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Content Under Pressure

Visual Storytelling: Don’t Leave Your Content on the Cutting-Room Floor

By Susan Kostal

Most lawyers deal with the printed word all day long. They’ve been trained to take in and share knowledge as text. As a writer, it’s a stretch for me to even conceive of presenting information in a simple Excel chart. My bible starts, “In the beginning, God made Microsoft Word, and He saw that it was good (except for auto-formatting, which still needed work).”

So it’s natural that some of us would overlook visuals in our marketing content and social media, whether it’s a photo, illustration, infographic or chart. But if you resolve to make just one change in your approach to content, let it be to tap the power of visuals.


Here’s why.

  1. Most people can read 200 words per minute. But we can take in visual information 60,000 times faster than we can absorb text. Do the math.
  1. Our eyes are drawn to photographs, colors, even graphically pleasing type treatments. Eyeballs scanning content want to find a place to rest, to anchor. Visuals invite readers to intellectually engage, and much quicker than content without visuals. If you are my age, you remember when The Wall Street Journal broke down and added color photos to its front page. Enough said. 
  1. It is refreshing. New visuals on evergreen content make it new to your audience. This gives your content even longer legs. (Check out “Evergreen Content Saves Headaches and Sets You Apart.”)
  1. Social media content with relevant images gets 94 percent more views than content without relevant images. That’s why one of Twitter’s most important evolutions was refining its presentation of images. Again, the eye wants to be entertained and is attracted to and spends more time on posts with visuals.
  1. Visuals give your readers important cues to determine if your content is useful to them and whether reading it’s worth their time. Even simple graphics help. A picture of the U.S. Supreme Court means the client alert is about recent case law. A photo of the Capitol Building says legislation. The logo of the FTC or FCC says regulatory law, the NSA logo says privacy, and the Homeland Security logo says immigration. You get where this is going.
  1. Visuals drive home your brand. By using your firm’s color palette and type library, even a simple pull quote emphasizes your brand and creates more cohesive marketing communications.
  1. Bespoke visuals set you apart in a way nothing else can. My client newsletter is illustrated with a monthly cartoon of my dog in a business suit. The cartoon riffs off the post. It raises my newsletter above the clutter of other marketers, and I’m fairly confident this playful tact improves my open rate.

During a riveting presentation on visual storytelling at the Legal Marketing Association’s  Technology West conference, Melita Jampol, Director of Communications at Fenwick & West, and Stefanie Marrone, Senior Consultant and Director of Marketing at Bernero & Press, introduced me to Canva. That’s how I made the graphic illustrating this post. It’s free, and even someone who can’t program their DVR (yes, that would be me) can pick it up in 60 seconds. Venngage is another free program that lets you build easy infographics.

Marrone: “Anything you are doing in marketing can be produced into something visually.”

Creative Commons has wonderful free stock photos and other visual IP. Most large public libraries offer archival royalty-free art. The New York Public Library’s collection of digital images is dazzling.

You post photos to Facebook and Instagram. Resolve to add them to any and all content and marketing collateral. You’ll be glad you did.

More Tips on Using Graphics:

Illustration ©

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Susan Kostal Susan Kostal

Trends at Work columnist Susan Kostal is a legal affairs PR, marketing and content strategy consultant. She is a former contributing editor for Attorney at Work and previously wrote a monthly column, Content Under Pressure. Susan has covered legal affairs as a journalist for nearly three decades. You can follow her on Twitter @skostal and view more of her content at

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