5 free visual media tools for PR and marketing pros

Brand and community managers can use this guide to embrace content trends without breaking the bank. 

More and more brands are embracing content marketing, especially when it comes to visual media. Research shows that 65 percent of a brand’s audience is composed of visual learners , so the move is a wise branding choice.

However, PR and marketing pros are often not designers, and not all brands, boutique firms or communications consultants can afford the price tag that comes along with a top-flight design professional.

Here are five free tools that can help boost your campaigns without breaking the bank:

1. Death to the Stock Photo. Stock photos are a great foundation for photo quotes or social media posts with a powerful fact on top of an interesting picture. They also can work well alone in blog posts that need a boost from visuals.

However, many stock photos look strange or forced, and a bad photo won’t help to entice readers to look at and share your content.

Death to the Stock Photo is a free monthly service that provides images that don’t look like obvious stock photos for social media, blog posts and commercial use. “We aim to be just like coffee for the modern creative,” a welcome message on the site reads.

Other sites such as New Old Stock and Unsplash offer high-resolution photos that you can edit in any way you’d like, free from copyright restrictions.

2. Canva. This tool is a design do-it-yourself dream, with more than one million stock photos, graphics and special fonts that can be purchased for $1 each to easily design posters, fliers, social media posts and other visual layouts.

Not only does the website offer an easy way to create visuals for practically any branding purpose, Canva also became a social network in November 2014. Users can now follow contacts or find new people based on the designs they share.

“Over the past 15 months, Canva’s one million users have created more than seven million designs,” Melanie Perkins, Canva’s co-founder and CEO, told TechCrunch. “460,000 designs were created last week alone. It seemed crazy to have all of these incredible designs created on Canva and no way for anyone to see them.”

3. Easel.ly. “Infographics can be great for understanding huge amounts of information,” says Karl Gude, Michigan State University journalism professor and former infographics chief for Newsweek and the Associated Press.

Smaller brands and individual communicators can keep up with the infographics trend while staying within their budgets through tools like Easel.ly. The website offers users a variety of templates to create the perfect infographic, along with an option to create one from scratch.

Remember to keep things simple when creating infographics. Even if you can fit a ton of information, colors and fonts within the image, that doesn’t mean you should.

4. Adobe Color CC. Just as you don’t want to use cliché or clashing fonts in your designs, choosing the right colors is imperative to making your visuals something audiences want to look at.

Formerly Adobe Kuler, this tool can create a color theme for your visual designs. Users can use the color wheel or upload a graphic to get color-theme suggestions, create their own themes or search the database to see popular user creations.

Though themes can be saved and transferred over to Adobe products and apps, each five-color theme displays the codes for each hue that can be used in practically any other design tool.

5. EZGIF. For brand and community managers, GIFs can be even more powerful than photos. However, creating these looped animations doesn’t have to be hard work.

EZGIF has tools to crop, resize and optimize existing GIFs—users can upload files or the link to the GIF—as well as a GIF maker.

Now you can have the perfect reaction GIFs for online banters with customers as well as animations that spice up your blog and other social media posts.

Learn more visual media tips and tricks in our open-mic #RaganSocial Twitter chat Tuesday, Feb. 24 at 2 p.m. Central.


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