Findings Friday | 7 Tips for Effective Visual Storytelling

September 13, 2013
| by Editor |

A new guide from Resource Media will empower you to use imagery to its fullest extent. By employing these seven fundamental practices, you’ll be able to tell your story and hook new followers.

Resource Media is a national nonprofit communications firm that helps organizations “tell the stories that need to be told.” And in their latest report, they do just that. Seeing is Believing: A Guide to Visual Storytelling Best Practices provides insights and case studies to maximize your organization or cause’s impact through photography.  

Resource Media’s guide is based on three tried and true visual communication premises, which can be simplified (perhaps over-simplified) to: humans are visual, and humans act on emotion, thus visuals can prompt emotional reactions. But this is just a preface to the guide’s most important points, the “Seven Rules of the Road.”


1. People don’t react in the same way to the same images. Conduct some testing to choose the perfect picture. Or consider using different images for different audiences.

2. Add words to your pictures. When visuals are shared, the context and/or captions don’t always go with them. Adding text over a picture – like many of today’s most popular memes (what’s a meme?) – will ensure your point is made.

3. Align your pictures with your messaging. According to the report, “a Professor of Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, found that if you show people smoking in anti-smoking ads, it has an unintended effect of encouraging, not deterring the use of cigarettes.”

4. Use candid photos, rather than staged or generic ones. Use photographs that people can relate to, something that exudes and evokes emotion.

5. The first image is the most important. Take the time to present a visual that can sum up your mission or that will produce the perfect reaction, especially on your website’s homepage or on the cover of a publication.

6. Take lots of photos. The more photographs you take, the more you’ll have to choose from. You’ll have them on hand for your newsletters, press releases and websites later on. Remember, people spend more time on websites and are more likely to donate money when the site is current and updated.

7. It’s all about people. Use people in your pictures. Show their faces, their smiles, their positive attitudes; the more eye-contact the better. “[W]e are biologically programmed not to look away from people looking straight at us. We watch others’ faces – their eyes, their expressions – to gauge what they are feeling.”

A photo montage featuring Georgia nonprofits from one of Georgia Gives Day's
engagement campaigns.

Scroll through the complete guide for useful case examples and illustrations. Combine these insights with other marketing tools. Also, check out these guides for creating perfect social media posts and building a new website.

Tommy Pearce is Communications Coordinator at the Georgia Center for Nonprofits.

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