3 Tips for Using Images to Increase Climate Engagement

Hurricane SandyAs communicators, it’s impossible to overstate the value of imagery. A visual image can create a strong emotional connection much more quickly and memorably than words can. By helping people understand an issue and boosting their empathy, images can help them make the leap from indifference to action.
 
But not all images resonate equally. Resource Media’s Visual Stories Lab ran some experiments to see what types of images are more likely to inspire people to take action online. They learned three valuable lessons:
 
1. Use images that are authentic and local to spark an emotional reaction. A photo of someone in an easily recognized landscape will be much more powerful than a generic “anyone, anywhere” photo.
 
2. Choose images that have an obvious connection to the issue. Your audience may be clicking based primarily on the image, so make sure it’s clear how the image relates to your message.
 
3. Try creating visual or mental contrast. Side-by-side juxtapositions stand out and are proven to be especially memorable and compelling.
 
Our own research reinforces the value of images in climate communications. Images of local impacts can help make climate change seem real and relevant, while showing empowering images of solutions can inspire people to get involved. Images of people, groups, and household items resonate more powerfully than scenic vistas or empty landscapes. And when it comes to explaining climate science, certain types of visualizations (such as diagrams or illustrations) are far more memorable than charts and graphs.
 
For more about using images and storytelling to make climate change real, see Principle #6 of our guide, Connecting on Climate: A Guide to Effective Climate Change Communication.
 

3 Lessons From Testing Images and Appeals for Online Action in 2014

Are you planning some website ads or Facebook post promotion in 2015 to try to reach beyond your group’s base, maybe expand your list a little or motivate some broader participation in an online action? I’ve taken a look back at three online ad projects we ran in 2014 to pull out a few lessons learned from our experiences and the experiments we ran along the way to compare different images and appeals. Here are three takeaways:
 
#1. Use images that are local, real, & recognizable for your audience
We recognize real when we see it. And when an image is authentic to our audience – showing an actual experience, event, place or person our audience can relate to –then we have a better shot at sparking the emotional reaction needed to spur actions like sharing a post or completing a requested online ask. On the other hand, when an image can be perceived by viewers as generic — one that could be of “anyone” or “anywhere” — engagement tends to lag.
 
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Image credit: Visual Story Lab

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