Pictures, videos, and illustrations are excellent. As a species, humans are more receptive visually than they are with words and letters. Our eyes are drawn to images instinctively, for example, a Twitter stream, a Facebook, or a LinkedIn feed, and in general, images are good to use to convey a message.
There are also many others here on the blog that will say more about this. The visual can make a difference to your marketing and communication, there’s no doubt about that. Sometimes you just have to remember to set up a framework for the recipient and to work within it.
You cannot think only of images when planning and producing your marketing, because even if you do something that you think is obvious, it may well be misunderstood when others see it. A classic illustration is the issue of the numbers 6 or 9, as most people have seen before.
This is a classic, particularly on LinkedIn, and of course, there is a clear answer – the creator of the figure has made either a 6 or a 9, so one of the men in the picture is incorrect. What the illustration best shows (in my view) is the element that lies with the recipient. Here the understanding, perspective, or even the attitude can be such that what you want to say is not what the recipient understands.
(Yes, there may be an artist or similar who has written the number on the ground for the purpose that there is no answer as to whether it should say six or nine, but it is very theoretical. When you say something, you usually have a goal in mind).
Framing is a guide
In the 6 or 9 examples, framing is very simple — but extremely effective. Put a line below the number at one end or the other, and you will show very quickly and clearly what is written. The small line helps to guide the recipient with regards to how the figure should be read — so you avoid misunderstandings, as the example of the two men in the illustration shows.
The same is important for you to remember when putting something out there that is strongly supported by illustrations or pictures. We can do a little experiment — included is a picture, and under the picture are 3 sentences. Try reading them (whether out loud or inside your head is not that important), and then look at the picture.
Try it with all three sentences and note that your understanding of the image will be different. Also keep in mind that this will be a bit artificial, because normally you will only be presented with one frame/guide, and here you will have three going in separate directions.
- Although websites are different for users, they are often the same building blocks underneath
- It can be a huge puzzle to get your website fully optimized
- The same function on a website can have many expressions, which will affect your conversion.
In the three different frames, the pieces are websites, metaphorical puzzle pieces, and different functions. The understanding of the image is guided by the sentence that accompanies it.
Yes, it is a fairly innocuous example, so everyone can participate, and the other context also plays an important role — blog posts, Facebook posts, white papers, etc. Nevertheless, you are guided to understand what the pieces in the picture represent.
You’re framing everything, whether you like it or not
One cannot help but frame something. Even if you don’t give any context and, for example, just post a picture on Facebook. The choice of context is context (and this is rarely a good context). And context is a big part of the framing you’re doing.
Sometimes good framing can go hand-in-hand and dictate the way we look and talk about different topics. Bureaubiz has a good list of 8 examples of framing, and the most thought-provoking is the word ‘tax relief’.
The article explains very well that the section regarding relief indicates that it is a burden, one that should be removed, which speaks directly to the economic liberal agenda, and it is smart. It’s really smart.
Try to think about whether anyone calls tax relief something else in day-to-day speech. Perhaps you can find a politician or two who use a different concept, but when was the last time you used an alternative to the word ‘tax relief’? You probably call it tax relief as well, and you bought into that framing.
Taxes have become, in practice, a thing that everyone talks about as a burden, and we do not like burdens.
Framing is everything when it comes to statistics and figures
If there is one area in which framing is absolutely crucial, then it is when we talk about numbers, statistics, surveys, and that sort of thing. Numbers never lie, but you can get them to say so many different things if you’re good.
You often see it in the media when there is a new report or investigation. In a journalistic sense, it’s called an angle and not so much framing, but further down the road, you can swap them out.
A specific approach will be chosen for the statistical material in front of you. If you are a journalist, you choose your angle on the numbers and tell the most exciting and socially relevant story. If you are in charge of communications, you frame the numbers in a narrative that (hopefully for you) dictates the way the numbers are understood and discussed. It’s close to the same thing.
Imagine a study shows that 12 percent of all Danes believe that the moon is made of green cheese, which says perhaps that a surprisingly large number of Danes believe in this hoax. The same study could say that 82nd percent of Danes do not believe in it, and then it can be said that the vast majority of Danes do not believe in the old urban legend. Six percent are in doubt, so we’re up to a hundred percent total.
Depending on where the focus is, the story is different, and you have to remember that when you angle it.
You can’t say anything without it being open to some interpretation. Of course, you shouldn’t say anything without having a plan in mind, as that would be unwise, and of course, you’re not like that. On the other hand, you should be aware of whether your message can be understood in several ways, as it often can — here you can use framing to get the right message out.
About the author
John Nielsen is CEO and founder of onlinesynlighed.dk.
He is a technical SEO specialist and has extensive experience in producing good results for companies through online marketing. John advises companies on online strategy, online advertising and online reputation management.