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Infographics have become widely popular over the past several years as a technique for quickly presenting concepts in a visual, memorable and easily sharable format. The explosion in the use of infographics has prompted some to claim that the medium has run its course. Unfortunately, a lot of bad graphics have saturated the Internet, as is bound to happen with a proliferation in popularity. However, just because some people do it poorly does not mean that no one should do it at all. Infographics remain a good visual communication tool that firms can use to connect with potential clients.

Eye-catching and sharable, infographics are a largely untapped visual marketing opportunity for attorneys.

Infographics and Trust

Much of marketing involves the process of building trust. Potential clients must trust that the story your firm is telling about itself – the promise you are making – will match the reality of their experience with you. They must trust you to solve the issues they need resolved. Trust is difficult to build and easy to destroy. A good infographic, whether it makes people laugh or think or see something in a new way, will help link that feeling with your firm. Emotional connections are much stronger than rational ones, no one makes purchasing or hiring decisions based on cold logic alone. Giving people useful material with which they connect emotionally can help build trust, which is a critical element in growing your client base.

The Elements of a Good Infographic

Good graphics have several things in common: they are educational, well-designed, have an easy to understand theme, and their look and feel is compatible with the organization releasing them. When creating your graphics remember these components:

Take marketing out of the equation. The purpose of an infographic is to communicate information. While distributing infographics may have a positive marketing benefit, marketing language should not be involved in the creative process. Some companies have tried to jump on the infographic bandwagon by creating graphics with overt sales-speak and no real value. This muddles the main objectives: conveying ideas and fostering understanding of complex subjects. It also works to dismantle trust and harm your overall goals.

Keep style consistent with all communications. Make sure the design of your infographic matches the overall brand you have developed for your firm. If you are a serious firm specializing in high-stakes litigation, any graphics you produce should reflect that. Use good judgment when determining what tone is right for your firm.

Make form match function. Infographics must distill complicated data into an easy-to-understand visual. Think of how you want your infographic to function before delving into design. A pie chart or bar graph, for example, would be an inappropriate way to display information about the distribution of bankruptcies throughout a geographic area, but would work well to illustrate the percentage of Americans who file for certain types of bankruptcy.

Simplify. Long, over-complicated infographics can be overwhelming and cause viewers to lose interest. You want people to enjoy your infographics, find them helpful and share them. Try to limit yourself to 3-5 main points. Use no more than one or two dominant colors and pick supporting colors from those families. Do not over-design. Illustrations can make or break a graphic and must be easy to process. People are more likely to share things that are simple and to the point.

The Infographic Development Process:

Planning is critical to the creation of an effective graphic. You must take time to thoroughly parse the data, extract an appropriate theme, establish a communication goal and compose appealing design elements. Dividing this process into actionable steps helps keep the task manageable and is more likely to produce successful outcomes.

1. Pick a topic. The daily business performed at your office can provide a wealth of infographic inspiration. Clients face a variety challenges that your firm can help distill into understandable, and therefore more manageable, pieces.

2. Research and gather data. Since this type of communication is at its core fact-driven, the quality of your information is key. Even if you are illustrating a concept with which your firm is very familiar, research is critical. Discovering new data or uncovering through-provoking details can help you see information from a different point of view and give you new ideas as to how to present it. Take care to verify the accuracy and integrity of your data. If you create a great graphic that gets a lot of shares only to be proven false, you have done more harm to than good.

3. Interpret the data and determine the narrative. Infographics must tell a story. Visuals are one of the most effective ways to help people understand and retain knowledge, but a graphic that does not clearly state a main point or help lead viewers to a conclusion will be quickly forgotten. For example, an immigration attorney might create an infographic that reveals trends in applications for a specific type of Visa, rather than just showing a jumble of overall immigration statistics.

4. Pick a type of infographic. There are several types of infographic, including process (how something works), comparison, visual article, graph, cheat sheet, flow chart and timeline. The way in which you illustrate your data depends heavily on your research and interpretation of narrative.

5. Design and edit the idea. Sketch or storyboard your idea. Look for parts that may require simplification or clarification and create the necessary graphics. Pay close attention to colors, mood, fonts, readability, voice, structure, size and scalability.

6. Test! Show your finished graphic to friends or colleagues. You may think you have made your point distinctly, only to find that others have a hard time understanding the idea you are trying to convey. Having a few sets of fresh eyes look over the work will help you catch flaws or weaknesses in the presentation before it is released to the world at large (where people will be more than happy to tear it apart publicly).

Infographics are often associated with a certain style of illustration – one that is light, casual or tongue-in-cheek. But there are no rules governing style; at their heart infographics are just a method of data visualization. Your firm can illustrate concepts in any manner you choose, as long as you stay consistent with your voice and brand.

You have a great infographic, now what?

How to Distribute Your Infographic to the Widest Possible Audience

Once you have created an effective infographic, you need to publish and distribute it. The obvious initial step is to publish it on your firm's website, but you will want to take additional action to make sure that your infographic travels far and wide, and brings traffic back to your site.

First, you will want to share the infographic through social media and other networks. A well-designed infographic will be more popular than a typical blog post, so it should be given prominent placement. If your firm maintains a Tumblr blog or a Pinterest account, these are excellent ways to share infographics due to their highly visual format. When sharing the infographic, avoid the tone of a generic announcement. Instead, pick the most surprising or interesting fact and share that as a teaser. On Twitter, be sure to include relevant hashtags to increase your reach. If you send out a regular email newsletter to subscribers, then include an eye-catching snippet of the infographic in the email, with a link back to your website for the full version. If your firm also uses paid social media advertising, then an infographic can be a great visual hook. Consider having your marketing team write a press release announcing the publication of the infographic.

Second, make sure that your infographic is easy for others to share. Include social-media sharing buttons where the image is published on your firm's website. Infographics tend to attract more Facebook “likes” and other social media upvotes, so be sure to give users the opportunity. You should have links to share the infographic itself, not just links to your firm's Facebook page. In addition to providing the sharing buttons, you may also want to include a call to action, specifically asking readers to share the graphic.

You may also wish to distribute your infographic to other websites related to your area of practice. Of course, your direct competitors will not want to promote your content, but websites in your broader legal field may welcome visually compelling, informative images. Your graphic should be designed such that it contains your firm's name and website address, so they will be visible wherever the image is republished. However, it is even more beneficial to ask websites to embed the image. If you provide them with an embed code, then bloggers can publish the infographic on their own site, but with a link back to your website. This can not only increase direct traffic to your site, but provide inbound links that improve search engine rankings. There are free embed code generators available online, for instance at seogadget.com.

There are also many online directories of infographics where you can submit your image and others can then search by subject and embed your infographic. For general infographic directories, begin with visual.ly and infographicsonline.com. For your specific area of practice, your firm should also develop a distribution list for infographics similar to your press release distribution network. If your firm's attorneys contribute guest blogs to other websites related to your legal field, have them use the infographic when applicable. While it is not a good idea to republish written content in a guest blog that is identical to content on your own website, that is not the case with embedding an infographic. Rather, the more widely the image is republished, the better.

Finally, a well-designed infographic need not exist only online. Consider including the image as part of a firm brochure or print advertisement. The combination of useful information and eye-catching presentation will help hold people's attention. If you publish your infographic in print, it is a good idea to include a QR code that links to the firm's website, as well as the web address. This can also be a useful way to ensure that your firm gets traffic from the infographic if it is republished on the web. Other websites may simply copy the image rather than embedding it, but a QR code will still provide a way to link back to your firm's website.

Just as it is essential for an infographic to be informative and well-designed, so must it be distributed effectively.

About Author

Kristen Friend is the Art Director at Bigger Law Firm Magazine. She is also a multi-award winning designer of law firm websites and has been recognized by the Hermes Awards, WebAwards, Horizon Interactive Awards, W3Awards, IMA Interactive Awards and Webby Awards.

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