I’d love to highlight an area that lets PR campaigns down again and again and again….
Imagine it like this. You are running a magazine so your goal is to help your publication sell more copies. You do this by perhaps being informative, entertaining, controversial or even absolutely conservative. Whatever your style and remit is you have to attract the attention of your readers so that they will buy the publication.
Now, imagine you are on a packed train. You have nothing to read so your eyes wander around the carriage until you spot a magazine in a fellow commuter’s hands. A picture draws your eye – “isn’t that whatshername? What’s she up to?
BINGO! You are hooked into what the story might be – you want to know more.
Tabloid newspapers are great at this – the front page “splash” is normally dominated by a picture – sometimes the front page has another more serious story too but they can’t attract you with that. Now, a shot of X celebrity stumbling out of a car will hook the attention. Maybe not yours but it will hook the attention of the market that publication is shooting for.
Imagine you have a story about your company’s expansion overseas. Wow! Fantastic news! You promptly get in touch with your key media.
“Think about the jobs that will be created, the impact on the business,” you tell the journalist before you get ready to send over the press release.
“This really is great news, tell me more” the journalist replies, getting excited, imagining the page she will run the next day after the production team has weaved its magic.
“How will we run this on the page, where do we put it, actually let’s have a look at the photos to see how much space we give to it…”
They click to open up the press release, full of further information and insightful quotes. They click on the jpeg files you lovingly attached, eager to see how they can really build the story and illustrate what this means to the business and their readers.
Pow! They open it and….pop….fizzle…urrghhh……errrmmmm….fade to black….
The picture is a head and shoulders shot of the MD sat at his desk.
The desk is in the office – exactly where you expect it to be.
The desk is tidy.
The boss is in his usual suit, with his usual half smile.
“Wait a minute. According to the press release and the PR consultant who just called me, this MD is over the moon with this news. Surely this overseas expansion is about to deliver the biggest period of growth in the company’s history?!
“So why do we have the equivalent of a CV photo? That is hardly going to set pulses racing as the reader opens up the magazine tomorrow. We can’t trail that on twitter or the website promising the full story the next day.”
So sadly, what often happens next is that the magazine runs the story but it only generates a few column inches. No photo is used.
Now, be honest, step away from the situation. Would you glance over someone’s shoulder and be desperate to learn more? Would you flip through the magazine as you wait in reception for a meeting? I doubt it. So what is a great story gets ignored by a huge potential market.
Now I totally realise that not everybody can pull a Sir Richard Branson stunt and descend on Trafalgar Square in a hot air balloon. I realise budgets are under pressure. However, the average price of a decent photographer booked for just long enough to get the shot thanks to a decent brief from the PR is about £100. Tops. You do not need to spend more. You just need to think creatively.
You my friend need to…
Think in pictures.
Aim to tell the story without the need to read on in huge detail or at least make people want to read about the story behind the picture.
Ensure there is a human element to them – i.e. try to use people in your shots (ensure you have permission, particularly if children are involved) and please remember to caption them left to right with full names and if appropriate, job titles of who is in the picture.
Remember, you are trying to help journalists, not create more work for them!
Greg Simpson is the author of The Small Business Guide to PR.