Deep Dive Breakout 2

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

11:30am – 12:30pm

Shana Glickfield (Beekeeper Group), Piper Hendricks (Habitat for Humanity) and Sheree Anne Kelly (Public Affairs Council)

What was once a ‘nice-to-have’ is now a ‘must-have’. For your content to stand out it must incorporate visual elements, whether it’s a video, photo, social graphic, or a long-form infographic. This expert panel will not only share examples of award-winning work, but will discuss how to convey your advocacy messages in a highly visual format.

Have feedback on this session? We’d love to hear it! Submit it here.


“What was once a ‘nice-to-have’ is now a ‘must-have’. For your content to stand out it must incorporate visual elements, whether it’s a video, photo, social graphic, or a long-form infographic. This expert panel will not only share examples of award-winning work, but will discuss how to convey your advocacy messages in a highly visual format.”

Almost every hand went up when attendees were asked if they have an in-house or contract graphic designer, and many went up when they were asked if they’re working to create video content.

Public Affairs Council conducts independent, high-level research on trends, and they’ve been following visual storytelling for advocacy with case studies and other resources around visual storytelling at

The human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than it does text – 13 milliseconds to process an image. People remember 30% of what they read, and 80% of what they see. People are exposed to, on average, more than 5,000 ad and brand images every day. Visual storytelling needs compelling imagery, a narrative arc, and trusted messengers with a strong, focused message.

The Public Affairs Pulse survey in 2015 surveyed public attitudes on government, business, politics, etc. They found that lower-ranking employees in companies are considered more trustworthy, ethical, and responsible when compared with CEOs, executives, and mid-level managers. People respond to an average messenger that they can relate to.

Trusted spokespeople need to be:

  • Likeable & authentic – natural, comfortable, not scripted
  • Transparent & truth-telling – always straightforward
  • Relevant –must show value
  • Simple – avoiding jargon and laying out a clear message
  • Repetitive
  • Reliable

A trusted messenger is not usually the brand and not usually senior management; there needs to be a human face on the issue or organization. Find an employee, client, or customer to serve as the face of the issue to increase trust. Good characteristics in a messenger include quirky, well-liked, unusual, a little different – these people are memorable and they can help a message stick.

The Association of Equipment Manufacturers has a campaign that doesn’t include their logo or branding, but does prominently display the real-life workers at factories that they represent; they are transparent about AEM being responsible for the campaign and the logo and branding are found on internal pages. This is a good example for showing why the logo doesn’t always have to be right up front.

The American Heart Association ran a campaign to teach CPR in schools in New York. Each reason had a number and included a picture and story of someone whose life was saved by CPR. It also included succinct information for how to get involved – a hashtag, a URL, and the relevant bill numbers. Simple, effective, and compelling.

People make decisions based on emotions, not facts and figures. It’s critical to lead with a compelling emotional narrative to hook people – then, give them the data to back up the decision they’ve emotionally landed at. There’s an emotional hook for almost every issue, and it doesn’t have to be sappy.

Confirmation bias is real – people don’t want to be told information that disagrees with something they already believe. Don’t lead with information that contradicts what people believe – it causes a brain reaction similar to physical pain. Affirm their view first.

If you tell a story where the hero of the story does what you want the audience to do, the audience is much more likely to take the action themselves. Craft a story that portrays the hero doing the action you want done. Backed up by research into mirror neurons.

Different organizations have different ideas and ways of describing advocacy. Contrast with graphics created to message around the 2016 Democratic and Republican Party. Because these were limited, one-time only pieces of creative content, they didn’t have big budgets.

If a viewer feels like they’re getting exclusive access or a behind-the-scenes view. Example: President Obama hugging Michelle Obama after the 2012 election, the most retweeted photo for several years.

Learning Objectives:

  • How do you do it on a budget? DIY is easier now than ever with apps like iMovie, etc. People will forgive poor, shaky, or otherwise deficient visuals in a video, but great audio is necessary – if budget is limited, prioritize sound to make sure your message gets across. A video that isn’t obviously professionally, highly produced can actually work well for some messages because it might seem more authentic.
  • How do you build a roll-out strategy to use the creative? Use external and internal resources to build a promotional strategy to get content out there – email blasts, influencer outreach, paid advertising, and more. A good rule of thumb is spending 3 dollars to promote for every dollar used to create.
  • How do you create an efficient design brief? Questions, questions, questions! The design team needs to do a lot of listening to fully capture the spirit of a brand or organization. A design brief should consider objectives and goals, target audiences (both geography and language), budget, schedule, and more.
  • Lots of examples (visual work) + source material
    • Habitat for Humanity needed a non-partisan, non-confrontational voice calling for changes to policies that stand in the way of access to decent housing, and came up with Theo – a character for a series of evergreen videos produced in many different languages for affiliates around the world. These were involved projects with big budgets.
    • Lilly Medicare Part D infographic that combines Thanksgiving imagery with data.
    • Honda social media feeds constantly show the value they provide in terms of jobs and impact/contribution to the US economy.
    • National Confectioners Association annual report did a great job of using visual storytelling, presenting media impressions and research statistics visually.
    • Southwest’s Free Hobby [Houston] Airport – the whole campaign was branded from the airline ticket to the counter where you check in at the airport to a website. They captured an image of Southwest employees who participated in the effort the moment they learned that they had won – and they were able to use the emotional image to thank employees, attract further grassroots support, and promote their brand at industry conferences.

For Further Discussion:

  • How do you/can you look at things holistically and separately?
  • How do you/can you classify the creative type (evergreen vs. one time only)?