Grab your reader by the eye balls

All forms of written work can benefit from images.

You love writing; you adore crafting sentences from carefully selected words. You play with syntax, take care with tone and have an amusing relationship with homonyms. You spend a good deal of time, and artistry, on your titles, and you use sub-headings and call-to-actions with aplomb.

But is anyone reading? Have they read your opening paragraph or your ‘intro’ and read enough, as far as they’re concerned?

Your titles get people to read your opening sentence; your opening sentence helps people decide if they’re interested enough to read on, and your sub-headings give a quick overview and invite the reader to tarry and dip into your deeper content.

An image is not worth a thousand words when your blog post, news article or communication is only five hundred in length, but a photo or an image of any kind can engage parts of your readers’ brains that your words simply cannot.

If you read no further, let me suggest that whatever you’re writing, it needs an image. Some people might agree that front-page intranet and Internet news stories benefit from a relevant image, but that their ‘white paper’ / ‘End of Month Report’ / ‘Purchasing Procedure’/ ‘Memo’ / ‘Car Pooling Policy’ does not require anything so fancy.

Consider all the things we know about using images:

  • Specific and relevant imagery illustrates the article;
  • Generic and relevant imagery enforces the core message;
  • Generic imagery can enforce your brand, even if irrelevant;
  • People photos create a direct link to the reader, even if irrelevant;
  • Abstract imagery adds colour and emotional tone;
  • Article with imagery are read more, and read more thoroughly*.

* A great title and fantastic opening paragraph can still beat a crap article even with a pic.

Marketing material always makes use of imagery, and the production cost of a leaflet might well be made up of the cost of photographs for the most part, with the copy coming a weak second (yes, I’m a copywriter, but photographs can be very expensive when you need half a dozen – see prices over at the main Getty site).

Marketing might be said to be about influencing and persuading people. Might your news article or your ‘End of Month Report’ also have a need to influence people? ‘No’, you shout, ‘my report is for information purposes only, it’s not marketing, it’s written for people who want to the data’. I certainly agree that providing information, such as within company procedures and intranet articles, is primarily about raising awareness and passively providing information, but there’s a little more to it. When we provide people with information of any kind we’re asking them to take note and to adjust their behaviour. If your article has no point, no purpose, no ‘call to action’, then why have you put it in front of people? Sounds a bit like marketing; sounds like influencing.

So take some time to find some decent photography and graphic illustration websites that have a vibrant community of contributors (stay away from sites that simply offer to dump 10,000 images onto disc for you, you’re looking for quality not quantity) where the cost is manageable, and get images into every document, presentation and web page you craft. Your readers will be grabbed without really knowing why, even if they think it’s odd to put an image of a train wreck into your Annual Financial Report…

My call to action is for you to get involved with the visual design of your articles and documents, oh, and to let me know if you can do this, or if you feel there are blocks on doing so – please leave your comment below!

  1. I agree with you about the importance of images with blog entries. In this Twitter-sized attention span world, many readers need an image or they will skim and be off. I’m not keeping my blog for page view counts, I’m keeping my blog because I want to share my ideas, and that doesn’t happen when people land and flee my entry.

    I keep an art blog, so the images I use normally are pictures of my art projects. However, I post even when I don’t have a project to share. For those posts, I use other images.

    I use for my images. I purchase them in large quantities so I get them for $1 each. After the purchase, I have one year to use my credits, so I can always find the image appropriate for my postings.

  2. Remember the whole point of a picture is ‘to tell the story’. Sometimes this can be achieved by the use of a stock photo, but surely it is better to commission a bespoke image that can more closely reflect the precise peg on which the article is being hung.

    Say ‘bespoke’ and everyone automatically interprets the word as ‘expensive’. Not so if you choose a company (plug coming here) like Professional Images which with its team of over 70 specialist PR photographers can offer low fixed rates for a one hour shoot anywhere in the UK.

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