Building a culture of visual collaboration

The foundation of company culture is the ability to connect, and visual approaches will lead the way. 

It’s been said time and again that a picture is worth a thousand words. And for companies looking to maximize connection and information retention within their teams, this maxim will prove instructive.

For a while now, the educational world has been abuzz with discussions about learning styles, from auditory to tactile to visual. In 1987, Neil Fleming, a teacher and researcher from New Zealand, conceptualized these different styles under what he called the “VARK model,” since harnessed in settings from elementary schools to medical training

Throughout our lives, information taken in from the eyes, including photography, film or animation, digital and printed images, proves “stickier” to many learners. And while the power of matching learning styles to student preferences in classroom settings may be a matter of contention, improving visual collaboration may be the strongest way to enhance corporate communications and culture itself, both for internal and external audiences.

A study by PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2021 offers several supportive clues. First, by a large margin, company leaders believe that culture is a bigger driver of business success and employee performance than strategy or operational initiatives. But whereas nearly 80% of senior managers felt connected to their company’s essential purpose, just over half of all employees felt the same overall. Technology and tools, plus the ability to sense “visible signals from leaders,” were cited as two “enablers” of culture that can help close this gap.

Both internal corporate teams and business customers tend to value a “seeing over saying” approach, favoring tangible evidence of projects, initiatives and their outcomes over verbal statements made by leadership. The ability to judge something for one’s self closes trust deficits and boosts confidence in the veracity and reliability of the information being provided.

Audiovisual and photographic content marketing, including the use of instructional videos over written materials to introduce company policies, or harnessing three dimensional models to explain new technical concepts, can go a long way toward boosting cohesion, trust, and identification with the company – all of which are essential elements of a strong culture. The question is, how can a company get started?

Building a culture of visual collaboration takes certain steps, the specifics of which will vary from business to business, and partly depend on aspects like budget, partnerships chosen, and the ability of information technology teams to secure buy-in from the rest of the C-suite. But several keys to success will apply universally.

First, to lay a foundation and determine what it is that needs to be effectively communicated, it is important to start with vision. Which messages are the most important? Which ones, conversely, seem to be greeted with skepticism or poor buy-in, as opposed to enthusiasm? Could visual media tell a more effective story? 

For simplifying especially complex matters, the answer could be yes. A business that is replacing a legacy IT system with automated processes, for example, may still encounter anxiety, resistance and confusion even with clearly stated written updates like news releases and emails. Management may continually field questions about what the update means for a worker’s particular role. A video or graphic presentation, by contrast, could allow the company to tell a story, explaining the who, what, when, and why of the impending change. Choosing soft colors, engaging background music, and simple fonts can communicate a calming and welcoming message that maximizes acceptance. 

Second, emphasize cut-through. Visual approaches to messaging can sometimes appear overwhelming at first, particularly for smaller companies that do not have extensive IT or design budgets. The goal is to maximize the resources you do have, and tailor them to the way your teams and customers prefer to receive their messaging. Smartphone or tablet-friendly graphic designs, as well as leveraging social media, will be ideal for enterprises whose work is primarily out in the field, and where visual and technological engagement primarily takes place during lunch or on breaks. Office-based workers may be able to see screens placed in common spaces, by contrast, a solid way to ensure broad access to visual storytelling and messaging. 

Third, identify exactly where visuals will play a role – creating customized training videos for employees, for example – and accordingly search for a creative partner who is skilled at crafting visual messaging for the particular area you are targeting. While reliability and price will always be high on your selection list for audiovisual companies, success will come from finding someone who not only understands your exact vision, but is a step ahead of you conceptually. A visual media partner will be able to leverage the latest tools to create a cost-effective solution that maximizes your return on investment.

It’s important to continually solicit team member input on the kinds of messaging they are getting and determine whether it culturally resonates with them, in turn, making adjustments accordingly. You want your team members not only to picture, but feel culture, and by emphasizing visual collaboration, this possibility reaches newer, richer horizons.