Harnessing the value of visual content for your charity
Which charity websites do you find most impressive? Chances are, they will include plenty of visual content.
Most recently, video has rocketed in popularity, with Hubspot proclaiming that this is now the primary form of media for content marketing. This isn't surprising because it is becoming easier and more affordable than ever to create eye-catching movies with even the most humble of smartphones.
Combining video with other imagery can really make your website and social media platforms work harder for you by boosting engagement. Eyes Down Digital explain how you can use video, photography, illustrations and infographics to make your charity stand out from the crowd.
We also include a few examples of helpful software programs and hints for best practice.
Tech giants Cisco predict that by 2021, a staggering 82% of web traffic will be video content. If you want a piece of that pie for your charity or nonprofit, now is the time to explore your options.
Advances in mobile technology have led to even greater video capabilities being integrated into smartphones and tablets. Unless you are looking to create the next Hollywood blockbuster, your team is likely to have all the firepower they need in their back pockets!
You will also need video editing software and the industry leader is Adobe Premiere Pro. You can subscribe to this as a standalone product but Adobe's Creative Cloud package will cover all the Adobe software programs mentioned in this article, so this is worth considering if you have the budget for it.
Alternatives include Pinnacle Studio, Vimeo Create and Final Cut Pro X , for Mac users, which integrates nicely with Apple Photos and iTunes.
Freemium options to investigate include the KineMaster Android app, Da Vinci Resolve and Lightworks (which was actually used in the post-production of Pulp Fiction and The Wolf of Wall Street). Apple iMovie, built into MacOS is also surprisingly powerful.
Video content best practice:
To boost the impact of your videos, you should:
- Invest in training. Having great technology is one thing but knowing how best to use it is something totally different. If you can train your content creation team in the art of selecting and composing shots and mastering video editing software, you can take your videos to the next level.
- Tell a story. According to Hubspot, over 20% of marketers that publish video content use it to tell their brand's story. For charities, this is a perfect opportunity to engage with new donors and volunteers.
- Test social media videos on mobile – with no sound for the first few seconds. Hubspot's research discovered that 90% of Twitter videos are viewed on mobile devices and that most people set their devices to mute the audio. Your task is to make them want to turn that volume up!
Authentic, engaging photographs are now a staple of high quality charity websites.
For the best quality reproduction, you will want to edit photographs before uploading them. If you don't have a graphics specialist on your team, it is worth your content creation team learning at least the basics of photo manipulation (e.g. cropping, resizing, sharpening, applying filters, etc.)
Suitable editing software will also be needed, although the inbuilt options on Windows and MacOS operating systems can be surprisingly effective in a pinch.
Adobe Photoshop remains the industry-standard photo editing package but Lightroom, also from Adobe is a less pricey and more intuitive program which will meet the needs of most charities.
Alternative options worth exploring include CaptureOne, Skylum Luminar and Corel Paintshop Pro. Some free and freemium programs can be surprisingly powerful so if you are on a tight budget, take a look at Canva, Snappa and GIMP (which also includes drawing tools for illustrations).
Photographic content best practice:
To make the most positive impact with your photography, you should:
- Avoid stock photographs where possible, especially on your main public-facing pages like your donations page. Most charities are a rich source of genuine, authentic photographs so focus on using these instead.
- Reduce image file sizes as much as possible using photo editing software. Overly large files will slow your website down and affect your search ranking. As a rule of thumb, images for the web won't need to be any more than 1MB in size.
- Get into the habit of attributing photographs correctly. Don't assume that a photograph you possess is free to display. Flouting copyright law can lead to legal action and hefty fines.
While photographs can be adapted to fit your charity's branding to an extent, you can enjoy greater flexibility and control with your own illustrations.
If you have a talented illustrator on your team, it is now easier than ever for them to transfer their skills to a digital medium.
Modern drawing programs, like Adobe Illustrator and Affinity Designer, come packed with features for creating and manipulating lines, brushes, shapes, colours and typography. There are also a host of decent freemium software products including Krita, Mischief and Inkscape.
For those artists who prefer to work more naturally, software for tablets is available that can respond to the most sensitive changes of pressure to literally allow them to draw directly on to the screen. If that is something you are interested in, take a look at Astropad Studio for iPad and the Wacom Intuis Pro.
Illustrations best practice:
To create engaging illustrations, you should:
- Be brand consistent. If you are going to add drawings to your website, consider using the same style in all your marketing campaigns. This will help to strengthen your brand.
- Be wary of outsourcing. It can be very difficult to replicate the drawings and style of another person. Think about what would happen if your chosen illustrator got another offer.
- Integrate with other visual assets. Whether it's sketching a custom wrapper for your video content or adding text to photographs, the more you can entwine your illustrations with the rest of your visuals, the more polished the overall effect will be.
According to Hubspot, infographics are the fourth most used content type in digital marketing. Infographics represent information in a highly visual way, making use of imagery, layout and minimal text to convey information.
Many of the illustration and photo editing programs mentioned above can be used to create powerful, engaging infographics.
Infographics best practice:
To deliver an effective message via infographics, we suggest you:
- Use charts, graphs and maps. Software programs such as Datawrapper make it simple to display your charity's compelling stats in a professional and visually striking format.
- Stick to one point. Infographics are most powerful when they are used to send a single message. The graphic should be easy to follow from beginning to end.
- Keep text to a minimum. Infographics are meant to be simple, easy to understand and hard to forget. Too much text will reduce their impact.
Where will your charity go next?
As you start experimenting with the different options available, you will find a whole new world of opportunity opening up. Could you replace standard website icons with an illustrated set based on your charity's logo? How about adding interactive elements to your maps and charts? Is live-streaming a fundraising event an option?
The sooner you embrace visual content, the faster your charity website will evolve and the more appeal you will have with donors and volunteers, especially those from a younger demographic.