Become a PR Photography JEDI, science fiction over the fact!  

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(Blog written by Craig Gunn, Head of Photography at TNR, Press Association. You can follow Craig on LinkedIn for more insightful posts here! ) 

Whether we like it or not, for the next several years in the run-up to Christmas, the world will be engulfed with Star Wars mania after this week’s release of the latest instalment – The Last Jedi. I have been a life-long follower of the franchise having seen Empire Strikes Back in 1981 on pirate video tape. Needless to say my family and I have since spent a large sum of money on my accompanying childhood toys and attending every theatrical release since – so Lucas and Disney have definitely seen my space pounds over the years.

With Mark Hamill returning to our screens as Luke Skywalker and teaching the millennials’ new favourite character ‘Rey’ the ways of the Force, I thought I would apply some recently acquired PR speak by using that ‘hook’ to jump on the ‘bandwagon’ and ‘activate’ some pearls of wisdom to help you plan your PR photography stunts in 2018.

FICTION –The morning conference (between 8am and 10am) of all large newspapers is eagerly awaiting your PR story to run on its front page.

FACT – Unless your PR project is about the biggest news of the day, the royals or the latest Premier League results, the editor of a large newspaper doesn’t want to know about your PR story for that all important news conference. Timing is key when selling in to media and I’d say choose quieter times – SUNDAY for MONDAY is a perennial favourite through the Press Association and other picture desks who are generally bereft of content and looking for something interesting. Most picture editors after the morning conference usually give a sigh of relief for surviving the wrath of their editor, know what they are doing on their front and back pages and are just looking for that lovely nugget of a PR story to fill the middle features pages.

FICTION – Picture editors care about your brand.

FACT – They don’t as they generally see brands sucking up valued editorial space. Fight back with your clients when they start trying to inject branding into your photo shoots, it is fundamentally the number ONE main reason why an image doesn’t get pick up with editorials. When selling in your images just give them an idea of what it looks like and its artistic merits. Avoid brand mentions, keep the chat short, be naturalistic, build relationships and don’t expect them to download a link in the first instance. Attach a low res image of the best 1-2 photos from your set and leave them to do the rest.

FICTION – Picture editors love hearing about your ‘activation’, ‘campaign message’, ‘call to action’ or social media ‘hashtag’.

FACT – PR terms like the above are anathema to a picture editor. The photo caption is not a place to repeat your press release. This should be an accompanying document, not one that you have surreptitiously put onto the desk of the journalist you have developed a relationship with. A photo caption is simply WHO, WHAT, WHY, WHERE and WHEN. There is an almost Orwellian need to strip out adjectives, colourful language or anything termed fluffy so fight your corner with your clients and insist that the photo caption be simple, succinct and readable quickly as picture editors have just seconds to process an image and make a decision on its merit. In fact, if you can compose a photo illustrating clearly a minimum of 3 of the above ‘W’ elements, I’d argue you sometimes don’t even need a caption!

FICTION – I can conduct a photo shoot in a public space and hold the images.

FACT – NO you can’t. Members of the public don’t respect your multi thousand-pound production build – as soon as they see it , ‘boom’ it’s on Twitter. 15 years ago – online spaces were looking to traditional media for their content, now the relationship is reversed for good.  Giving images to a picture desk late will infuriate them so be nimble and keep the editing process quick – with ideally the client or key people there ready for sign-off. When planning a public stunt, seek permissions, do risk assessments, plan for problems with the public, have a weather contingency. In fact, all the things which really suck the life and fun out of a photo shoot do them in advance so that on the day you can relax and bask in the beauty and glory of the project you have created safe in the knowledge you won’t receive a Police fine. Remember there are a lot of stakeholder’s vying for their input – stay focused and aim for that artistic photo finish and the press clippings and ‘Pictures of the Day’ will be adorning your client reports and racking up your KPI successes.

We have an in-house PR Photography Workshop at the Press Association where I will discuss the above and much more in detail. Wise you are – yes……

Click here for more info and to book your place on our PR Photography Workshop, 31st January 2018 (£99).

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