intended to be social. It’s all about the conversation. This means you need to reply to questions people ask you if you are to be taken seriously.
- Report what you are doing now. This is something that also humanizes you. If you are doing something particularly interesting, share it with your followers. It’s often useful to include a link to a photo.
- Offer your congratulations. Use social media to celebrate the accomplishments of others. Don’t make it all about you. Be generous with others and you’ll find it comes back to you.
- Wish someone well. Whether it’s a simple “happy birthday” or “congratulations on your promotion,” social media provides a way for you to call attention to the people you care about.
The role of the health care marketer and communicator is changing—that’s not news. But what will it look like? In the Sept./Oct. issue of Spectrum, the member newsletter of Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development (SHSMD), we suggest the critical skills tomorrow’s pros will need to master. Which of these do you think will be most important?
Using targeted email, e-letters or e-blasts to get heard? Then you already know that unsolicited messages, or those that you initiate, play by different rules than messages that readers seek out.
Here’s why. Today’s email reader:
- Decides within the first few seconds whether to keep reading. So if it isn’t relevant or looks too overwhelming—with lots of grey text and no visual interest—your reader won’t go further.
- Doesn’t want to work hard to see if there’s something of interest to him or her.
- Gets too much communication. If the spam filter doesn’t filter it out, they’ll attempt to triage it quickly—based on those first two to three seconds. First impressions are everything.
- Scans, rather than reads. And does so in this order:
• Subheads and captions
• Bulleted lists
• Last of all, blocks of text
If you can’t interest them with the first few, they won’t go further.
Today’s e-communication has to get past obstacles to get read. Here are three tips:
- Get the reader’s attention and keep them from leaving. Make an offer, offer content they relate to or show a picture the reader will connect with.
- Make it easy for them to find what they’re looking for. Don’t bury it inside long paragraphs, but giving them directional signs—like captions, subheads or bulleted lists.
- Make a call to action that’s easy to spot. Link to more information, a phone number or an email address.
Remember that when you initiate the communication, it’s up to you to make it interesting enough for the reader to commit time to it. And that begins by knowing how your readers will take in information and what obstacles will prevent them from getting your message.
As communicators, it’s our job to slay the Complexity Dragon. This means reducing and simplifying the message, words and design of every piece we create.
Don’t underestimate how hard this is. A communication project—regardless of whether it’s an ad or a Web page—naturally leans towards adding one more idea, one more benefit, a few more words, more contact information. We want to tell all because we think it will make us more persuasive. But in fact by telling all we are likely to lose the reader, who doesn’t have the fortitude to weed through our message.
Apple, of course, has set a high bar for this with their fiercely reductionist view of writing and design. We cheer them for it. And yet so few companies adapt this technique for their brand.
Why? We’ll venture a few reasons.
- Committees are involved. Each person adds one more thing, and like an over-decked Christmas tree, the piece falters under its own weight.
- It’s harder. As Blaise Pascal said, “I would have made it shorter but I didn’t have time.” Reducing something to its bare essence is much, much more difficult and time-consuming and takes far more mental energy.
- Not everyone has a brain for it. The ability to simplify requires a mind that can move an idea from complexity to simplicity, and the focus of a race-car driver to keep clutter from encroaching.
- Not everyone has a stomach for it. It requires the ability to say no to people who may not want to hear it.
- It involves all the players. In other words, the strategists, creative directors, writers, designers and production team all have the potential for allowing project creep—a little here, a little there. This is the enemy of simplicity.
The road to simpler communications is surprisingly perilous. It can create hard feelings, disagreements and political quagmires. But oh, the results, when one sees it done well. And yes, it can and will translate to the bottom line. Just ask Apple.
We’re all overwhelmed with information, so first impressions matter. They determine whether the recipient will go deeper—or walk away.
Sometimes you have to break out of the pack to get noticed—before you can make your case. This can be done with humor, arresting graphics, interactive features or by delivering content that’s designed to be kept.
Need some inspiration? >>
Next time you want to create a brochure, think creatively about format. In this piece, individual cards increase engagement and deliver bite-sized messages that aren’t overwhelming—all in a package that uses novelty to pique the reader’s interest.
There’s no media buy with this print calendar, and its petite size makes it ideal for a tack board and a year-long reminder of the sponsoring organization.
This handsome centennial direct mail piece defied being thrown away, by including a gift pen and beautiful note cards featuring regional icons.
In this video designed to recruit new businesses, see how powerful words deliver a message that couldn’t be sent by words alone.
We helped a national association promote their website digitally by developing this short video that highlights the site’s benefits.
Being a leader or a professional communicator includes polishing one’s own tools for interpersonal communication. Here are five substantive but simple strategies for becoming a better conversationalist—offered by Michael Hyatt.
- Strategy #1: Listen with your heart.
- Strategy #2: Be aware of how much you’re talking.
- Strategy #3: Hit the ball back over the net.
- Strategy #4: Ask follow-up questions.
- Strategy #5: Provide positive feedback.
Hyatt reminds us that genuine curiosity and interest in others is key to your ability to lead. You can listen to his podcast here.
We love words, but find they cheat us too often by falling somewhere between overused and rarely understood. Upon occasion, there’s the turncoat that is its own synonym (take inflammable, which means both capable of burning and also unburnable). And then there are the words that have been rinsed of their meaning through overuse (like great, awesome).
Too often, new ideas are assigned words by financial analysts or policy wonks instead of poets. Take provider, a word we disdain in health care. I don’t want to be cared for by a provider, and I suspect neither do you. Yet we can no longer say doctor—as we must include nurse practitioners and physician assistants. We often opt for caregiver out of despair, because it suggests the more tender side of health care, though we know it comes dangerously close to caretaker (think cemeteries).
All of this is why Brad Leithauser’s Unusable Words article in The New Yorker resonated with us—and perhaps will with you as well.
It’s also why we lean on pictures to deliver messages, because they can say so much more in such a short time.
So tell us, what word would you like to see replace that heartless word provider?
Given enough time and money, your competitors can duplicate almost everything you’ve got working for you. They can hire away some of your best people. They can reverse-engineer your processes. The only thing they can’t duplicate is your culture.
And today, on this holiday, we pause to reflect on the wise and courageous words found in our Declaration of Independence.
IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.—Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them. He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only. He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures. He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people. He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.He has endeavored to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers. He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance. He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation: For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us: For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States: For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent: For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury: For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offencesFor abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighboring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies: For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments: For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases what soever. He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us. He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people. He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation. He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands. He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of war fare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
Who of us can’t recall stories of miserable, dry presentations we’ve sat through? None of us wants to be that presenter—the one that bores, that can’t be understood, that wastes the audience’s time. So how can we make our presentations shimmer?
- Use stories.
- Boil it down.
- Use sophisticated visuals.
- Use each slide to highlight a significant idea—but not give the entire case for it.
- Use slides to show things that would take too long to tell. A chart, for example, conveys a trend in an instant.
- Keep slides simple and spare on words.
- More slides don’t necessarily mean your talk will go longer. By breaking the slides down to fewer messages, you’ll make it easier for the audience to focus on one idea at a time.
- Use high contrast colors that are easy to read. No yellow on white or red on deep green, for example.
- Squelch the impulse to use lots of different fonts—especially ones that are juvenile and unprofessional.
- Make the connections for your listeners by explaining what data means.
- Use familiar, simple words.
Need some inspiration? >>
An international manufacturing firm’s CEO delivered this PowerPoint presentation at their annual shareholder’s meeting.
These two-minute tips illustrate ways to improve your PowerPoint presentations. Good design in PowerPoint presentation is as important as good design in any media, so don’t cheat yourself by going amateur.
Executives for Hawaii’s largest health plan used this road show PowerPoint presentation that successfully took their change message to community leaders.
A university used this PowerPoint presentation for a financial aid road show to walk prospective students and parents through the intimidating process of paying for college.
You’re kidding. That was my response when Duane Hallock, a fellow communicator and marketing strategist in Kansas City, posted a link to the Kansas City Police Department’s Pinterest pages. I had to visit, and was pleasantly surprised at the useful content that ranged from boards featuring missing persons and women police officers to resources for people facing serious issues—all useful content for their community.
What other surprising ways have you found that businesses are using Pinterest?