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I’ll let you into a little secret. Since Ali Groves and I first talked about working together, putting her amazing photographs alongside the words that I write for our clients, I’ve been trying to decide whose work is really most important! When we present a client with the photographs that Ali has taken of them in their studio or office, with their products, doing what they do and I email them the words that I have written, based on our relaxed conversation about what they have to offer to their customers and why they are so passionate about their business, what really matters most? That the pictures make them look approachable, fun to work with, someone you would like to do business with or buy a product from? Or that the words that I have written are heartfelt, authentic, inspiring and make you want to get in touch right there and then?
My background is in healthcare communications and I spent many years selling in stories to journalists, eager for news of the latest treatments, so they could write about them on the health pages of the newspapers. However good my sell in of the story was, they always demanded images to bring the story to life. They wanted photographs or infographics that helped to explain the words that I had written and if I had them available to send over there and then with the press release, you could almost guarantee that they would print the story.
Although there are of course exceptions, most people think in both words and pictures. Images drift in and out of your mind as you go through the day, places you have been, people you have met, things that you’ve forgotten to buy! Whilst words provide the dialogue that runs alongside the pictures, ‘ooh I’d love to be somewhere hot lying on a beach today instead of sitting typing at this desk’; ‘What’s the name of that woman on the school playground who’s smiling and walking my way?’; ‘Damn it. I’ve forgotten to buy loo roll again!’.
It’s hardly surprising, as the way that we think and learn from the very beginning of our lives relies on both words and pictures. From the first days of a child’s life we attach words to pictures, story books begin with only pictures and as language develops we can begin to paint pictures in our minds as a story unfolds. When we visit museums and galleries, we’re rarely satisfied with being presented with a breathtaking piece of art; we want information about it. Who is the artist? When was it painted? What were they trying to achieve or communicate to us in their piece? Does it talk to us in the way the artist had intended?
The answer to my question is of course that to really bring any story to life you need both words and pictures. Photographs that give a real sense of you what you do, your look, your style, your environment, the quality of your product, how it’s used, the smile it can put on a child’s face, are absolutely vital to any website, brochure, magazine article or advert. Equally vital are the words that explain what you do, what you have to offer, why you do it and the real passion that you have for it. Together, they tell your story, they respond to the senses, they fill the gaps and they answer questions. We live in an increasingly visual world, where a comment on social media without an emoji feels somehow inadequate. But even in this visual, digital age, a few words posted beneath a joyful photo, taken in the moment, truly bring the significance of that moment fully to life.