Putting on a good photo call is something of a dying art.
Once the daily bread of local newspapers and magazines, they’ve now become less and less frequent as companies, councils, organisations and agencies often find it’s a struggle to get journalists and photographers to attend.
With reporters more stretched than ever due to the savage cutbacks forced on the industry when the advertising market went south along with the British economy in 2008, combined with the advent of 24 hour news which has many of them working round the clock, it’s entirely understandable.
Instead, with time more precious than ever, news desks are relying more and more heavily on submitted content – blogs, letters, reader photos and the much-maligned concept of “citizen journalism” and, of course, press releases from award winning PR agencies!
However, if you’ve got big news to announce, there’s still no better way of engaging with the media than through a good old photo call.
If you’ve got something to announce or, perhaps more importantly, something to show people – whether it’s B2B PR, B2C communications, food PR, outdoors PR, packaging PR, environment PR or something else entirely – a well done, timely and organised photo call ensure the best possible coverage.
It can also help create relationships, generate support and secure maximum coverage.
So how should one go about it in this challenging climate? Here are Pelican’s top five tips for holding the perfect photo call.
1 – Do you need to hold a photo call?
The first and perhaps most obvious piece of advice is to first establish whether or not a photo call is required in the first place.
Do you really need to try and drag hard-pressed journalists and photographers out of the office in order to announce that you are launching a new poster campaign or opening a new warehouse?
Instead, if you’ve got routine news that reporters won’t need to see for themselves in order to understand, send out a simple, concise press release and good quality picture then follow it up with a phone call to see if they’re interested.
If they are and want additional information or content – they may appreciate a telephone interview, for example, to expand on the story – then move heaven and earth to help.
You may make an ally and be able to generate repeat coverage with the journalist knowing they can rely on you to provide clear, concise and interesting information to fill a hole in their publication.
To decide whether you need a photo call, why not speak to a journalist?
Have an off-the-record conversation and ask them whether they feel it would be worth their time and their colleagues’ time to attend the event you’re thinking of hosting.
Not usually ones to mince words, they’re sure to let you know pretty clearly one way or another.
2 – Set a clear plan and inform, but don’t be knocked off course by, key stakeholders
So you’ve got something incredibly exciting happening and even your usually surly contact at your local newspaper or key trade title seems mildly giddy about it – what happens next?
The important thing, we think, is to prepare well and plan ahead.
Whether the photo call is in six hours, six weeks or six days, when you decide it’s happening it’s vital to let everyone involved know the what, where and when.
This can help you formulate a plan, refine your messages and ensuring everything is in order.
Do not, however, make the mistake of preparing a photo call by committee – that almost always will result in a compromised outcome.
Clear lines of responsibility are key and an overall leader is needed.
Take charge, retain control and ensure your focus remains on making the event one that journalists are interested in writing about and photographers are interested in taking pictures of.
It is not about ensuring Mr Big feels important and gets his moment in front of the cameras.
Staying true to this can often be the most difficult part about arranging photo calls and it sometimes takes a skilled communicator to have those difficult conversations and navigate a political minefield of competing agendas to ensure everything remains on track.
3 – Deliver on the day
Through planning well and understanding what journalists want you should have a clear idea of how your photo call will work on the day.
If you have something spectacular to display, be it a new product, building or something else visual, ensure that it looks its best.
If someone is giving a speech, presenting a report or even putting on a show, ensure they have practiced and can deliver in an engaging way.
If the project is big enough, time allows and you can do so without letting the cat out of the bag, you may even consider doing a trial run.
Remain focused on the end result – what will be of interest to journalists and photographers?
If it won’t be interesting to them then don’t do it.
4 – Limit attendance and fuss
There’s nothing that will kill the buzz around a photo call than a large, unmanageable cluster of people.
Often photo calls are used for the wrong purposes, usually to ensure the aforementioned Mr (or for that matter, Mrs) Big – or even multiple members of the Big family – get themselves in the paper.
However, failure to tackle and control this issue can severely hamper a photo call.
Once your content is in place let it do the talking.
Put in place a programme that will showcase it to its maximum effect and tailor interviews to compliment it, limiting numbers of attendees to ensure it isn’t confusing.
Better still, let journalists make the decision on how to shape the interviews they do and try to encourage stakeholders to see the bigger picture rather than being too concerned whose name is front and centre.
We guarantee that embracing this concept will make it more likely that journalists embrace the story.
If you let reporters ask the questions, with a few subtle pointers to help steer them, they will almost always find the right answers.
If they don’t, then that’s the fault of the person giving the answers – and if a person doesn’t know their stuff about the photo call they probably shouldn’t be there in the first place.
5 – Make new friends
A successful photo call can send everyone away with a good feeling.
It should be an enjoyable and interesting event that drives positivity and imparts momentum into a project, programme or initiative.
In the same way, you want journalists to leave with a positive feeling and, if they do, there’s a good chance they’ll happily answer the phone next time you call.
Follow up with them, even if it’s just to drop them an email to say thank you for attending or covering the story.
It’s a simple common courtesy but one that is often forgotten.
Pelican Communications are specialists in the environment, food and drink, outdoor and leisure and packaging sectors and offer a range of services such as media relations, brand management, event management and people development. Contact us for marketing and communications expertise.