Each year I read hundreds of pieces of thought leadership. Some are a struggle to plough through, others much easier, but very few really engage me – or stick with me once the scores are in the spreadsheet and the feedback on the page. And what links those I remember? Almost without fail, it’s that they incorporate some type of visual device to help explain and illustrate the key messages.
Sometimes it’s a photo or illustration. Not the ones we see on a regular basis: pictures of busy executives or city skylines. But a picture or illustration that really captures the essence of the report and, quite possibly, surprises. See screenshot for a perfect example of this.
Other times, it’s a great infographic (defined on Wikipedia as a graphic visual representation of information, data or knowledge intended to present information quickly and clearly). Such tools aren’t new – see for example this infographic produced by Florence Nightingale in 1857 to demonstrate that far more deaths were caused by preventable diseases than battle wounds during the Crimean War. Done well, such tools work – they capture our attention, enable us to process information quickly, to understand the meaning, and they stick in our minds.
So why aren’t consulting firms making greater use of both bespoke visuals and infographics? Based on the conversations I’ve had about this as well as our own experiences with our reports, it’s because it’s not as easy as it looks. Finding the right image takes time and often cost. Creating an appealing, understandable, memorable infographic is really difficult – it takes a set of skills that many of us don’t have to hand. However, for consulting firms look to differentiate themselves in a deluge of thought leadership, it may well be worth funnelling investment in this direction.