Good communications is about finding the right words to tell a story. But in a world of information overload, one has to consider the singular power of images.
Each day, we are bombarded with news. Articles, blogs, and editorials flood the Internet. Everyone is commenting on everything, whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter or on various websites where commentary is welcome, encouraged. We are continually assaulted with words. How much do we process, and remember?
Often, what we remember can be encapsulated in a single sentence, or a punchy headline. Or in an accompanying image, which may tell the whole story. An image, carefully selected, perfectly captured, can be worth a thousand words, or more.
Think about the extensive coverage of the Syrian crisis, when tens of thousands of people fleeing their homes poured into Europe. What did people retain, and respond to most? A single, heartbreaking image of a drowned child. More images of men, women and children, rescued from the sea. Intimate portraits of tragedy and loss.
Think about the attack on the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo. After the attack, illustrators around the world took pencil to paper to articulate how people felt. Without words, they conveyed fear, anger and sadness.
An image, whether it is a photograph or an illustration, can make a story more personal. We may not feel connected and emotionally invested until we see the expression on a child’s face, or the way in which a flood has devastated a rural town. Sometimes, words aren’t enough. Sometimes, too many words can alienate us from the truth they seek to express.
In our busy lives, it can take less time to process an image than the accompanying words. Images, too, can break down the complexities that words sometimes grapple with.
Words matter. They allow us to explain, to articulate ideas, to spread messages, to formulate a theory or present an argument. Words are our bread and butter. But just as a good communicator makes the most of different mediums - be it print or web, for example – he or she knows to optimise the various tools in the communications box. Images are powerful. They, like words, speak to us.