Beyond PR

Jan 24, 2012

Pinning the Future of Communications on Visuals

PR Newswire's fledgling Pinterest presence.

UPDATE: Communicators need to pay particular attention to Pinterest’s terms of use.  Failing to do so can result be risky for brands.   Read the details here: Unpinned.

While I’m normally reticent to give new social networks a try – I’m pretty heavily invested in Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, and am still trying to make Google+ work for me – I couldn’t resist Pinterest.

Pinterest is a new way to bookmark and organize all that interesting stuff you wander across when surfing. However, instead of producing a list of bookmarks, Pinterest renders the content you “pin” into gorgeous spreads (called “boards”) that resemble the glossiest magazine.  The results are beyond engaging, they’re arresting.

Here, for example, is one Pinterest enthusiast’s page.  Tina is into gardening and home decor.  She has beautiful taste, as you can see:

She’s created a lot of boards, collecting design ideas for her home and garden, along with myriad other things she simply likes.  Clicking on one of the boards (in this case, the “Ideas for My New Garden”  board) expands that collection of pins.  Here’s what you see:

The board expands, and it really does feel like you’re leafing through a high end magazine. However, instead of dog-earing the pages or ripping out something that catches your eye, you can simply “re-pin” the item, saving it to your own board.

Pinterest encourages users to link the items they pin to their sources.  This adds to the utility of Pinterest –  you can get to the underlying recipe or news article or product information easily.   At this point, what Pinterest means for in terms of opportunities for marketers and communicators should be pretty clear!

Sorry! No visual, no pin!

There’s just one catch, however.  Pinterest is for visual content.  If your organization isn’t producing visuals, your content will be bypassed by the growing and active Pinterest crowd.  You can’t pin content that doesn’t include a visual.

But what if you don’t live in the Land of High Production Values?  There is good news.  You can use Pinterest to build boards for content that is largely text based, as long as it is tied to a visual.  Mashable provides a good example:

Mashable uses visuals to pin links to text content on their web site.

Mashable has created boards around different themes, and has pinned articles to each. Each article carries with it a requisite visual.  The results aren’t as gorgeous as spreads devoted to gardens or gourmet cupcakes, but the boards are visually compelling, and make the underlying content attractive, consumable and – new verb here, folks! – re-pinnable.

The take away for me is simple –  communicators have to redouble their efforts when it comes to visuals.   Visuals carry extra weight on Facebook and Google+, they’re rendered on Twitter (drawing more attention to the tweet) and are what makes services like Flipboard and Pinterest so compelling and useful.  Flickr and Youtube are great repositories, with their own built in audiences.  But what makes Pinterest and Flipboard different is the fact that they make it easy to publish compelling visual content.

If visuals aren’t a cornerstone of your communications mix already, now is a good time make the commitment to build visuals into your plans.

Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of social media, and is the author of the free ebook Unlocking Social Media for PR, which we’ve updated for 2012.

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