Telling your story right in a visual world

To survive and thrive, PR professionals need to be the master of visual storytelling and very importantly, know how to work closely with all the teams involved in creating those creative pieces. With the advent of social media such as Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat, the modes of communication are changing, the way companies target audiences which are consuming those content and stories is also changing, said Sylvia Chim (pictured centre), corporate communications director at Shiseido Asia Pacific.

Chim who spoke on a panel at the recent PR Asia 2017, said she is definitely working more closely with her social media teams in telling stories and creating the best visuals for her audience these days. Working in silos is no longer an option. Today, it is about how teams can skillfully collaborate to “make sure that you are telling the same story.” She added:

I don’t think you can carve out a niche anymore. It’s not about this is my garden patch, that is yours.

"You need to be very closely connected with your marketing teams, digital, strategy teams, so that together - you get the see whether the content is coming from, the platforms that are important, the target audiences you’re trying to hit and then think about the visuals,” she said.

With the increasing popularity of social media platforms and tools which garner high engagement such as Facebook Live and videos, Chim stressed that digital PR has already moved into “that very visual space.” This directly impacts on how a PR practitioner tells a story.

"The press release will always be important, but you have to start thinking about how you could engage influencers differently and how you use the macro-influencers to tell your company stories differently as well," she said. Chim added that PR professionals cannot see themselves in a silo anymore.

It just doesn’t work. You need to make sure that you have a seat in the boardroom.

"I think it’s very important from a corporate branding point of view," she added.

Echoing Chim’s sentiment is Daniel Yong, director, global media at Marina Bay Sands (MBS) (pictured right), who said given how big a role social plays in people’s lives, PR teams need to be able to tell stories through visuals in reaching out to the audiences. At MBS, Yong said his PR team and social media team would sit in the same vicinity for easier communications, adding, “We have to talk to each other because essentially, what we do at communications is going to where the audience are.”

What MBS has done in the recent year, Yong said, is to “categorise and segmentise people into specific roles, with some focusing on the social media front, digital media or traditional media. But you are still working in the communications effort.”

Bringing creativity in-house

The panelists also agreed that bringing a visual team in-house has benefits, especially when it comes to time-saving which translates to increase efficiency.

“The turnaround time gets much shorter. You spend less time briefing teams about your company’s purpose and mission because they already knew it. I think there are a lot of inherent things that you know and that external agencies might find a little bit more challenging to do,” Chim said. This could be the brand style and its way of showcasing videos in terms of visuals, mood and tone.

Bringing this function in-house, she said, will mean all these barriers “gets cut down completely and teams become a lot more efficient.”

Chim said that her company currently taps on the support given by its visual team based in Japan. “At the moment, I don’t have the privilege of having a visual team but we do have a very strong team based in Tokyo that is helping us out,” she added. That said, Shiseido’s brand teams here also work with agencies, be it local or regional in commissioning the visuals needed for different campaigns.

Meanwhile, for MBS, the hospitality giant has its own in-house production agency. Yong said, this allows the team to create its own photos and video images within shorter time frame.

“When our social media team wants to start a campaign on Instagram or Facebook, the visual media department takes care of that and works with them. The same goes to PR team issuing press releases that needs photos, we will have our photographers (providing those images),” he said. He added having this team in house cuts down the time for processing and turn-around.