The four principles of visual storytelling.

May 12, 2022

There’s a lot to be said about first impressions. We start comprehending messages before words are read or spoken based on what we see. So, in the age of highly visual storytelling and digital communications, the adage a picture is worth a thousand words has never been more true!

The way things look play a huge part in how we experience the world. And that’s why mastering the four principles of visual storytelling is so important when you rely on messages, not products, to support your work.

As a nonprofit professional, you already know effectively communicating your mission and why it so important is essential. And using powerful visuals that reflect why your work matters will engage your audience on an emotional level.

Visual storytelling raises awareness for your cause, builds trust with your audience, and inspires donors to help achieve your goals!

So, this post will outline the four pillars of visual storytelling: authenticitysensoryrelevancy, and archetype.

These principles will help you tap into the emotion, identity, and core values your audience and organization share.

Your audience can tell when a photo doesn't feel authentic.

Authenticity: Reality rules.

Your images need to feel real. Audiences have a more critical eye in the age of memes and selfies. They have a good sense of when a photo is staged, overly polished, or just doesn’t feel real.

So, visual storytelling needs to capture those slice-of-life moments that help the audience connect with the meaning behind the picture.

You already know nonprofits that are more transparent about their activities are more successful in fundraising. And visual storytelling should be an extension of that!

So, be sure to use candid images that reveal the reality of your work and your story. They will capture your donors’ attention and make your message more memorable as they open a window into your world.

READ MORE: When communications flow, relationships grow!

Inspire donors to make a difference by using images that evoke a powerful emotional response.

Sensory: Make them feel.

The world is a noisy place, and it’s harder to make your message stand out than ever before.

Think about the way you scroll through your newsfeed on social media.

Scroll, stop. Scroll, scroll, stop. We take in so much information so quickly, but how often does something really capture your attention?

As communicators, we’re constantly fighting to cut through the clutter. There’s no denying information overload. So, the point is to cut through the excess and inspire. The best way to do this is to make your audience feel something and feel it intensely.

And visual storytelling is the fastest, most effective way to do it!

This isn’t always the perfectly pristine photo, but rather the nitty-gritty and beautifully flawed, majestic images. The ones you can somehow smell in the air and feel on your skin. Visuals like this invite us in for a sensory experience.

And when you’re soliciting support for your organization, you need to inspire your audience!

Sometimes we avoid using imagery that makes us feel sad or uncomfortable. However, disrupting the norm with something that overwhelms the senses can trigger an someone to act.

Your audience will be more ready to engage when you invite them into your reality with powerful, emotional visual storytelling.​

READ MORE: Are you making these fundraising communications mistakes?

Be more personal by using images that resonate better with different audience segments.

Relevancy: Making it personal.

But the stories your images tell need to feel relevant for your audience to make that emotional connection. This helps turn your story into more than an anecdote.

Fundraisers use stories to spark action. And the only way to do this is to support a personalized narrative with equally personal visual storytelling!

But this will require using your data to better understand your audience and what motivates them.

Identify the values that your audience shares with your organization. These are the ideals that drive your mission. Your visuals should support these values by demonstrating your progress in a way that speaks to what’s important to your audience.

READ MORE: Using your nonprofit’s data to optimize email outreach.

Use images that show how your donors are making the world a better place!

Archetypes: Tapping into identity.

Every story has a character. And every character fits a certain archetype.

Of the several personality archetypes, three apply most to nonprofit storytelling: the caregiver, the explorer, and the creator.

In this article, we’ve discussed the importance of making a connection with your audience so you can inspire them to support your cause.

And you can create more engaging content by understanding the individuals whose stories shape our culture, our present, and our future.

The characters we place in our stories will be perceived in various ways by different audiences. But remember, stories that make an impression feature memorable characters readers or viewers can identify with.

The goal is to keep your story and organization top of mind.

For instance, if your organization’s mission is to improve the health and well-being of children, you’ll want to connect that idea with the characters in your story!

When one of your supporters thinks of children in need, the emotional connection they have to your story reminds them of your organization’s work.

So, consider the archetypes of your audience before planning your stories.

And don’t forget, visuals have the power to help us relate and make meaningful connections to the world around us!​

READ MORE: How you can tell a more donor-centric story.

FREE eBOOK: Ask strings and the science of securing support.

Show don’t tell!

We all know the importance of a good story, but powerful imagery allows your narrative to transcend the page!

Visual storytelling roots itself in the hearts and minds of your audience.

So, the next time you plan a campaign, utilize powerful pictures, videos, and other visuals to bring your content to life. Incorporating these visual storytelling elements in your outreach will bring your audience closer to your cause!

Like what you see? Stay in touch!

FREE eBook: Ask strings and the science of securing support..