Why spend £thousands on a press launch, conference or photocall, only to miss valuable coverage? Follow my 10 tips for success – ‘from the horse’s mouth’ – to help ensure your press events deliver maximum value and PR benefit. This is the first in my series of articles about PR photography.
The best time of day is between 10am and mid-day. Many photocalls are scheduled for around 8am – please don’t do this as many picture desks assign jobs when they start work at around 7am, so you won’t get a good turnout to a photocall at 8am (and the photographers who do turn up will hate you for making them get up so early).
When considering timing, if it’s an outdoor shoot, take account of the quality of light and the position of the sun – and make a contingency plan in case of rain or high winds. Check your forward planning diary for competing photocalls and events which might divert photographers away from your event (I use Foresight, which is pretty up-to-date and accurate).
On the day, please don’t make photographers sit through long presentations or you might lose some of them to other jobs. The photocall is unlikely to take long so, if possible, get this out of the way first, allowing time for radio, TV and other interviews at the end.
2. Celebrities (and ‘non-celebrities’)
You will not be popular with press photographers if you promise Cameron Diaz appearing from a cloud of dry ice, only for them to be confronted by a Z-lister from TOWIE or, even worse, a bloke in a grey suit standing in front of a giant logo. If you do have a celebrity, ensure that their brief covers enough time for all the photographs to be taken: don’t let them walk after five minutes. They have been paid handsomely for their appearance – let the photographers decide when they have the images they need.
Secondly, don’t skimp on the budget for the celebrity. If you’re aiming for quality coverage, £5,000 spent on a Z-lister is £5,000 wasted.
3. Look after the photographers
Contrary to what our editors might think, we are human beings and we like to be loved, just like everyone else! Please make sure we have somewhere warm and dry to wait – and some coffee and croissants go down a treat. As the MD of one major PR agency put it: “Make the photographers your friends.” He’s right, and it pays off.
Target your market: don’t send celebrity pics to the FT and don’t target the Mirror with dry corporate announcements. Don’t spam the Sundays with pics on a Wednesday if you’re also sending them to the dailies. And please don’t send hi-res photos to journalists’ email accounts unless they specifically request them.
5. Press releases
It’s nice to have an abridged version for the photographers – no encyclopedias please! – just a summary paragraph and a left-to-right for the caption. We just don’t try to get all the relevant information onto one sheet and, if possible, also on a USB stick. And please let us have the information before we leave – don’t say you’ll email it to us.
6. Listen to the photographers
They do this day in, day out and many have been doing so for a long time. They know what works and what doesn’t. Ask them for – and listen to – their ideas, take their suggestions on board and be prepared to adapt accordingly.
Give the photographers time and space (and, if possible, wi-fi access) to wire their pictures after the event. A small consideration, but it has big benefits for everyone. The longer it takes the photographers to get their photos, there less chance there is of them being used.
Please don’t ‘over brand’ and please, please, don’t use branding boards. And don’t hire a fabulous, photogenic location, only to set up the photoshoot in front of a branding board! And do suggest to your client that their logo shoehorned into every single frame is likely to be counter-productive.
9. Managing expectations
Please manage the expectations of the client and don’t promise something that is not realistic. If we attend a photocall at 4pm, it isn’t going to make tomorrow’s nationals. If the glossy monthlies are your target, the client is unlikely to see anything for about three months.
Whilst your client may think their press conference is interesting and highly newsworthy, picture desks may have different ideas, and clients should be aware of the unpredictability of the news agenda.
10. Plan and consult
Think about what you want the pictures to achieve, and how they may be used. Think of their ‘media appeal’ – will a picture editor really get excited by a long row of middle-aged blokes in grey suits? Or someone from Eastenders standing in front of a giant inflatable giraffe? On a similar note, please think carefully about ‘PR stunts’. What might seem like a great idea in a brainstorming session may not work quite as well as expected in the cold light of day.
Some photographers (me included) offer consultations on the planning and logistics of a photocall, and will even help you stage manage the event itself. I have been involved with numerous photocalls on this basis – from the early planning stages (including the development of creative ideas) through to the post-event follow-up.
Without due planning and creative input, PR photography can be a disaster – my input han help you get in right first time.