Dos and don’ts: 5 tips for successful infographics for sustainability

Facebook_SustainabilityLast month, we prepared an article for Swedish publication MiljöRapporten, specialised in environmental and sustainability reporting. This blog post is a summary of our contribution.


The rise and rise of visual communications


It is no longer a secret that to communicate effectively we need a combination of words, numbers and images; hence the popularity of infographics. In the field of sustainability and corporate responsibility, where communication is overburdened with indicators and statistics, this mix is particularly suited to getting messages across to both experts and new audiences. Indeed, adopting a variety of formats reflects broader trends in digital communications.


A Lundquist survey of 420 CSR professionals and sustainability experts in 2012 revealed that infographics are looked at just as often as videos: 48% of respondents stated they consulted infographics online in the previous six months compared with 47% looking at video, suggesting that almost half of our key audiences are evaluating CSR information in these formats.


(Right now, we’re again mapping the role of visual communications as part of people’s use of social and digital channels and initial results suggest the trend is gathering steam. If you participate in our current survey we’ll send you a free summary of our survey findings, part of the Lundquist CSR Online Awards.)


The real power of infographics


With the growth of channels such as YouTube, Pinterest, infographics can present information in a stimulating and quick manner (an infographic can be a static image or animated graphics). Furthermore, the ease with which they can be shared in social media make it possible to reach more people than through traditional formats.


Certainly, social media are useful channels to reach both already-existing and new audiences who do not want to go through long downloadable sustainability reports filled with text and tables. Moreover, picking out key aspects or messages in an infographic can help disseminate report content virally. Check out how Facebook communicates it own environmental activities.




Don’t forget your message


While presenting numbers in a visually appealing manner may be an easy way to convey information, the focus must remain on the message. There must always be a clear and simple message supported by data presented in a graphically pleasing package. The use of videos and animated graphics can help in conveying a message because the sequence of graphics can build a “story” out of raw facts.


See how the Co-operative Group in the UK has made systematic use of infographics – both static and animated – to explain its corporate purpose to a broad audience. Its “One Minute Ethics” initiative is based on the idea that an infographic can explain an issue in just 60 seconds.



Here are our dos and don’ts for successful infographics


  1. Have a message, have a hook to make your content relevant to people. Why should anyone be interested in what you have to say? What would prompt them to share it with their friends and connections?
  2. Double the effect and combine infographics and video through animation.
  3. If you’re going to do it, do it well. Have a strategy and a plan not just an isolated initiative. Otherwise your investment risks having a low return as you generate low interest.
  4. Keep the concept simple. Even if what you have to say is complicated, this format works best when information is boiled down into an easy-to-remember narrative. The end result should be easy to read.
  5. Don’t just focus on data: help people “join the dots” and understand your message.

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