The relationship between public relations and design

We all know the public relations landscape has changed over time to accommodate new media channels and content types. Communications agencies have changed with the times. For most, it means bringing in-house, the right tools and skills needed to optimise their offerings, to create solid content and meet client objectives.


Celeste Van der Watt, Designer at FleishmanHillard, shared her thoughts around the connection between design and public relations.

What role does design play in PR?

Whether via a consumer’s laptop, tablet or smart phone, content matters more than ever. Design has given PR a new medium to tell a story and is used to optimise key messages and speed up the delivery of those messages.

PR can no longer only comprise a flat piece of copy in order to compete with other news. Infographics, crafted advertorials sets the bar at new heights. Images and video make for a more interactive experience, which gives readers something to view along with a press release.

Why is the use of graphics important in PR?

Design has afforded PR the opportunity to tell a story through a new medium – visuals. ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’ – Visuals can easily tell a story, which not only provides a deeper understanding into a complex situation, but evokes an emotion, whether it be sadness, anger, disgust or even fear. Visuals have become a staple in PR.

What design trends should we expect to see in 2016?

Design trends come and go, and then come again. In 2016, I think design will shift focus from colour and form, back to function, giving design room to focus on cultural, business and technological changes to understand how we work, interact and live.

In addition, user experience will continue to influence aesthetics. Design will place emphasis on simplification and personalisation.

Where does graphic design sit within the PR space?

Design, without question, sits within the heart and soul of PR. It should be included in the ideation process to improve the execution of a PR campaign or press release, as well as scale up your clients offering. Design should simply not be considered as an afterthought.

What tips can you give to designers to help them optimize their designs for PR?

We are always looking for a new and creative way to design for public relations. Gone are the days of the ‘spray and pray’ technique of sending out content and hoping something sticks.

Use these design tips to engage with your target audience and create a successful PR campaign:

  • Consumers are attracted to experiences opposed to buying a product or service. Use inspirational messages and images to help you depict an experience.
  • The message of your design must be authentic and relevant, regardless of the visual layout.
  • Personalisation is key. Brand visuals with the company’s logo, selected colours and fonts, according to their brand guidelines.
  • Display content in a reader-friendly and aesthetic way that speaks directly to the target audience.
  • Use educational infographics to visually display complex ideas or text heavy designs.
  • Your visuals must be thought provoking and evoke emotion, whether it be sadness, happiness, etc., too. The message shared will more likely stick in the consumers mind.
  • All visuals need to mirror the company’s values.


Written By: Kelli Knutsen