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Meet Shlomi Ron of Visual Storytelling Institute in Coral Gables

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shlomi Ron.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Shlomi. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
Hi, I’m Shlomi Ron, CEO at the Visual Storytelling Institute.

Pay attention to your side hustles as that’s where your big story is waiting!

This is an important lesson I learned from my journey. For over 15 years, I have been working in various digital marketing roles on the agency and brand sides for Fortune 100/500 brands such as American Express, Nokia, and IBM. Working with major brands allowed me to hone my experience on a large scale with diverse audiences and global budgets.

Yet, all along, I was nursing my side passion for visual media.

I am a great believer that sometimes you need to experience the world through different cultural lenses, and that’s when I started taking Italian language classes every Saturday, just for fun. I did this for over ten years in New York and San Diego where I lived at the time. As I moved up the levels, we ditched the textbooks and watched classic Italian films and discussed them in Italian. That drove my interest later to start cafe Pellicola, a blog dedicated to fine Italian cinema. I also ran mini-film festivals in San Diego and New York where I curated the films, introduced them and ran a post-screening Q &A.

I also help to manage the Estate of Artist Buky Schwartz, my father-in-law who was one of the early pioneers of video art. As early as the mid-’70s, his video installations celebrated optical illusions made possible by the interplay between the physical and virtual. His video art is shown in major museums and galleries worldwide and found in private and public collections like the Whitney, Guggenheim and The Smithsonian. His first video installation Painted Projections (1977) was acquired three years ago by the Smithsonian American Art Museum and was part of an exhibit Watch This! Revelations in Media Art.

Working in various marketing roles, I have noticed that most businesses today are struggling to get their voices heard and break through the rising communication noise. This noise was driven by the large adoption of broadband Internet access allowing people to share rich content like video, the emergence of social media networks giving people a reason to create and share content, and lastly the adoption of mobile devices allowing people to produce and consume content on-the-go. This new landscape changed the equation from the classic one-to-many to many-to-many communication. Now audiences and brands have the same tools to create organic content.

The result is a staggering communication noise that is represented by two opposing forces: rising information overload – audiences today are overwhelmed with over 2.5 quintillion bytes of content that is published every day, of which people are seeing 10,000 ads (DOMO), while their attention span has been rapidly splintered into a million other distractions.

Therefore, after relocating to Miami from New York, with my combined experience in marketing and my passion for visual stories I started the Visual Storytelling Institute – the primary think tank that brings the promise of visual storytelling from the world of art into marketing.

As I’d like to say, we’re in the ”noise-canceling business” helping leaders rise above the communication noise and achieve delightful resonance with their audiences – one visual story at a time.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Like any good story, you need to have a few conflicts and obstacles to move the story forward, right?

In my case, when I started VSI my business model was more shaped around a trade association with monthly events and membership. That created logistic and financial challenges, and so I changed the model to more of a think tank where I offer visual storytelling consulting, production, training and thought leadership programs to educate marketers on how to connect better with their audiences. It’s an ongoing learning process where I constantly come across “new dragons” along the way and figure out the best solution.

My philosophy regarding struggles is simple. I celebrate them. Our natural tendency is to minimize uncertainty by not venturing out of our comfort zone. Whereas discomfort coming from an obstacle means growth opportunity and getting you closer to your true purpose.

Visual Storytelling Institute – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
VSI is the only think tank that specializes in visual storytelling in the context of marketing. When I started VSI, I googled “visual storytelling” and it meant graphic design, filmmaking or photography. So, I had to come up with my own definition:

“Visual Storytelling is a marketing strategy that leverages compelling narratives, placing your customer at the heart of the story, staged with an emotional visual media experience and effectively distributed across your buyer’s journey – in order to empower customers’ lives and drive business results.”
-Shlomi Ron

At VSI, I help small to large enterprise brands overcome the rising information overload that costs the US economy $900 billion a year (HBR), with a new visual storytelling approach to help brands connect better with audiences. Namely, by placing the customer (not the brand) as the hero of the story, using compelling narratives and leveraging the power of visual media to bring the story to life.

Visual Storytelling works because we know that the human brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text (3M), and 9 in 10 people prefer information packaged as stories compared to facts and stats (2018 State of Attention Report, Kelton Global).

The result is human stories that strike an emotional chord with audiences simply because of a mirror effect; the brand story you tell is actually your audience’s story, their problem, their world, and that’s why they tend to trust your solution.

In this day and age, I strongly believe that brands should develop their stories following this logic:

We do it through our partner full-stack production studio where we create high-end explainer videos, presentations, data storytelling, animated video series and animation for online courses. I also provide visual storytelling consulting, self-discovery corporate and academic training programs featuring VSI’s signature My Visual Story 9-Step Framework.

VSI led a pioneering full-semester course at The Idea Center at Miami-Dade College, and next year I will teach a Brand Storytelling course at the University of Miami’s Business School.

I am also active in educating the marketplace about the promise of visual storytelling through VSI’s thought leadership programs including public talks, media interviews, VSI Blog and the Visual Storytelling Today podcast (iTunesGoogle Play) that have placed VSI at the #1 position on search engines.

I have recently published a new book, Total Acuity: Tales with Marketing Morals to Help You Create Richer Visual Brand Stories – that brings to life visual storytelling principles through relatable stories.

I am very proud of VSI’s trajectory in carving out a unique niche that gets good attention from the media (recent mention in Forbes) and major brands that organically reach out to us.

I also enjoy working with clients and teaching students and witnessing the magic of how their personal story overlaps with their customer story in creating a compelling brand narrative. Once they create a brand narrative, it’s an exciting journey to identify supporting brand stories to bring to life through videos, images, and infographics.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
There is not one moment, but many. Each one has its own magic:

When I was invited to do a full-day visual storytelling workshop for RTI International, a $1 billion research company, and seeing my training framework come to life and exercised by participants; Developing an inspiring brand narrative and a video story for Avenue3Miami, a non-profit organization that is looking to reduce homelessness in Miami and beyond; Developing a visual storytelling presentation experience for Cable & Wireless global business strategy across 5 business divisions; And lastly, teaching at The Idea Center at Miami-Dade College a pioneering full-semester visual storytelling course, and witnessing the magic of transforming entrepreneurs’ business ideas into compelling business narratives supported by engaging video stories.

Having said that, I feel like every day that I make progress, or fail but learn something new, or when I am able to solve a storytelling problem for a client in an unexpected way – is a proud moment for me.

The thinking about achieving a lofty goal in 10 years and once achieving it, feeling a temporary pride rush that is shortly replaced with the quest for shooting for the next peak – to me is the wrong way to think about it. It’s not the destination but the journey that is made of daily happy moments.

Contact Info:

  Image Credit:
Total Acuity book cover design by Penny Raile

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