Your Strategy Roadmap for a Supercharged Visual Storytelling Campaign

When I saw OpenTable’s #SavorTheRoad press release in PR Newswire’s distribution feed, it immediately caught my attention. It combines my passions of food and travel with some exceptional visual storytelling. I did some digging to see what other channels they were using to tell this story and really began to swoon.

It’s easy for a brand’s marketing to fall prey to the content overload your audience is suffering from. OpenTable’s combination of quality information, distinctive graphics and smart promotion overcame that.

Follow along as I reverse-engineer their strategic marketing efforts for tips you can use in your own content marketing.

1. Start with information that resonates with your audience.

Even the prettiest of pictures won’t sell boring content. OpenTable acknowledges that their food-loving audience appreciates a good restaurant recommendation when they are out of town. Add to that the implicit emotions associated with summer road trips – nostalgia, patriotism, adventure – and the result is one powerful core message for their campaign.

2. Consider your content’s timeliness.

This campaign plays well to both short-term and long-term interests. Launching a campaign about road trips at the height of the summer travel season is a no-brainer. Even if their reader is stuck behind her desk, odds are she’s still dreaming about new dining adventures.

In the short-term, it’s a seasonal “Summer 2015” set of recommendations, and the accompanying social media contest creates an urgency for their audience to share stories in Twitter, Instagram and Facebook using the campaign hashtag #SavorTheRoad.

However, the heart of this content is evergreen and will remain relevant to their audience for quite some time. Adjusting their content for optimal seeding in channels that are known to drive long-tail traffic – search and Pinterest – is in their best interest.

3. Craft visuals that inspire exposure.

At the core of its visual content, OpenTable created six individual, yet cohesive, graphic maps guiding their foodie followers through popular U.S. regions known for unique cuisine experiences.

Each guide is visually distinct in background color and cultural flair, but they all adhere to a designated color set and typographic style. They also cut through the infographic fatigue by showing something other than the list, stats and chart imagery we’ve come to expect.

By crafting multiple free-standing visual guides instead of just one really long infographic, there is an opportunity for each interested reader to share more than one visual, generating exponentially more exposure.

TIP: Make your image captions work harder! Captions can do more for you than simply describe the picture. They are often the default description added when a user is sharing the visual in social media.

Be sure they include the most relevant keywords and maybe even a hashtag. Don’t be afraid to use words that are shown in the graphic – surprisingly, Google has yet to create an algorithm that recognizes keywords within an image.

4. Design your visuals to perform on any platform.

While you have control over optimizing your promotional graphics for each social platform, it’s also important to consider how your main content images will render when they are shared across social channels by your audience.

OpenTable was able to easily cut and paste the title graphic element from one of the guides to create optimized images to promote the campaign in other social channels.

Remember that not all social channels are created equal. Although you can post an image of any size into any of the social channels, it behooves you to resize your images to each channel’s preferred dimensions in order to drive the most engagement.

In pixels, here’s a quick look at the recommended dimensions for sharing an image within the streaming feed of the top social channels: Twitter (440 x 220), Facebook (as part of a shared link, minimum 484 X 252), Pinterest (735 x 1102), and Instagram (square, minimum of 612 x 612).

TIP: Know how each platform will display your content. For example, did you know that Twitter crops longer images to show only the mid-section? Make sure the most important elements of your visual will appear in this modified view. Pay particular attention if you have a text overlay that might get cut off.

Given the wide range of formats, there is no perfect science to optimizing your content for cross-channel sharing. My best advice here is to consider your main campaign objectives and prioritize your optimization for the social channels that will be the most beneficial.

TIP: As I mention in my blog post, “10 Tips for Creating Wildly Successful Infographics,” it’s important to also consider how you might repurpose the image as you’re designing it. For example, might a version of it be used in a presentation?

5. Weave your visual story throughout your owned channels.

It starts with selecting where your content will live, likely either a landing page or blog post within your website, and then drive all other promotional traffic back to this page.

OpenTable uses their blog as their main “homepage” for this content campaign. Their blog post makes smart use of their campaign hashtag in the title, which will help audiences who’ve spotted it elsewhere find the post via search.

Even in their portrait layout, OpenTable allows each map to take up the full width of the text column. The effect makes the image rather large on a horizontal desktop display, but is optimal for vertical mobile viewing.

TIP: If your content “homepage” is a formed landing page, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use your blog as another promotional channel to drive traffic to the landing page. Without summarizing or repeating your content, you can write a blog post that covers the same idea from another angle.

Schedule a mix of posts across your social media landscape that drive back to your content. While posts with visuals do tend to see the most engagement, you can intersperse more frequent text-only posts at various days/times throughout your campaign. Take advantage of evergreen content by lengthening its promotional cycle in your social channels.

TIP: See which of your social posts are driving the most engagement and clicks, then boost those posts through paid promotion in that channel.

6. Promote your content through PR channels.

While blogging, social, paid social and other PPC programs can all play a part in your multi-channel marketing campaigns, don’t overlook the unique opportunities available through PR channels such as press release distribution.

In her recent Beyond PR blog post, Victoria Harres makes the point that “Strong content deserves a strong PR plan.”

Following this strategic thinking, OpenTable sent out a press release to promote their campaign, amplifying its digital exposure and improving its visibility in search. The gallery layout in their press release puts the colorful road trip guides front and center, once again providing an opportunity for multiple engagements and extended viral promotion.

7. Consider influencers’ needs to earn their valuable attention.

The press release also helps generate earned media attention from influencers. published a story “OpenTable unveils the 2015 Summer Road Trip Restaurant Guide” that closely aligns to the release message and features all six graphic maps.

But the real brilliance of this campaign comes down to the many different angles it gives journalists and bloggers, who can then share it in ways that resonate with their own audiences.

The Los Angeles Times and both published articles playing on the local angle. “Deal: Insider guide to best road trip food stops in California and beyond” focuses on recommendations in California and the Southwest region and includes OpenTable’s original Southwest guide but also mentions the contest and campaign hashtag. On the other hand, the high-placed link to OpenTable’s blog in “Dining notes: OpenTable road trip” should help drive traffic.

Although OpenTable’s services fall within the food industry, the campaign received coverage by travel industry media such as Travel Agent Central’s Stat: Top Restaurants for Last-Minute Summer Road Trips” which featured all six maps.

TIP: When developing your influencer outreach, remember that opportunities for earned media extend beyond traditional pickup. A tweet from an individual with an engaged following can help reach audiences beyond your brand’s own network.

Find your brand’s own path to success.

It’s proven that relevant information, particularly in storytelling, resonates well with audiences. By including a set of well-crafted visuals at the heart of your content, you can amplify the overall impact of your campaign – increasing attention, exposure and conversions.

P.S. Check out PR Newswire’s white paper, “Setting the Record Straight: Press Releases that Stand Out in the Digital Age” for more information on gaining earned attention for your campaigns.

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