Marketers have everything to gain by using impactful visual assets.

Content marketers hold this truth to be self-evident: those who incorporate visual assets — photos, videos, infographics, GIFs, etc. — inspire increased audience engagement, plain and simple. In fact, content with relevant images gets 94% more views than content without relevant images.

Not only can the right image pique consumer curiosity; in a crowded content landscape, the incorporation of visual elements helps brands be seen by more viewers in the first place, by physically taking up twice as much space in a user’s social media feed.

Once users have clicked through to get a closer look at your eye-catching content, visual assets help to create an immersive reading experience and keep the audience engaged throughout. Let’s look at the most important things you need to remember when weaving a visual story:

1. Evoke Emotion

The right words can work together to expertly illustrate a complex topic. But images and videos have the power to evoke a profound emotional response from audiences. Sure, you may have cried reading Little Women, but it took weeks to reach that sentimental climax, and *spoiler alert,* your favorite character had to die in order to melt your cold, cynical heart.

Today, successful advertisers break viewers in under thirty seconds. Don’t believe me? Watch this Hillary Clinton campaign ad and try not to cry as you contemplate the hypothetical reality of a Donald Trump presidency.

And if that one was too ideologically loaded for your tastes, grab a box of tissues before Extra gum annihilates you with this absurdly tear-jerking mini-movie:

2. Tell a Coherent Story

Despite what I just said about Little Women, the text of your story or article should still be able to stand on its own without visual assets. Photo and video are often just there to enhance an existing story arc, and with today’s consumers accessing your content on so many devices, content creators should be wary of formatting issues that may distort or fail to display visuals.

At the same time, your visuals should tell a coherent, believable story. Videos should make sense both as stand-alones and in the context of the written text, and photos should be incorporated in a relevant, illustrative manner.

3. Use Representative Images

Legions of tall, thin, blonde people might be the masterminds behind J.Crew’s particularly tall, thin, and blonde advertising campaigns, but visual storytelling should be representative of the population it’s meant to address — i.e., a diverse one. Use people of all colors and sizes, and don’t be afraid to show them keeping it real (read: watch the airbrushing!).

Over the past few years we’ve seen a growing appetite for authenticity, whether through body-positivity in mainstream media, heightened awareness of traditionally underrepresented groups, and increased representation of complex minority characters in entertainment. It all boils down to a simple principle: enlist real people to tell real stories that audiences will connect with.

In a recent blog post, Getty Images expertly unpacks the growing importance of compelling visuals across content mediums, saying: “Visuals help us tell our stories quickly with impact and emotion. But they have to be the right visuals. And when the visual is a powerful one, be it an image or video, the effect is magnified.”

Interested in learning more? Join L&T on November 2 for a panel dedicated to unpacking Visual Storytelling & the Future of Photos, with experts weighing in on what works, what doesn’t, and what’s next for innovative visual storytellers. In anticipation for our event you can also check out Libris’ Q&A with Peter Krogh and Paul Melcher.

Longneck and Thunderfoot offer content marketing services and strategies to transform your company blog into an authoritative trade publication. Click to learn more about how to produce great content and prove ROI on your marketing efforts.

Author Grace Stearns

A graduate of Pepperdine University, Grace has worked in PR and brand communications at publishing giants like Condé Nast, Hearst Magazines Digital Media, and Simon & Schuster. She writes about content marketing, social media, and technology for L&T's blog. A reluctant West Coast transplant, Grace lives in Brooklyn and spends a majority of her free time curled up with a good book.

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