When it isn’t being mistaken as celebrities getting free tickets to personal crisis management, public relations typically involves managing the spread of information from an individual or an organization to the public.
For centuries, the traditional means of outreach, via the news media, has been the cornerstone of public relations, but as the technology advances at such an astronomical pace, traditional media placements can no longer be viewed as the go-to medium for getting a message across. The second wave of PR, flagged by the spread of digital communications, is taking over.
What if, however, a low-tech option, painted murals, became a prominent PR channel?
In the past, murals used to be an important means of expression. During the progressive era in the United States, politicians and educators commissioned murals in schools, hospitals and on the streets to shape values. Does it still have a place in society, and more specifically in the realm of PR?
Here’s why I think murals should make a comeback:
Art tells a story
Murals add an intrinsic value to business, because what you get is a genuine and original piece of art that uniquely represents your brand. A wall mural isn’t just a painting. It’s a powerful PR tool. When you know that no two murals are exactly the same, you’re assured of a stamp of authenticity that makes your message stand out from the crowd. This is particularly important when a journalist likely receives hundreds of pitches every day, with each trying, though not always succeeding, to sway them with a different message.
People are visual creatures
According to the Social Science Research Network, 65 percent of humans are visual learners, which mean we process and understand information based on what we see. With the constant hustle and bustle of modern life, people’s attention spans have shortened considerably. It takes only one-tenth of a second to form a first impression about a person, and visualizations are no different.
These offer even stronger arguments for murals because not only do they satisfy our need for visuals, they’re the least generic means to advertise your brand, as compared to what you see on social media, which is both pervasive and repetitive. What better way is there to catch your audience’s attention?
Murals get conversations going
Serving more than just aesthetic appeal, murals are also an effective way of telling your story. Effective visuals make you want to keep looking at them and imagine more, diving into reasons why the artist creates such a piece in the first place. They provoke thought. Also, there will always be subtle and unexpected messages embedded within the details that one might have missed out on at first glance. These factors stimulate dialogue and lead us in new directions, constantly adding layers of depth each time we revisit the murals. (And, hey, who’s to say you can’t post an image of a mural on social media and spur a conversation there?)
If you need convincing, consider how the students at Lasalle College of the Arts in Singapore sought to convey messages about the country’s rich cultural heritage through a visual arts project titled “Makan Murals” (“makan” is a colloquial term for “eating” in Singapore). By infusing visual elements of Singapore’s heritage into modern day settings, they aim to build awareness around race and multiculturalism to generations across the island, and urge them to reflect on what these symbols mean to them.
How about the city of Philadelphia’s mural arts program that was kicked off in 1984? Its philosophy is that the process of creating art empowers artists to be agents of change, to stimulate conversations about critical issues, and “build bridges of connection and understanding.” Certainly, the city has been able to transform places, individuals, communities and institutions.
Social media understandably has the power of virality, which is a huge trend in the public relations industry, but that doesn’t justifiably negate the value of old-school murals. If anything, the potential of them working in tandem to make the most of your PR campaigns is even more exciting. For example, the infamous artist Ernest Zacharevic, dubbed “Lithuanian Banksy,” found a band of unlikely admirers in graffiti-averse Singapore when images of his mural in Malaysia, depicting a knife-wielding Lego robber, started storming the virtual world.
Though the face of PR is ever changing, and it seems we may be stuck in the social media generation for a while, perhaps there’s still value in going a little old-school with some paint on a wall. â
Tiara Robyn Chew is a PR professional at The Hoffman Agency Singapore by day and an aspiring mural artist by night.