Sunday, July 3, 2022

Think in pictures – editorial photography is an investment, not a cost

By Greg Simpson, founder of Press for Attention PR and Enterprise Nation Champion for Nottingham.

I’d like to highlight an area that lets PR campaigns down again and again: pictures.

Imagine this. You are running a magazine, newspaper or website, so your goal is to help your publication sell more copies. You do this by being informative, entertaining, controversial or even conservative.

You have to attract the attention of your readers so that they will buy the publication and advertisers will continue to buy adverts. Now, imagine you are on a packed train. You have nothing to read until you spot a magazine/newspaper in a commuter’s hands. A picture draws your eye.

BINGO! You are hooked into what the story might be – you want to know more. Pictures sell stories.

Now, imagine you have a story about your company’s expansion overseas. 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, imagining the page he will run the next day and speaking to production.

They open up the press release, full of further information. They open the jpeg files you half-heartedly included, eager to see how they can build the story and illustrate what this means to YOUR business and THEIR readers.

The picture is a head and shoulders shot of the MD sat at her desk. The desk is in the office – exactly where you expect it to be. The desk is tidy. The boss is in her usual suit, with her usual half smile.

“Wait a minute. According to the press release and the PR who just called me, this overseas expansion is about to deliver the biggest period of growth in the company’s history?!

“So why do we have a CV photo? That is hardly going to set pulses racing as the reader opens up the paper 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 the magazine runs the story but it only generates a few column inches. No photo is used. Worse still, the story is 50/50 v another from a rival but they have a better photo and yours isn’t used at all. Theirs covers half a page BECAUSE of the photo.

I realise that not everybody can pull a Branson stunt and descend on Trafalgar Square in a hot air balloon. Budgets are under pressure and balloons are scarce, albeit hot air isn’t! However, the average price of a decent photographer booked for just long enough to get the shot is about £150. Tops. You just need to think creatively.


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.

Remember, you are trying to help journalists, not create more work for them!

As I write this, I’ve got quotes coming in from photographers for a client photo opportunity with me to help illustrate an expansion story for a local firm. The agency (we) are paying because we KNOW we will get ROI for the client and that is how we are rewarded.

Next time you “save” money by not getting a proper photo, think about ROI. Marketing is an investment, not a cost.

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