K Street Newsletter :: Directions

March 2019    |    VOLUME 17, ISSUE 3

Facts Matter

We may seem to be living in a post-truth era, but facts still matter in marketing communications. Good storytelling engages with the audience on an emotional level, and research shows that data also plays an important role. Audiences are not just passive receivers of information. They have questions in mind and particular interests to address. You can better understand them through surveys and web analytics. Understanding what those questions are, and when they're being asked, helps companies answer them in creative ways. And that boosts the credibility and impact of the overall communication.

Great stories involve a narrative arc but also visualization and detail. When those details are woven into a narrative effectively they make the story complete. If you can add data visualizations to your content, you can lead viewers to the same sorts of Aha! moments that prompted you to launch a particular product or campaign. When observations are supported by data, you can boost lead generation and improve customer retention. You need to decide what data elements are most important, then decide the best way to present them.

Process vs. Knowledge 

We've written in the past about how different kinds of things can be considered as knowledge "containers." Something as simple as a checklist has been shown to be a powerful, even life-saving knowledge support system. Workflows and business procedures represent the codified knowledge of a given department or even an entire organization. Having clear procedures reduces ambiguity and can increase efficiency. But that's not the whole story.

Some companies invest a great deal of effort in the development of detailed workflows, but in the process risk stifling creative thinking and ad-hoc problem solving. Employees aren't software, and should be allowed enough thinking room to keep the organization on top of evolving best practices. The ideal solution would be to develop a clearly-defined process and supplement it with some kind of knowledge sharing solution. Process design and knowledge sharing should work together so that unfamiliar steps could be explained with job aids or short videos. People need both, so their understanding of what to do can be blended with the knowledge of how to do it.



Street Smarts 185: Start with a hook.

Over the last year, surveys have shown that it's getting harder and harder to hold an audience's attention. As a result, companies are moving beyond text and graphics and trying to tell their stories visually. That's usually a team effort, since it calls for  project managers, designers, writers, animators and maybe entire video crews. Visual storytelling crafts a narrative that addresses some concept and evokes an emotional response. The goal is to persuade viewers to reach a specific conclusion, thereby getting your message.

The rules of effective visual communication aren't that different from written communication. You should start with a great visual hook that will grab those eyeballs. And whatever visuals you use in the first few seconds should be strong enough to make people keep watching. The story you're telling has to be engaging, but the visuals have to be engaging as well. Imagine yourself as the viewer, and think critically about your content. At what point would click the skip button? You can find more tips for visual communication in this article.


The Last 20 Inches?

Before we founded Knowledge Street LLC, we were very interested in Information Design. That's the art of presenting information in a way that fosters understanding. Our hero in this field is Edward Tufte, and we highly recommend any or all of his books on the subject. (His lectures are also well worth your time.) So we liked this article from the MIT Technology Review, which considers that last bit of the information journey: the last 20 inches from the screen to the viewer. 

There's a lot of raw data available on the Web, but access to it often comes without context. So visualization tools are critical if people are to extract its meaning. The article includes several examples of how such tools make things easier. There's a mail interface that uses email metadata to present a picture of the user's social network. It lets people consider email in terms of correspondents rather than just as stacks of messages. There's also a link to the Observatory of Economic Complexity, which visualizes international trade data that would otherwise be inaccessible. And another maps internationally known celebrities to their birth countries, and categorizes them by profession. We think all of this stuff is very cool.

The Stickers are Here

Sometimes when we're looking for interesting stuff for Directions, we stumble across something that's new to us. This is one of those times. According to this article, digital stickers are reshaping brand advertising across the globe. Stickers are still or animated graphics designed to be shared via text messages. On Facebook Messenger, users send more than 380 million stickers each day, compared to just 22 million GIFs. Some are free, but companies are also selling collections of them. Yes, they're a thing now. We've certainly seen them, but had no idea they'd become so popular.

Kim Kardashian has a sticker collection called Kimoji. It features 250 icons based on her persona and sells as a downloadable app for $1.99. It was reportedly grossing one million dollars a minute when it first launched. Fans of stickers see them as a way to associate with a particular brand (like Apple, Android or for that matter Kardashian), and also as a tool for expressing their feelings in a creative way. They can communicate different emotions or thoughts ("I am happy" or "I am sad") and some users can have entire conversations without using text at all. People work to build a collection of stickers that gives them perfect responses to most any situation. A kind of multi-purpose visual  vocabulary that serves to reduce social friction. It sounds like a fad for young folks, but apparently that's not the case. It's the return of the hieroglyphic.




Directions is an electronic newsletter about things related to KM & Communications, published on the second Wednesday of each month (check out the current issue above). It’s a double opt-in system, which means you’ll receive an email asking you to confirm that you really want it. Once you click on the link in that mail, you’ll be signed up. You can always unsubscribe using the same link (or by using the link provided in every issue). We will absolutely not give your address to any third parties. What are we, crazy?

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