The Importance of Images in PR
Most people think PR is about words, which, to a certain extent it is. But when you flick through a newspaper or magazine, what catches your eye first? The words or the images? The images no doubt. This is because our brains are wired to take in visual content faster and more effectively than words. In fact, we process images 60,000 times faster than copy.
What does this mean for PR?
A picture can tell a thousand words
On September 2, 2015, Britain woke to a heartbreaking photograph on the front page of all the newspapers, of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi’s lifeless body washed up on a Turkish beach. The Syrian toddler drowned after a boat carrying 40 refugees fleeing from Syria, sank while trying to reach the Greek island of Kos.
The shocking image focussed Europe’s attention on the migrant crisis. The picture gave a human face to the issue and inspired people to put pressure on the UK government.
The photograph had an immediate impact on the public and media. The day after it was projected on to the world stage, a petition started by The Independent newspaper urging the UK to accept a greater share of refugees had gathered 200,000 signatures. By Sunday, a string of online petitions had attracted just under one million supporters, and a multitude of grassroots organisations claiming solidarity with refugees rushed to offer practical help.
This goes to show how just how much of an impact an image can have. The unprecedented reaction from the public, along with intense media pressure prompted former Tory UK prime minister David Cameron to agree for the UK to take 20,000 more refugees, by 2020.
A photograph can be understood in one glance
Photography is a powerful tool to communicate a lot without uttering a single word. Take an image of an emaciated polar bear hobbling on ice, from National Geographic. Without reading the article, you know it’s about the devastating effect that climate change is having on the earth.
This image was taken by German photographer Kerstin Langenberger. A wildlife photographer, she takes pictures to raise awareness of environmental issues in the polar regions. With this image, posted on Facebook in 2015, she did just that. The dramatic photograph racked up 55,000 Facebook shares in days. It was spotted by National Geographic magazine, which subsequently used it on the front cover of one of their magazines.
A photograph can get shared far and wide online
Unilever’s toiletry brand Dove boosted its sales by 700% thanks to its highly PR-able ‘Campaign for Real Beauty’, which featured ‘real’ women in its ads rather than the super thin models favoured by its rivals. The campaign kicked off in 2003 with ads featuring ordinary women of all shapes and sizes in their underwear. This image was shared millions of times on social channels, got the world talking about what makes women beautiful, and became synonymous with the Dove brand.
Social media is an inherently shareable medium; the right image can be shared globally, in minutes. So put some real thought into the images you choose.