A hands-on guide to visual press releases

One of the most common questions we hear from PR professionals is, “How can I make my press releases more visual?”. Most PR pros understand that visual content is important, but for an industry that still relies heavily on pitch emails and text-based press releases, making the switch to visual PR can be daunting.

Well, PR pros, you’re in luck. This post is your ultimate guide to creating visual press releases.  We’ve got a lot of ground to cover, but we promise it will be worth it. Here’s a quick overview of what’s in store:

  • Types of visual content - There are four main types of visual content you can use in your PR programs. We’ll cover them all, complete with plenty of real-world examples.
  • Best practices for each content type – Most of these are just common sense, but don’t skip over this section. We’ve thrown in a few helpful hints that might not have occurred to you.
  • Helpful DIY tools – For those of you who want to go the DIY route, we’ve put together a fantastic list of online tools to help you do so. Bonus: they’re all easy to use, free or inexpensive, and incredibly powerful.
  • Outsourcing tips – If you intend to outsource content development, check out our list of vendors and guidelines to make sure you get the most for your money.

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There are many reasons to include visual content in your press releases, but the biggest by far is that visual content gets shared more. A lot more. Facebook posts with images get 53% more likes and 104% more comments than the average post. Tweets with pictures are nearly twice as likely to be retweeted. And content with compelling images gets 94% more views than content without.

If that’s not enough to convince you that visual content matters, chew on this: A 2012 study by PR Newswire found that press releases with photos garnered nearly twice as many views as text alone. The more multimedia you add, the more that percentage skyrockets. Press releases with text, photo, video, and downloadable files received up to 9.7 times the views as plain text releases.

If these stats came as a surprise, content editors are one step ahead of you. They already know that visual content matters. They’re urging journalists to include more visuals in their articles, and the more you can give journalists what they need to be successful, the more coverage you’ll get for your clients.

Why visual content matters

Now that you’re fully convinced of the importance of visual content (you are, right?), let’s cover some key types of visual content and best practices for leveraging each type. Some are so simple, you can start adding them to your press releases right away, while others require more time and resources to develop. Either way, it’s definitely worth the extra effort.


Images

Images are the workhorses of visual PR. Easy to use, cheap to obtain, and proven to increase views, adding images to your press releases will drive better results across the board.

Protip: Images are especially handy when you share your press release on social media – they’ll automatically generate an image preview, which, as you saw from the stats above, increases the likelihood of engagement.

Below, the communications team at Brussels Airlines includes images to make their press release more interesting and engaging (click the screenshot to see the full release):

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Best practices for images

Images work best when they are eye-catching, high quality, and relevant. Steer clear of generic stock photos. Instead, choose images that clearly relate to your story, as in the above example.

For press releases, it’s best to use high quality, high-resolution photos. For pitch emails, include an image preview that downloads quickly (shameless plug: Learn how Prezly can help with that!). Make sure it’s easy for journalists to download your images by using a social media press release, not a link to a wetransfer or worse, a password-protected image library.

If you’d like to dive deeper into this topic, check out this great collection of tips from Meltwater on optimizing your visuals to get more engagement.


Videos

From a 15-second shot on Instagram to professionally shot commercials, there’s a reason viral marketers love video – it’s arguably the world’s most effective storytelling medium, eliciting powerful emotions and memorable narratives in just a few seconds. Videos add a human, relatable component to your press releases that’s difficult to capture with text alone. They’re also great for explaining ideas that would be complicated to write out, such as a new software release.

Check out Lenovo’s brilliant addition of video below the text body in this social media press release.

Best practices for video

Don’t be daunted by the time and expense of creating professional videos. An off-the-cuff Instagram video filmed with your smartphone can be just as powerful. However you choose to create your videos, remember to keep them short (a few minutes, tops!) and simple. Overcomplicate the story, and you risk losing your audience.

Protip: Don’t host massive video files on your server; upload them to YouTube or Vimeo instead. There are several benefits to doing this: it helps your press releases load faster, automatically generates previews when sharing on social media, works across all devices, and perhaps best of all, gives your content an SEO boost.

Ready to get more creative with video? Have a look at these 25 brands who are winning on Instagram for inspiration.


Infographics

When you have a data-driven story to tell, infographics are a natural choice. Visually appealing, easy to read, and chock full of viral potential, the best infographics literally paint a picture with your data, making it easy to understand and simple for readers to follow along.

Best practices for infographics

Simplicity, clarity, and good data are the keys to a successful infographic. Start with the question, “What impression do I want the reader to take away from this data?”, and design your infographic around the answer.

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Use your data to tell a clear narrative, and don’t deviate from it. Use only as many visuals as you need. A simple, easy-to-understand story is always better than an overcrowded collection of statistics, no matter how good it looks. If you’d like to try your hand at an infographic press release, here are three gorgeous examples to inspire you.

Protip: Get more traction by sharing your infographics on Pinterest, the ultimate visual social media platform.

SlideShares

No longer a repository for dusty decks of old webinars and keynotes, SlideShare is the most trafficked presentation-sharing site in the world. At three billion slide views per month, it’s also an incredibly powerful PR and content marketing channel. Hit the front page, and your content is almost certain to go viral, generating tens of thousands of free views for your brand.

Check out this recent SlideShare from Prezly to get inspired. We’re proud to have been the featured presentation of the day!

Best practices for SlideShare

A great headline and a compelling cover are the two single best things you can do to improve your chances of succeeding on SlideShare. There’s definitely an art to creating great SlideShares, so rather than reinvent the wheel, we’ll direct you to these 10 tips for landing on the front page.

Protip: You can embed links directly into your presentation, making SlideShare a powerful channel for both content marketing and lead generation.

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Ok, you get it. Visual content is critical to your PR success. Now how are you supposed to find the time and the budget to create all this content?

There are basically two ways to get more visual content for your press releases – do it yourself or outsource it to someone else. Whichever camp you find yourself in, here are a few tips to get started.


Do It Yourself

Creating your own visual content isn’t as hard as it sounds, and it’s usually cheaper than paying someone else to create it for you. If you carry a smartphone, you already have everything you need to create gorgeous photos and videos. Make it a habit to snap pictures and film footage throughout your workday, and you can create a solid backlog of visuals almost effortlessly.

Helpful tools to create your own visual content:

  • PowerPoint templates. PowerPoint may not be sexy, but it’s easy to use and surprisingly powerful tool for visual design. From gorgeous Facebook cover photos to killer infographics to engaging SlideShares, you’ll be surprised at how far PowerPoint can take you. To get started, check out these free, downloadable templates from HubSpot.
  • Canva. If you don’t have the budget for a graphic designer, Canva is a lifesaver. This simple online tool helps you design images, edit photos, and create beautiful visual content at little to no cost. It’s fast, too – in fact, we used Canva to create all the title images in this blog post, and it took less than 30 minutes! Canva includes hundreds of elements and fonts for free, or you can access their premium digital library for a very small fee.
  • Placeit. For great-looking screenshots and slick interactive demos (great for new product launches), make Placeit your go-to tool. Monthly subscriptions start at $29 per month, or you can pay as you go.
  • Adobe Voice. Adobe Voice a free iPad app that lets you easily create your own animated videos. All you have to do is talk. Choose from over 25,000 images to create your custom backdrop, and Voice automatically adds music and cinematic motion.
  • Wistia. Wistia is an excellent resource for all things video-related. For practical guidance concepting, producing, and marketing videos, be sure to check out their free Learning Center.

Outsource It

When you’re pressed for time or have limited resources for content creation, it often makes sense to let someone else do the heavy lifting. Outsourcing content creation doesn’t have to be expensive, though it certainly can be.

In addition to the standard agency route, here are a few options to satisfy all budgets and timeframes.

  • Visual.ly. A flexible, affordable option, you can work with Visual.ly to create infographics, videos, custom web experiences, presentations, and micro content. They’ll work with you from start to finish, and fixed prices mean you always know what you’re getting.
  • 99 Designs. For those on a tight budget, crowdsourcing an image is a cost-effective way to go. Just create a project brief, pick a payment option, and let designers come to you.
  • Freelancers. When you need professional-quality work on a project basis, contracting with a freelancer is the way to go. oDesk and Freelancer.com are two reputable places to find your next freelance hire.
  • Free stock images. If you need stock images free, and you need them now, check out these 15 sources for finding free online images. Pay close attention to the citationguidelines – you don’t want to end up in legal trouble!

Next Steps

The bottom line – if you aren’t adding visual content to your press releases, you’re missing a huge opportunity. Editors want it. Journalists need it. The data proves that it works. And with myriad ways to create it yourself or outsource it cheaply, you have absolutely no reason not to take the plunge. So just do it!