Our Approach: The 9 Steps to Great Visual Storytelling
Since 2007, SwitchYard journalists have crafted infographics, slide shows and motion graphics. We know it’s tough to conduct research, organize data, and nail down a smart storyline. But you can benefit from our experience: Be thoughtful in your questions and process. Here are a few of our tips:
1. Develop a story strategy
The foundation for a good story is a strategy, also known as an angle. Answer a few question to point you in the right direction: Who's your audience? What's your goal? Why are you telling this story? Be bold and clearly articulate your story strategy. Then write it down. You’ll be referring to it often.
2. Budget your time and money
Next, define your budget, both in time and money. Understanding your budget also helps control “story creep,” that urge to continue layering the story with more and more detail. When's the deadline? What's your budget (dollars)? Are you being realistic given the project envisioned? Setting definitive parameters injects a discipline that will inform the overall scope of the project.
3. Consider production and presentation platforms
Web, print, or mobile – where will you tell your story? What’s the best way to tell your story (video, graphic, article)? Some organizations have style guides that identify standards for writing and design. Do you have one? Do you know the technical considerations, such as the pixel size or dimensions of your display? These tactical details will lead you to a successful project outcome.
4. Collaborate to be creative
Good journalists know that the story can’t be told with research alone. You must reach out to others for insight. Tap experts and explore ideas. Your creators – writers, editors, graphic artists, photographers, videographers, developers – have experience and will know what can – and can't – be done. Bounce ideas off of others; it often leads to a more imaginative and more efficient outcome.
5. Storyboard and share
Talking is one thing. Seeing tangible examples is another. Outline the project using storyboards. That way, you understand components and may see alternative ways that a story could be built, packaged and presented. Storyboarding adds shape to the data and research, becoming the blueprint for the project.
6. Check in. And again. And again.
Projects are organic and need constant tending, tweaking, editing and double-checking to make sure they are on the right path. Are you staying true to your story strategy, budget and timeline? Have you experienced story creep? Check in frequently with the key stakeholders to manage the project and stay true to your goals.
7. Manage expectations
Are you seeing what you expected? Is the research adding value? More importantly, does it meet your story strategy and goals? You should be able to point to your story strategy again and again to manage expectations and combat story creep.
8. Punch list
Take the time to do a word-by-word, image-by-image, and pixel-by-pixel edit. Have you followed your style guide? Evaluate technical performance, platform compatibility and overall robustness of the content. Return to the experts that helped with the creative process and ask for their feedback.
9. Presenting, evaluating and learning
More than anything, make sure you’ve told a story and not merely repackaged data and research. Is your story conveying the right message? Addressing the right audience? Performing as expected? Have you chosen the right style and tone for the story and audience?
Hard work and consistent focus are key to producing content that meets your goal. There’s no shortcut to developing a great story. If done well, you set yourself apart and make something meaningful.
Our writers, producers and visual storytellers work as an integrated team to tell and present original content that engages audiences and optimizes attention for our clients. Contact us today at firstname.lastname@example.org to begin your story.