How to Create Visual Stories
Without an Artist?

How to Create Visual Stories Without an Artist?

How to Create Visual Stories Without an Artist? 366 218 Shlomi Ron


Ever wondered why visual storytelling is critical than ever?

The primary rationale goes like this:

Visual content is already king with 80% of marketers use visual assets in their social media marketing. Video (63%), alone, has also surpassed blogging (60%) in usage as a social media marketing asset (2018 Social Media Marketing Industry Report).

This is not an accident.

The same 2018 report also finds, that when people hear information, they’re likely to remember only 10% of that information three days later. However, if a relevant image is paired with that same information, people retained 65% of the information three days later. We also have solid scientific evidence why we love stories so much.

When you think about it, visual is the most universal language that does not require any translation. A photo of a cat will be understood anywhere in the world with no need for a caption.

We also know that 92% of consumers want brands to make their ads feel like stories. (OneSpot). This was also supported in the 2018’s State of Attention Report by Kelton Global, that found that 9 in 10 respondents said a strong narrative or the story behind a presentation is critical in maintaining audience engagement.

I have been spreading the gospel of visual storytelling in the context of marketing on every channel, for the past three years. So, I am sure you were most likely exposed to this logic on VSI and elsewhere, by now.

With audiences’ constant hunger for visual storytelling content, I often receive questions from business leaders, at small or early-stage companies:

How to create visual stories without an artist? 

The good news, these days there is a ton of free plug & play tools that allow you to fully customize professionally designed templates with your branded colors, graphic elements, your photos, and typeface – for any platform sizes.

Case in point is the StorySelling infographic you see below.

My favorite tools are Canva, Visme, Adobe Spark, PromoRepublic and even in some cases good ol’ PowerPoint – for custom graphics, infographics and slideshows. For subtitled personal videos I use Clips app (iPhone).

Obviously, there are many more niche tools out there, but it’s important to stay focused while occasionally experimenting with new tools – to keep your design capabilities fresh.

If you follow VSI’s blog, our newsletter, and social channels – you most likely have seen how I use these tools to bring to life complex concepts to maximize engagement.

To get started, I recommend using VSI’s signature 9-Step My Visual Story Framework for a simple and easy process:

Phase 1: Story Making

1) Setting: It all starts with first coming up with business objectives and potential story topics that could support your larger brand narrative.

2) Conflict: A good place to start looking for a burning pain your customer is aching to solve, is by consuming trade news from reputable sources. For example, LinkedIn and LinkedIn’s Groups will orient you to your network’s interests that largely mirror yours.

And then go ahead and cast a wider net.

My favorite tool is Feedly that allows you to subscribe to content from any blog and news outlet, and then organize feeds by topic.

You may also receive requests from your colleagues or leadership at work to focus on specific topics in support of time-sensitive campaigns.

Also, look at your Google Analytics for top organic keywords your users select when landing on your Website. In essence, they’re sending you a strong signal about what they’re exactly looking to learn. How do you think I got the idea for this post 🙂

3) Resolution: Come up with a visual approach for resolving the customer problem you chose to focus on.

Phase 2: Story Visualizing

4) Script: Once you have your topic, come up with the right script and format for your visual story. Your story needs to support a specific buyer persona, on a specific stage on your buyer’s journey, while respecting the platform cultures you plan to publish on. For example, your entry point could be content for your newsletter that will be repurposed into a blog post, a Webinar, a public talk, and broader social media push.

Every new repurposing cycle you may need to modify your visual story to align with the platform’s specific user experience. Therefore, it’s critical that you carefully document in your Content Marketing Plan what visual stories your plan to create and distribute.

I then typically brainstorm a few visual containers (i.e., diagrams, memes, quotes, etc.) that could best convey the message.

Sometimes, I envision the visual concept right away (see Social Signal Pyramid, Social Signal Wall or Story vs. Narrative):

 

Social Signal Wall

 

Story vs Narrative

At other times, it’s a combination of researching how the topic is already visually communicated and then adding my custom touches (see Aristotle’s Rhetorical Triangle):

Aristotle's Rhetoric Triangle
5) Create:
As you start designing your visual story, make sure your design addresses the three persuasion drivers to ensure your visual story will win your audience’s both heart and mind. Finally, bake your branding into your favorite design tool. That means, your custom colors, logo, and Website address.

6) Edit: If you sourced a wide range of assets, use the origin template to guide you on the optimal direction to edit and finalize your project. Or if you’re creating a video, you can use drag & drop features of tools like Adobe Spark. If you’re looking for a bit more editing power, you can start with entry level video editing tools such as Apple’s iMovie for Mac OS or VSDC Free Video Editor for Windows.

Naturally, when it comes to custom visual stories they are typically broken by: 1) Content type: from memes, did you know stats? Backstage fun, event announcements, etc. 2) target platform: your format will change in size and functionality if it’s an Instagram story vs. a tweet or LinkedIn post. and 3) user experience: static graphic vs. interactive poll or animated GIF or video.

Phase 3: Story Telling

7) Strategize: Now, that you have your visual stories ready and have a content plan that spells out how you will distribute these stories across channels and stages of your buyer’s journey, it’s time to set SMART targets. Knowing what you’re trying to achieve in terms of reach, conversion, advocacy or any other target – will make your journey much clearer.

8) Engage: You’re now finally ready to publish your visual stories and wow your audience. Online, use publishing tools like HootSuite or Buffer to load your visual stories and schedule them to go out to align with your marketing timeline. All these tools come with a built-in editorial calendar that simplifies your publishing process, while also allowing you to collaborate with other team members. If you have created visual stories for offline distribution, like a PowerPoint presentation for a public talk, it’s important you work with the event organizers to ensure your content is within their guidelines.

Once your visual stories are published, keep monitoring their response performance. Engage with your audience and respond to their questions, remarks or ideas. The general logic is that the higher your engagement level is with a published visual story, the higher exposure the social media platform will give it.

9) Optimize: After your visual stories ran their course measure their overall performance, look for weakest links, plan A/B tests for next publishing round that remove underperforming visual stories and test strong visual stories with a single element that is different. It could be color, visual element or copy.

How are you creating an exciting visual content to delight your audience? I tried to give you simple pointers on how to get started. Obviously, there is much more under the hood.

Need help? I’d be happy to chat and learn more about your thoughts or questions. I also offer an online Story Visualizing for Non-Designers Workshop to help you or your team acquire key design skills using simple tools to better tell your brand stories. Feel free to call me 305-985-3450 or email me shlomi_at_visualstorytell_dot_com

If you’re looking for a more professionally designed visual stories to wow your audience, check our full-stack Visual Storytelling Studio.

Shlomi Ron

Co-founder, CEO at Visual Storytelling Institute. After 20 years of well-rounded digital marketing experience, having worked both on the agency and client sides for Fortune 100/500 brands such as American Express, Nokia and IBM, Shlomi has co-founded the Visual Storytelling Institute (VSI) to help business leaders rise above the noise through the power of storytelling and the effectiveness of visual media. Follow Shlomi's visual stories on Instagram.

All stories by: Shlomi Ron