4 Social Media Graphic Design Tips for PR Pros

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Public relations professionals may be expert at media relations, key messaging and corporate communications, but few of us are great graphic artists. Yet with Instagram, Pinterest and other social media channels hungry for visual content, the ability to develop engaging imagery has become an essential skill for marketers and PR pros.

Lucky for us, agency friend and North Loop neighbor Megan Junius (right) is the owner of Peter Hill Design, a graphic design and branding firm whose clients have ranged from Beazley Accident & Health, DeGidio’s Bar & Grill, Open Arms of MN, Henson & Efron, Park Dental to Disney Garden and Newman’s Own Organics. Megan sat down with the MaccaPR blog to share tips that PR and marketing professionals can use to enhance their visual assets for both blogs and social media.  

1. Keep It Simple (And Consistent):

During early attempts at designing graphics for this MaccaPR blog, I thought the more the better! An extra border, a shadow… and a filter! What could go wrong? Luckily, Megan Junius is a fantastic teacher. While some graphics can benefit from a layered approach, it’s generally more important to keep things simple. Nothing screams amateur more than a few layers of filters, which can create a new tone or transparency over an image such as on Instagram. Sure this may be appropriate for your personal social media accounts, but for your brand, we agree with Junius when she says skip the filters! 

Throughout the course of our lunchtime interview, Junius drove home one important point that all PR professionals and brand marketers should commit to – consistency is key. From image sizes to fonts, keeping social media and blog graphics consistent will help maintain your brand’s identity while appearing polished and professional. 

A brand that does a smart job of keeping imagery simple on social media while maintaining maximum impact is the Santa Monica, California-based The Honest Company. Graphics are thoughtful and visually appealing to the eye without screaming “Look at me!” The eco-friendly products company has a great grasp on who their target customer is and delivers graphics that are in line with brand messaging.  

TheHonestCompany                  

“The best way to maintain consistency with the graphics your brand uses is to build out your brand standards and guidelines right away,” said Junius. “This creates a solid foundation for any future social media or blog asset creation.” 

When deciding upon fonts and sizing options to incorporate into your brand standards, Junius explained that a good rule of thumb is to choose three of each and stick with them. As tempting as it can be, don't go for the over-stylized or oversized. Keep it simple. 

2. Know When To Create (And When To Outsource) Your Social Media Graphic Design:

Sure, free is always good but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better. In today’s world of Instagram, Pixlr, Canva and dozens of other photo editing apps, marketers can fall victim to the endless array of overlays, filters and borders in an attempt to jazz up their visuals without outsourcing to graphic design professionals. 

We asked Junius what’s the easiest way to identify a novice non-designer. “It’s usually the typography that sticks out right away,” laughed Junius. “The use of basic fonts, curves, triple-thick borders and no kerning* is an easy giveaway too.” (*Kerning is the proportionally adjusting the space between characters in a font.) 

If your brand’s budget doesn’t allow you to employ the services of a graphic design firm or if you don’t have an internal graphics team, there are plenty of resources available to create free or low-cost graphics for social media or blog assets:
  • Canva: At Maccabee, we’re frequent users of Canva. The “amazingly simple graphic design” platform, that was lauded by Canva chief evangelist Guy Kawasaki at Social Media Marketing World, gives amateur designers the entry-level tools they need to become graphic design rockstars, or at least back-up bass players, when creating images from infographics to social media headers.
  • Infogr.am: If your business creates infographics, check out Infogr.am. The program is the “data visualization product that brings out the best in your data.” And, it’s easy to use!
  • Photoshop: For in-house design tools, Junius recommends PR pros employ Photoshop. Take the time to learn how to use and avoid the sins of amateur design – over-stylized photos, shadows, too many borders, not enough white space and typography gaffes.
  • And More! Check out “33 Free Design Tools and Resources to Turn Anyone Into a Graphic Designer,” for even more tips and tools. Well worth the read. 

3. Think Strategically About Colors and White Space:

As I discussed in my recent MaccaPR blog post recap of Social Media Marketing World, every piece of content your brand develops, from social media posts to conference pamphlets, needs a visual. Guy Kawasaki shared a statistic at the conference that's too good not to repeat: On Twitter, including a photo with your tweet nearly doubles your chances of engagement

There are specific sizing ratios to consider when creating images for social media channels. Junius recommends, if possible, resizing social media images to the correct ratio, as deemed appropriate per social network. That will ensure maximum viewing potential for your brand’s customers. For example an image featured on a Facebook post should be sized to 1200 x 1200 pixels. Need the correct ratios for social media imagery? Social Media Examiner breaks it down in the “Ultimate Guide to Social Media Image Sizes.”

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Without a doubt visual assets should be high on your top priority list when developing your brand’s standards. Think tones and photo style when considering how you want your brand to be portrayed. 

Junius speaks about how big brands, like Target, are instantly recognizable from their imagery. While using a variety of visual assets, Target maintains a consistent and signature style featuring big, bold product shots with lots of white space. 

Target Weekly Ad

4. Be Wary of Copyrights:

Brands need to consider not only what its social media and blog graphics look like, but also where they originate. Developing your own imagery ensures that not only are your brand’s photos authentic and original, but will help your company avoid any copyright issues as well.

“There is always a risk involved when using Google images,” notes Junius. “You can’t be positive where the image came from, which opens you up to liability issues. A company like Getty Images has data crawlers to find infringement of its imagery so it’s important to properly source and, even better, purchase your images.”

Junius went on to explain that there is no such thing as royalty-free images. In fact, Peter Hill Design always purchases or creates its own imagery for their clients’ use as well as their own.

While stock imagery can be useful, it’s obvious to most readers that it is in fact stock imagery. Think Vince Vaughn stock photos (below) - need we say more? We asked Junius what her top recommendations are for non-designers looking to purchase photo assets for use on social media.

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“There are quite a few options including iStock, Veer Images and, of course, Getty Images,” explained Junius. “However, we’ve found that any time we have used our own imagery [in regards to social media], our posts on social receive almost twice the engagement.” 

So perhaps it’s time to look closely at your brand’s social media and blog graphics. Are they telling the story you’d like them to or is there an opportunity to employ one of Megan’s strategies for improvement?

A special thanks to Megan Junius of Peter Hill Design (below, left) for taking the time to chat visuals and social media graphics!

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Looking for more tips on how to improve your brand’s social media and blog graphics? Check out these additional MaccaPR posts chock-full of tips:




Image Sources: The Honest Company, Target Weekly Ad, Maccabee PR
About the Author

Leila Erickson

Lelia Erickson is a former Maccabeast.

Topics:  PR Perspectives, Social Media Marketing

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