Word play: Our most powerful strategic weapon?

by PR Coach on July 4, 2013

Words are important

Imagine a story, an ad, a blog without words?

Yes it’s true. It’s a hard thing to admit for a writer. When it comes to social engagement and marketing, visuals rule the social world.

At least that’s what research and the gurus say. But  I’m also pragmatic. My experience tells me that yes, visuals count.

Here’s the punchline. And, you’ll notice you need words to deliver the punchline.

Words are even more important in a visual world.

Because I’ve got lots of experience (read “tire tracks”), I know that pictures can’t do it all. I’ve learned that when you put together the right words, or in some cases add a single word, magic happens.

When silent movies gave way to “talkies” for example, film just got better and better. Where would the best movie be without a script? Dialogue? Words?

That’s why storytelling has enduring power. How else can you tell a story? Pictures only? Photo flash cards? Not!

Snow Fall: The power of words

Visuals impressed

“Snow Fall” visuals impressed but powerful words told story

Why did the 15,000-words+ longform newspaper feature  “Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek” in the New York Times create such a buzz last year?

Yes it had amazing pictures, a superb slide show, maps, graphics and video. It was masterful Transmedia storytelling. But what made it really work was the unique combination of the power of pictures and words.

No words and we’d just have the equivalent of a Pinterest board. Not much of a story.

So I’ll concede that visuals are powerful and effective in every communication.

But I’m a writer, not to mention a reader and an optimist. Words will always speak to me. No matter the channel or medium.

I can still be captured or entranced by visuals. For a moment or two. But that colorful pictures-only-world sometimes ironically feels strangely monochromatic.

That’s fine. I’ll play with Pinterest. Investigate Instagram. Visit with Vine and insinuate myself into Instagram video.

But when you put great words together with great pictures, amazing things happen. Richer emotions. Color somehow returns. A story shimmers as characters speak.

Play or power of words

Words can play or have power

I’m not letting go of words just yet. So if you talk to me about the power of visuals without the power of words, those are fighting words.

After all, in a war of words, pictures aren’t much of a weapon.

In my mind, words are still the best strategic weapons we have in storytelling, PR, marketing and social media. Even on Pinterest, a couple of key words make a huge difference in informing, exciting us and seeing results.

Without words, you’re not going to be able to tell me otherwise.

So bring on the pictures. Pin a pic. YouTube some moving pictures. Flickr a photo. Instagram it, damn it.

And when you’re done playing with pictures, we’ll talk. Connect. Really engage. But you’ll need words to do that. Great words.

Word up.

Author: Jeff Domansky

Visuals: New York Times, Deviant Art