Seeing the Future of Visual Communications

My eyes were wide open following a presentation by Mike McDougall on shaping the future of visual communications.

He shared his thoughts with PRSA Richmond, noting that the mass migration to digital media and the subsequent shift to visually dominant platforms has transformed the communications mix.


Photo from Mike McDougall presentation.

I was overwhelmed by the idea of being able to visually see multiple screens through a contact lens. I confess, the introvert in me wanted to run and hide. But I was intrigued when I discovered I need to consider when my audience is viewing the content I produce and on what type of screen. That knowledge would help me consider the lighting within my videos.

He had us all thinking about visual trends.

For example, we all know that consumption habits are evolving. McDougall noted, “The whole ‘put your phone down’ mentality doesn’t fly.” Because people are consuming information in bits and bytes, he said we need to communicate more frequently. A study showed that by 2015, our attention span had decreased to 8-seconds, which is 1 second shorter than the attention span of a goldfish!

The adage Seeing is believing is true. People tend to believe something they have seen. McDougall shared an example of news outlets reporting canceled flights by British Airways. The airline immediately shared photos on social media of the flight boards showing departure times and people standing in line to board. Those images allowed BA to combat the fake news.

Another trend is the dominance of micro storylines. The right photo, McDougall said, can tell a story in a second. One way to succinctly tell a story is to use infographics. When it comes to video, a Visible Measures report found that 20 percent of viewers stopped watching a video after 10 seconds and 45 percent of the audience is lost after one minute.

As you might suspect, with the focus on visual, it’s all about the eyes, which are becoming input devices. Another consideration is the amount of time spent on devices. McDougall noted that people’s comfort with viewing will change throughout the day. By evening, most people’s eyes are tired.  One suggestion is to use Night Shift, which shifts the temperature of your screen.

7 Directions to Navigate the Travel Writing Path

I’ve been traveling my entire life, but I’ve never thought about travel writing as a career.

Good thing because as veteran travel writer Annette Thompson told an NFPW workshop, “You can’t always pay the mortgage as a travel writer.”

Thompson, who is a past president of the Society of American Travel Writers and a former longtime journalist with Southern Living magazine, has written numerous freelance stories and operates an online magazine called Second Chance Travels.

20160424_154546 (1)Travel writing today is a challenge because of dwindling markets and tighter publication budgets. She noted that she does not accept assignments that only pay her by providing her with exposure – meaning, the magazine publishes her piece with a byline, but she receives no payment.

Many would-be travel writers mistakenly think that writing about a destination makes for a strong travel piece. Thompson explained that good travel writing includes stories about people. For example, don’t say you are writing about Birmingham. Instead, identify an angle about a unique aspect to that place, such as the clay artists who make plates for the city’s restaurants. She also noted that expenses usually are not covered.

To succeed at travel writing, Thompson said writers should do the following:

  1. Network. You need to know other writers and editors, and the people who represent the destinations, she said.
  2. Join a travel association. Membership provides networking, conference and travel opportunities. While SATW is difficult to gain membership to, Thompson recommends North American Travel Journalists Association; International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association; and Travel Blog Exchange.
  3. Know your DMOs and CVBs. A DMO is a destination marketing organization. A CVB is the convention and visitors bureau.
  4. Find a target. “Identify where you want your story to go,” Thompson said. Most publications have stories that are 30 words to 50 words, in addition to longer forms. She encouraged her audience to start with the shorter pieces as a way to get their foot in the door.
  5. Hone your pitch. The blurb that you send to an editor should have a one-sentence opening, a concise nut graph – which is what the piece is about – and a brief mention of your prior experience. She also suggested pitching well in advance, perhaps as much as 18 months before publication.
  6. Have an online presence. Having one-page online devoted to your career provides a place to post your previous stories that have published and will give others confidence in your work.
  7. Have a writing partner. This is someone who can act as your audience and read your material before you pitch it.