Pulse of the Profession

Friday Five: Infographics —A Good Story Teller or an Elusive Way to Present Data

Thanks to the exponential adoption of social media and mobile technology, our attention spans have decreased rapidly. Public relations professionals know that they have mere seconds to catch their audience’s attention and deliver a message that resonates. Infographics have become the new playground that offers opportunity to achieve this goal. Professionals in any industry now have the capability to disseminate information via this statistically-driven, image-rich platform. While infographics continue to be used to tell the condensed version of larger story, is this snapshot of a report telling an accurate version of the story?

In this week’s PRSA “Friday Five” post — an analysis of the week’s biggest public relations and business news and commentary — we explore the history behind the infographic, discuss the current state of this new medium and discover why industry experts are challenging the validity of data reports.

How a Civil War Vet Invented the American Infographic (Fast Company)

After the American Civil War ended, Francis Amasa Walker, a highly decorated Union soldier, found a job in the Bureau of Statistics. Walker became an expert in his work with data and was eventually appointed superintendent of the Census of 1870. Walker immersed himself into the role and built it out further than anyone in his position had in the past. He thought of the census as an instrument of research and development and became an early adopter of data mining.  Fast Company’s Susan Schulten provides a detailed account of how Walker essentially paved the way for the modern-day infographic.

Infographic Explores the State of Infographics (Ragan’s PR Daily)

Infographic use exploded in 2012. Those able to create infographics had a number of professional opportunities open up and those who weren’t experts realized this would be vital skill to have in the coming years. Data presented with imagery became a popular way to report numbers in just about any industry. So what is the current state of this far-reaching phenomenon known as the infographic? TopMarketingSchools.net developed “The State of Infographics” and found that business, technology and social media were featured as the most popular topics covered by this medium. While the idea of an inforgraphic about infographics may seem a little ironic, take a look at the “The State of Infographics” to get an idea of where this medium is headed in the future.

A History of Sharing: 101: INFOGRAPHIC (mediabistro)

Look back to the time period when cave carvings were used to tell a story. Do you think anyone from that era would have imagined innovations such as the television, dvr, social and digital media as mediums used for consuming content and sharing stories. ClipClock, a social video sharing app company, created an infogrphic that explores the history of sharing stories leading to the present-day blogosphere, social media realm and the increasing speed at which we share various news online.

Can You Trust an Infographic? (The Guardian)

This week, The Guardian takes a closer look at the degree of validity that an infographic carries, by exploring a recent infographic published in the Washington Post which tackles a sensitive issue, rape and criminal justice. One problem that The Guardian points out has to do with a misrepresentation of data. While numbers may be accurate, the way a picture conveys those numbers can be misleading. The publication offers three good questions to ask when delving into any infographic to avoid getting caught up in the picture:

  1. Where are these figures from? Check your source and verify their level of credibility.
  2. Does it make sense? Read the information carefully and use common sense.
  3. What are we looking at? Data from various sources is measured differently against varying factors and cannot always be used together.

9 Reasons Your Infographic Stinks (iMedia Connection)

Infographics have exhibited an explosive viral capacity in the last year of and the internet culture has been fast to adopt the new medium. In the social and digital realm, infographics have proved incredibly useful in relaying information to an audience regardless of their level of comfort with data. While infographics have been widely received, iMedia Connection’s Lisa Wehr said, “It’s become clear that the medium is not fool proof.” Wehr points out some common mistakes made when creating an inforgraphic that professionals can avoid in the future:

  • Too much information. The point of an infographic is to consolidate information. Don’t inundate your audience with more information than they need.
  • Data is equally weighted. Percentages are useful when there are key points to support the numbers. Avoid using too many statistics that offer little to no value in helping your audience understand the main idea.
  • Too much copy. If your data requires a lot of text to describe and explain what it means then an infographic is not the right medium to convey your data.

Nicole Castro is the public relations associate at the Public Relations Society of America.

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