It’s often said that a picture tells a thousand words. Some of the smartest businesses take advantage of this fact by using photos to reinforce their key messages, add context to their copy, and help their brochures and websites to stand out.
But there are still plenty of companies using bland images or dated stock photography in their marketing materials. At a time when people are becoming used to more and more interesting photos thanks to sites such as Instagram and Pinterest, pictures that don't excite or inspire are unlikely to add much to your words.
As a result, there’s a great opportunity for businesses to increase the impact of their words, by spending some time choosing the right images to go with them.
And well-judged use of the right photos can also help to engage skim readers – those using smartphones, for example, or scanning your website in a hurry. As well as breaking up the text, an effective picture catches the reader’s eye, and helps to communicate your key message at a glance (a particular bonus if, shock horror, they don’t plan to read every word...).
If you’re keen to improve the way you choose images, here are some tips:
- Think about the core message you’re trying to convey. If, for example, you’re writing an article for your company’s blog about a product that saves people time, an image reflecting the time saved will communicate more than simply using a product shot.
- Think laterally. Once you have a theme in mind, think laterally about how to express it - your image doesn’t have to match every word of your message. So think about images that might add interest for the reader as well as demonstrating your point. If your message is ‘success’, for example, you could search for ‘happy customers’, ‘increased sales’, or ‘better results’.
- Develop a consistent approach to the images you use . Will you choose photos over illustrations, or use only pictures that feature people, or black and white imagery? If the pictures you use have a consistent look and feel, it can help strengthen your brand, set readers’ expectations, and reinforce the chosen tone of your business communications.
- Look around for inspiration. Keep an eye out for organisations that are using images consistently well, and use these for inspiration. One good example is Inc magazine, whose pictures draw in the reader and reinforce the theme of each article. Their choice of photos also adds a consistent look and feel to the website.
- Involve your customers. There’s a butcher’s shop in France that asks customers to keep the bag they supply your meat in, take it on holiday, and then send in photos of themselves with it in far-flung locations. They display these on a screen in the shop window. While you might not put your customers’ holiday photos in your next brochure, it’s a great example of how at a local level you can involve customers in your marketing to keep them coming back to your business.
As you work to differentiate yourself from competitors, it’s important to make your marketing materials stand out. And by investing some time in your images, you can help make the difference between engaging, memorable content, or materials that fade into the background. Which will you choose?
Have you come across any organisations that use images particularly well? Or businesses that could do better? Let us know in the comments.