A picture is worth a thousand words.
And a good GIF is worth ten thousand.
I say that often.
And I’m a writer.
Compelling content has got to be more than words.
Some of the best artists and communicators of our time are not genius creatives only because of their skilled craftsmanship. They are genius creatives because of their spot-on observations about the human condition. And, usually, their ability to to inject emotion into the process. The emotions in question range; for the purposes of our narrative around the need for an ‘entertainment quotient’ in content, let’s focus on levity.
When I tell people to think about how they can use something other than words to convey sentiment, tone or emotion, the strongest resistance I hear is:
“Oh, I’m not creative. I can’t draw/paint/(insert your preference here; i’ve heard many)
Remember that the tool is secondary to the idea you’re trying to convey.
It can be words.
It can be wonderfully delivered with wit and wisdom in calls and meetings.
It can be stop motion graphics.
It can be a funny doodle.
I operate in the belief that I can’t draw.
(No, really, I’m quite dreadful.)
“I don’t know how to draw.” was certainly something that I thought about often. I’d refrain from even the most basic whiteboard scribbles in meetings when there were lots of people I didn’t know well.
I really worked on not letting that stop me and there was one thing in particular that created my shift.
My daughter Y (who’s 10 in 2021) wasn’t a fan of writing in her early years.
However, in most school systems, writing tends to be the default medium for communication, and somewhat non-negotiable.
In the first grade, the kids in her class had a physical agenda book they had to write notes in for parents on what was homework, what to bring in that week etc. All kids had to practice writing in their agendas. Y would try, struggle with it, and not be able to finish it because she wasn’t good with the letters.
So she tried to draw a little picture to let me know what it is that she needed to have done, or brought in, or whatever. Quite detailed little icons, like mittens or a cupcake. The teacher stopped her. Her rationale to Y was “This is writing time, you need to be writing this out.”
Y stopped the drawing and would come home with half finished notes.
She’d be frustrated, because she couldn’t remember what she was supposed to do at the end of the day. And she truly is a front bencher who hates being called out in a class.
My husband and I’d be frustrated because we knew she’s going to get kept in for recess the next day and that’s just not how we wanted it to go.
There was so much stress over just that conditioning that writing is the only way to communicate. That turned out to be one challenging teacher in a sea of other wonderful educators we’ve encountered in the Toronto District School Board. But I remembered it, because it was a key experience that motivated me to stop blocking myself from drawing. Nobody cares. I’m not setting out to create fine art.
What I can do is write little words, and draw little icons.
I didn’t believe that was considered drawing. I prefer to call it doodles or scribbles.
I house printed words in basic shapes, like circles and squares, and draw lots of arrows, and when I put that together, it actually makes something which quite clearly communicates what I need to say.
That still didn’t get me to start publishing more though. I still defaulted to writing, refusing to decondition myself.
I’d think wistfully, of hundreds of things I would draw, if it could, that would’ve saved me hours of carefully crafting lines to have the same effect.
The grass was still greener on the artist’s side of the fence as far as I was concerned.
My efforts at Liz and Mollie-esque doodles were never seeing the light of day if I could help it.
What was a girl to do??
Well, a girl found herself 2 options.
(ps: bonus points for guessing which major book series turned HBO runaway hit I’m referencing in those two lines 👆I’m rewatching it in full, and the references and metaphors run rife.)
2 tools I use because I can’t draw
- GIFs (the easiest is GIPHY, but there’s Tenor and others)
Those two help to really stretch how entertaining content can be when resources are thin on the ground. When I’m feeling the need for something other than words (which is VERY often even for a writer) or if I need a punch to an idea, or even if I’m plain lazy, I resort to these.
As far as I’m concerned, if we can figure out the 500 word way to say something, if we can figure out how to get on video and podcasts, then we can figure out how to use images and moving images as well.
Haha. A Venn diagram about Venn diagrams!
(See? I made that today because it was easier than trying to explain the existential angst that led me to the moment I started drawing circles of the same size on Canva, and overlapping them.)
Here are a couple of early examples where I played with the circle theme 👇
👆That was a fun little comment i enjoyed making about the tail end of the work week getting more and more hectic for most of us in remote working set ups. It was also an effort to imprint Thursday as it relates to us because 2 key content pieces we release each week drop on Thursday.
- The 4 am report podcast – on what keeps founders and marketers up att night
- Thirsty Thursday – the weekly talk show that rounds up the headlines at the intersection of marketing and entertainment.
👆That one is me processing my own mental health and that of many others from the stories I hear as I chat with people.
I’d love to give you stats like “These 2 got millions of views and went viral.”
They did not.
Here are some things that happened instead 👇
- I started to make these doodles a lot more and share them in team briefings and client meetings. It was a way to visualize complex ideas and geet around long briefing forms.
- I started to use them in proposals. People instantly recognize gaps and opportunities in this sort of format
- We interviewed a guest on our podcast who spoke to the stress relieving benefits of doodling.
- That guest signed up to our email list and often replied with thoughts or thanks on pieces that resonated with her.
- She eventually became a client of ours
- We use the idea often to explain seemingly complex content frameworks like the Anchor Theory of content marketing 👇
In case you haven’t seen us harp on about it, here is the actual framework 👇
If you have time for nothing else, resort to GIFs
Do not dismiss GIFs and memes as frivolous.
They can be if used randomly.
A little theming and careful curation can take GIFs (which is basically ready to use, and encouraged by creators) into a powerful clutter cutting tool and something that can help provide relief in long form pieces.
Still doubtful and uncertain about the tackiness factors of multiple moving images from multiple cleators that would muddy up your brand?
Say hello (again) to Cole Schafer. I mentioned him earlier in the series as a writer who uses design superbly to make words shine.
This is his website home page, and that line of cohesive images you see are GIFs in a roaring-20s, swing-era style.
So remember, when being entertaining in content feels like a mammoth task, don’t despair.=
A picture is worth a thousand words.
And a GIF is worth 10 thousand words.
Lean into that. Give yourself permission to play, especially as a grown up 😁
Ps: if you’ve read and enjoy “The Other EQ” column on how to be a lot less boring in marketing, please consider helping me pay for the publishing of my FIRST book. It’s called The Other EQ: Brand Entertainment quotient – how to find it, keep it, and use it.
Yes! I’ve been writing for 20+ years, for myself and countless others, and finally summoned up the never to write a BOOK. It will be ready in the fall, and I will send a copy to everyone who contributes, regardless of amount. Please note that I chose Patreon for the creator platform to raise these funds. It’s been set up as a monthly $10 fee, if you sign up, you can cancel at anytime including after your first month. Any amount you choose is appreciated!).