The importance of imagery in PR

A picture is worth a thousand words. You know the saying. But the question is, ‘why?’ And more importantly, how is the use of pictures beneficial in PR?

According to a study by researchers at MIT’s Brain and Cognitive Sciences department, it takes just 13 milliseconds for the brain to process an image. The findings of separate research by the MIS Research Centre show that our brains are able to processes images 60,000 times faster than text. Isn’t that amazing?

In today’s world, people are endlessly busy and with so much information at our fingertips, making the decision to invest time into reading a piece of copy requires persuasion. As copywriters, it’s helpful to use imagery to catch the eye of our audience and draw them in.

Now this won’t apply to everyone, but many can relate to this example: 

You’re on your mobile phone, scrolling through your social media feed – let’s use the example of Facebook or Twitter, since content on other platforms such as Instagram is image-based anyway.

You’re probably not fully engaged in your scrolling. Perhaps the TV is on in the background. The probability is that you scroll past posts and articles with plain text but pause and hover over content that leads with a picture.

Don’t believe me? Try and catch yourself in the act this evening. If you’re not a fan of social media, the same theory often applies to searching for a service on the internet. I know that if I’m searching for, say, a dog grooming service, I’m far more likely to spend longer on a website that has engaging imagery, than one which does not.

Why? Because a bright, beautifully composed picture with a happy-looking dog creates within me an instant feeling of trust that my own dog is going to be happy and well-looked after with this groomer – just like the dog in the picture.

In contrast, if I clicked onto a website with dark images, taken at a poor angle of a dog looking slightly more frightened, I’d probably navigate away from the site immediately without even reading the first line of copy.

In those 13 milliseconds our brain takes to process an image, we are told a story. This is why it is so important to select imagery wisely.

People are often very literal, so it is important to choose imagery that closely matches the story you are telling in your copy. For example, if you’re writing a blog about UK motoring news, it’s best to choose a UK-based image rather than a picture of a road in Germany.

If you choose an image that looks staged, or one that doesn’t quite match the story you are telling, people are likely to notice that something ‘doesn’t smell right’ and disengage.

Essentially, in order to communicate with people quickly and effectively, it’s usually a good idea to lead with a visual, whether it’s a still image or video, and the story will tell itself.

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