Good photography for successful PR images

December 5, 2012

At a time when we all have a smartphone, it’s easy to believe that anyone can be a good photographer.

But achieving great photographs that work for your brand and communicate your key messages needs thought and consideration.

In today’s media savvy world, photography is essential both in print and increasingly online.  It used to be important for accompanying press releases or marketing collateral, but now strong images are also needed to attract and engage socially via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest et al.

In this blog we’re going to look at the basic requirements for commissioning photography primarily for print, and a future blog will look at creating ‘Images for the Internet’.

So here are 10 Top Tips to help you achieve successful images.

Know what you want

Only then can you properly brief a photographer to achieve what you’re after.  Have a vision for the images you want to achieve – even source some examples – so you can discuss this with them in advance and they can tell you whether it’s realistic.

Choosing your photographer

Work with a photographer who has the experience you need.  Start by having a good look at his or her folio or website.  Make sure they have the experience you require by subject – people, fashion, still life, sport, automotive, interiors, reportage etc – and see whether they are best suited to working on location or in a studio.  Just because someone did a great job of your sister’s wedding pictures doesn’t qualify them to take action sports shots.

What’s the story?

Remember these two sayings: ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’, and ‘Every picture tells a story’.  This is especially true today.  We are all now ‘time poor’, and with so much information available to us through so many different channels, everyone’s attention span is getting shorter.

Faced with hundreds of different stories, editors often select images they think will look good on the page and then decide on the copy. Help them by providing images that will enhance the look of their publications and websites – and get your story featured!

The Round House Waterside homes are a firm favourite with property journalists, and the rowing boat helps set the scene and tell the story.
Credit: Butler Sherborn

Composition

Remember that the subject or product has to be the hero of the image.  A creative shot may look great, but will people focus on what you want them to see or just an overall impression?

Also choose a background or location that complements the subject and helps communicate the story.

 Korando We needed a commercial background to promote this van version of the Korando 4×4.  While providing an attractive backdrop, the line up of JCBs also added to the story.  This portrait shaped image was designed as a possible front cover. 
Credit: SsangYong

Variety

The more different and varied images you can produce, the more likely an editor is to find a shot they like.  Remember to provide different angles, as well as shots that can be used as cut outs.

Korando - 2 Korando (off rd)-5919
Credit: SsangYong
These two shots were part of a series to illustrate this new off-road vehicle; both have featured widely in the press and online.

Format

When briefing photography for print media it is worth considering the format needed to maximise your opportunities.  Not every shot needs to be landscape (horizontal), and be sure to include some portrait (vertical) formats for possible use as a magazine front cover – editors often struggle to find images that are the right shape.  Remember to allow clear space at the top of the image for the publication’s masthead/title to be printed, as well as at the bottom or the side for cover mentions.  Think about the way the shot could be used.  If it’s for a possible double page spread (DPS) think about where the gutter (space between the columns of text) or spine (central crease) will fall on the image.  You don’t want a person’s face or a company’s badge or logo falling into this area.

Avoid stereotype images

It’s easy to create the same-old clichéd images such as pictures of two businessmen in shiny suits shaking hands as they agree a contract, hand over keys or receive an award.  Try and come up with something a bit different that will grab the editor’s attention and leap off the page.

 Owen Vaughan When Owen Vaughan, head gardener at Richmond Villages Painswick won an RHS Gardening Excellence award, we wanted a shot of him doing what he does best!
Credit: Richmond Villages


Write a brief

This needs to confirm the objectives, the type of images and their purpose.  Confirm the venue – location or studio, any props, models and materials required, as well as the budget.

Attend the shoot

See for yourself what is and isn’t achievable.  By actually looking through the lens and reviewing the images with the photographer as the shoot progresses, you’ll learn about important things such as light, shadow and background.  This will also help ensure you get the pictures you’ll be happy with.

Attention to detail

Keep looking and questioning to see what might be wrong.  For example, if a car is being driven, is the driver wearing a seat belt?  If people are involved, are they smiling, grimacing, wearing sunglasses or light sensitive glasses that darken in bright light?  Avoid these at all cost!  While retouching is always an option, you want to avoid the expense of a re-shoot.

Compiled in association with award winning photographer, Michael Bailie  http://www.michaelbailie.com/

Note:

Another blog in the near future will look at creating ‘Images for the Internet’.

©Copyright 2012

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How happy are you with your PR?

January 25, 2012

Journalists can be a very critical lot, and have high expectations of the service they receive from PR people.  So we asked 100 consumer journalists what they thought about the service they receive from us. 

“If you attended LawsonClarke’s recent press event, how useful did you find it?”

100%

Very Useful or Useful

0%

Neither Useful nor Unuseful

   
   

 

“How satisfied are you with the quality of the press release writing?” 93.3%Very Satisfied or Satisfied

6.7%Neither Satisfied nor Dissatisfied

 
   

 

“When contacting the LawsonClarke press office, how satisfied are you with the overall service including response and the level of product knowledge?” 90.3%

Very Satisfied or Satisfied

9.7%

Neither Satisfied nor Dissatisfied

 

 Additional positive feedback:

 “I received price info and high-res images almost immediately after requesting, very pleased with the service.” Sainsbury’s Magazine

“I have worked with the Lawson Clarke team for many years and have always received a fast and professional service.” SHE Magazine

“Keep up the good work!” Freelance journalist

“Extremely happy with the professional, efficient and friendly service that Lawson Clarke has always supplied over the years.  Long may it continue.” Freelance journalist

If you’d like to improve your brand’s relationship with the press, improve your reputation or discuss any other aspect of your PR communication, just get in touch with us.


Social media* made easy

May 10, 2011

*Aka Online PR

There’s a lot of hype surrounding social media, and for many people, still much confusion.

To help get you started and ensure you get the most out of it, here are a few thoughts and ‘top tips’.

What is it?

Social media – or Online PR – is simply about having a conversation on line.  Both speaking and listening.

Many dismiss it – and especially Facebook as being just for kids, but collectively it is now a highly regarded form of business communication.

The key advance over traditional media communication is that it provides the opportunity for a two-way discussion with your stakeholders, not a one-way broadcast.  Traditionally PRs wrote press releases and spoke to journalists, but now journalists and their readers – your customers, are online, too.

The blogger has also arrived on the scene.  These can be journalists, politicians, opinion formers and pundits, or simply enthusiastic private individuals who write about things that interest them, become authoritative in their chosen subject, and because of what they are saying attract an audience.

The channels?  Many and various but primarily Twitter, Facebook, blogs, YouTube and LinkedIn.

Double click on diagram to expand


Social media is not digital marketing

Social media isn’t about trying to sell you anything.  There isn’t an online shopping basket or PayPal page.  It is all about conversation, reputation and hearing what people think.  Imagine dropping into the pub for a drink or having friends round for a meal.  It’s not long before someone is recommending or deriding a product or service.  Reputations are made or lost based on third party endorsement.  So just ask yourself the question: do you know what’s being said about you, your product or brand online?  And if not, don’t you think you ought to be finding out by listening in?

Much of this relationship building work is what has been achieved by traditional PR for years.  The key difference is that now you can listen and converse directly and immediately.

So what’s the big deal?

Change happens, and arguably as in the case of social media, it now happens extraordinarily quickly.  Getting used to new ideas and new ways of doing things is just part of everyday life.

How did we cope before e-mail?  What business operates without the internet, and who doesn’t use a Blackberry or smart phone?  All have arrived and impacted on life in just a few years.

The way we communicate and do business evolves, and social media is just another new way of talking to your stakeholders, albeit in a very open and potentially global way.

Keep it simple

There are numerous computer tools and smart phone applications (apps) available to help, but to get going, we would recommend using Twitter, possibly Facebook and setting up a blog; YouTube if you can create or have access to relevant video footage, and LinkedIn is useful for professional networking.

Generation Y cut its teeth absorbing significant amounts of information from multiple sources – more so than any previous generation.  There’s less time for in-depth reading and attention levels are diminishing.  The 140 character tweet, images, video clips and web links are now the order of the day.  Short and punchy: just like a good newspaper headline.

Strategy

As with any other business investment decision, you’ll need to think about a few things first.  This will obviously vary if you are representing a company or organisation, or just engaging as an individual:

  • Why are you going online?
  • What do you want to achieve?  Set some objectives
  • Agree who will be the ‘champion’ or spokesperson
  • What are you going to talk about?
  • What do you want to measure, and how often?

Start slowly

Dip a toe in.  Set up profiles, then watch, listen and learn.  You’ll soon feel ready to join in.

Starting to Tweet

Engage when you feel ready.  As with many things, the more you put into it the more you’ll get out.

Use it to network, to conduct research and find out what people think. It’s also valuable for accessing news, from topics of global importance to what’s happening in your neck of the woods, geographically or professionally.  You can search for any topic.

Trust your instincts

If you understand the basic principles of media communication you’ll be fine.

The same rules apply as for writing a press release.  News is still the number one reason for engaging, so be concise, keep the language simple, direct and to the point, and avoid overt advertising puffs.  If writing corporately, avoid personal views and opinions unless expressed as a statement from the company.

Check what you’re saying

Check spelling and grammar and keep it clean and legal!  The law applies to online just as it does to printed media.

Generate traffic

Make sure you include links to – and from your website, blog, online press office and all social media locations so there’s a virtuous circle. Add hyperlinks to the sign-off of your e-mails, and include the addresses on promotional literature, signage etc.

Double click on diagram to expand

Measurement

You can measure your engagement in a variety of ways, and thereby validate the investment.  This can include:

  • Number of hits directed to your website
  • Number of followers on Twitter
  • Number of Facebook fans or ‘likes’
  • Number of customer complaints intercepted and satisfied, especially if you have turned a negative tweeter to a positive advocate
  • Number of YouTube viewings
  • Number of new bloggers writing positively – qualitative measures are also invaluable

What does it cost?

Here’s the good news – it’s free!  Well it is if you do it yourself.  If you employ a consultant to advise or manage it for you, expect to pay for their time, and only you can put a value on that and decide.

Getting help

Online PR – as with traditional PR, is fundamentally about reputation and relationship management, so a PR consultancy with social media experience or a specialist social media agency is where to head for, not a website designer or online marketing agency.

Just grasp the nettle – Don’t be afraid, you’ll soon be a natural!

Need to know more?

Follow us on Twitter, check out our website lawsonclarke.com or mail Jeremy Clarke at clarke@lawsonclarke.co.uk

©LawsonClarke Ltd



Modesty prevents….

September 17, 2010

Yeah, like that’s going to happen!

Leading independent consumer motoring website, honestjohn.co.uk, has analysed six months of Twitter data to reveal the car manufacturers that are tweeted about the most, which models are frequently mentioned and which industry figures are the most influential.

The results can be seen at: http://www.honestjohn.co.uk/twitter.

And at no. 10 in ‘The Top 20 motor industry influencers’ is…. you guessed it. (Scroll down if you didn’t!)

Their press release continues:

Those car companies that perform well are not just being mentioned on Twitter, but are actively influencing others, with research showing that it’s not just about building up a massive follower base, either. Although some of the most influential people identified through the research have a large follower base, others don’t. The most successful Tweeters influence the influencers, rather than speak to an audience that isn’t listening.

Top of the pile is Toyota’s Head of PR, Scott Brownlee, who used Twitter to great effect earlier in the year to keep owners updated with news of the brake pedal recall, in addition to more traditional forms of communication. Other top tweeters include Silverstone Race Circuit and the Driving Standards Authority – both of which really connect with their audiences.

“Having an authentic voice on Twitter is becoming crucial for any company that wants to actively communicate with those buying and owning its cars,” explained Daniel Harrison, Editor, HonestJohn.co.uk. “Those companies who are engaging with people are those that are leaving a lasting impression on them.

“There has been a lot of research done in the past into what’s causing a buzz on Twitter – in politics for instance. But this is the first time that anyone’s looked into the motor industry – despite its size and importance. At HonestJohn.co.uk we found this lack of insight into motoring tweeters rather strange, so we have compiled the top motor industry tweets.

“This breakdown finally sheds some light as to who and what have captured the imagination on Twitter. But, things change quickly, so we’ll be updating this in coming months”, concluded Daniel Harrison.

The Honestjohn.co.uk analysis has been broken down into three sections:

Most mentioned models
Top 20 motor industry influencers
Most used words in the bios of @_honestjohn followers

http://www.honestjohn.co.uk/twitter


Top 20 UK Motor Industry Influencers**

1. @ToyotaPR // Head of PR for Toyota and Lexus in the UK

2. @SilverstoneUK// The UK’s premier motorsport venue

3. @DSAgovuk// Official Twitter channel of the Driving Standards Agency (DSA)

4. @NissanUKPR // Press office team for Nissan in the UK – Gabi, Linda & Gloria

5. @valvo // PR Manager for Toyota and Lexus in the UK

6. @AstonMartin // The official home of Aston Martin on Twitter

7. @AutomotivePR// Specialist PR Agency, providing services to the global motor industry

8. @UKNissanLEAF// Official Twitter for Nissan LEAF in the UK.

9. @Andy_Francis// Co-founder of sports and auto PR agency

10. @LawsonClarke// Twitter Stream from Jeremy Clarke of Lawson Clarke

11. @Honda_UK // Tweets from Steve Kirk at Honda (UK) on cars, motorcycles and power equipment

12. @grouplotusplc// Group Lotus plc – Manufacturers of the renowned lightweight performance sportscars

13. @JaguarUKPR // The Jaguar UK PR team and press office

14. @SEAT_cars_UK// Mike Orford – Head of PR for SEAT in the UK

15. @suzanne_tennant// Ex Fifth Gear now @ Golley Slater PR

16. @TomHyundai // PR Manager of Hyundai UK

17. @InsideVolvoUK// Official Twitter feed for Volvo Cars UK

18 @AlfaRomeo_UK// Official updates from various Tweeples in the Alfa Romeo UK PR team

19. @smartfortwoUK// Official smart car news and views from smart UK

20. @MercedesBenzUK// Official Mercedes-Benz news from the UK head office in Milton Keynes


**Calculated by analysing the ratio between activity, mentions and re-tweets.





Oh please, let’s put the ‘customer’ first!

July 13, 2010

The arrival of social media has opened up the age-old angst felt by PR, advertising and marketing folk; into whose domain should this new fangled idea fall?

PR people say that because it is all about the written word, it’s rightfully theirs. (And actually I don’t disagree!) Whereas the other lot talk about ‘integrated digital communication’ and ‘understanding the technology’ blah blah, so they should be responsible.

At the recent MIPAA (Motoring Industry Public Affairs Association) Masterclass, Simon Sproule, director, communications at Renault-Nissan Alliance expounded the view that perhaps now was the time to put an end to these turf wars, and for a new profession – a third-way – to steer a path between these warring factions.

He spoke about organisations still largely structured in functional chimneys – or silos – and gave a number of illustrations to ask the question: Is it marketing or is it PR?’

See presentation: http://www.mipaa.com/images/stories/mipaa.sproule.final.pdf

A brand’s involvement at an exhibition, say, is likely to have been led by marketing, had the PR people take over the stand for the first few press days, and then left for the sales people to look after the great unwashed and do their selling bit!

And that seems to be the nub of the problem. Communications – or as I have long preferred to call it, ‘the management of reputation’ – should not be process driven through tightly defined channels, but all-embracing. Neither should it be a top-down function: surely social media has taught us about inclusivity and dialogue, and torn up the rule book of one-way propaganda from organisation to audience?

Let’s just remember that the customer – aka the audience – doesn’t give a toss about any of the ‘mechanics’. All they want is a seamless join between the editorial they’re interested in, the Tweets, the ads, the exhibition stands, the guerrilla marketing stunts, the shop (sorry – retail experience!), how the ‘phones are answered, the brand values and yes – the product as they experience it, right from purchase through to after sales and repairs for the next umpteen years.

For them, whether they’re driving a Polo, sucking a Polo or watching the polo, it’s the totality of the experience – good, indifferent or bad, and from the first to the last encounter; that’s what forms their opinion and perception of a brand’s reputation.

So yes – I agree with Mr Sproule. We need to think beyond the platforms and processes and focus on changing behaviours and opinions. We need to tell a good, coherent and consistent story, and we need to do so in the round – the full 360 degrees. And critically in my view, we need to do all of this from the recipient’s perspective – the customer, rather than at the organisation’s convenience and via a traditional and evidently outmoded structure.


Survey of journalists across EMEA reveals depth of crisis in media sector

April 12, 2010

Gemma O’Reilly, prweek.com, 12 April 2010

The traditional media industry in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) is struggling to cope with digital media and headcount cuts owing to the economic crisis, according to a new survey of senior journalists.

Burson-Marsteller interviewed 115 senior journalists from 27 countries throughout the region for the study.

According to the survey, an enormous numbers of journalists were being put out of work. Eighty-one per cent of respondents said that they were experiencing cost-cutting measures in their editorial teams.

There was broad agreement among the journalists interviewed that the quality and standards of their trade were being diminished. Thirty-four per cent said that internal cost-cutting was the biggest threat to high quality journalism today, while 17 per cent said that digital media was the biggest threat.

There was no consensus, however, about whether the digital revolution taking place in their industry was a positive or negative development. Most agreed that new digital tools had given them unprecedented access to information. However, the increased competition, as well as the de-professionalisation of their trade through citizen journalism, were all cited as serious causes for concern. Twenty-seven per cent of respondents said that blogs had damaged journalism, while 13 per cent said social media sites such as Facebook had also had a detrimental effect.

As one senior French journalist said: ‘The internet makes it much more difficult to distinguish news from noise.’

The majority of journalists surveyed said that PR agencies played an increasingly vital role in their work, either as sources of relevant information, leads for stories, or as conduits to relevant sources. Almost half (47 per cent) said that they dealt with PR agencies more than in previous years, while 28 per cent said they saw agencies as a source of relevant information.

Dennis Landsbert-Noon, chairman of the EMEA media practice, said: ‘As the media industry undergoes these tremendous changes, there is both an onus on us to ensure that our standards remain exemplary, as well as an opportunity for us to use new and exciting digital tools to communicate with traditional journalists as well as a whole new digital and social media landscape.’

http://www.prweek.com/news/rss/995817/Survey-journalists-across-EMEA-reveals-depth-crisis-media-sector/