Speaking Your Audience’s Language

Alternately titled: GIFs, Infographics & Listicles —Why a Visual is Worth 1,000+ words

By Emily Truax, Boston University Public Relations

Picture this: It’s an average Monday morning, you’re scrolling through your Newsfeed and you see the below post from a brand you follow:

“A free comedy show featuring Parks & Recreation star Retta on September 4 will kick off weeks full of welcoming events for students returning to school.”

From a journalistic perspective, this post has all the details you need — who, what, when, why — with a link detailing the “where.” But is it really all that exciting?

Second scenario: That same brand posts the same link with the below GIF and the copy “Treat yo’self to a night of stand-up with Parks & Rec’s Retta and 14 other reasons to be excited for the fall semester.”

(Spoiler alert — I actually did post that. I squealed a little inside that I got to combine two of my favorite things: listicles & GIFs)

There’s a reason Buzzfeed articles are so wildly popular and highly shareable — they give you content in entertaining, short & easily digestible formats. Sure, it might be a 7 minute read, but it’s surely more entertaining than a 1,500 word article on the same subject that would take the same amount of time to read.

Here at BU, we’re all about reaching our audience where they are and how they want; it’s why we’ve adopted Snapchat and it’s why our strategy is shifting to become even more visual. We’re working to translate important information into entertaining and fun visual representations to make sure our students know what’s going on. Because, why should a listicle about Lindsay Lohan’s evolving hair styles get to have all of the fun?

Newsflash: You’ve got information that can be conveyed in just the same way Buzzfeed does. It just requires a little bit of creativity.

Above is just one example of an infographic we made to help new freshmen with packing by showing what’s allowed — and what’s not — in residence halls. Rather than receive a lengthy email from Residence Life, they can quickly check this list on the go and it’s perfect for Pinterest too!

How pumped (pun intended) would you be to receive a GIF of our mascot Rhett congratulating you on your acceptance? Sure, lots of schools follow up on your acceptance with a “Welcome” or “Congratulations” tweet. A GIF is unique, personalized and plenty of fun. *Fist pump*

Tumblr has been a great medium for this as well. As mentioned in our earlier example, we put together a listicle of 15 amazing things happening on campus this fall to get students excited for the start of the academic year and to promote programs being thrown by our Student Activities Office.

Rather than send out a series of tweets about these individual events, listicles enabled us to compile the information in one highly shareable format.

Convenience aside, communicating in these types of visual ways is downright fun. It takes information that can seem monotonous and transforms it into entertainment. Which, at the end of the day, is just as beneficial for the reader as it is for the writer (I’ll vouch for that one).

Questions? Comments? Have a similar experience! Get in touch with me on Twitter: @emilytruax