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Two image-led social media platforms, Pinterest and Instagram, are currently in the industry’s spotlight. They are both reporting dramatic adoption figures. Pinterest attracts 245k unique visitors a month in the UK, whilst Instagram is recruiting 5 million new users worldwide every week.
However rather than a new phenomenon, this movement reinforces a basic principle that can sometimes be overlooked by PRs. Pictures are more important than words in storytelling. 80% of people only read a story if it is accompanied by a picture in the national press.
So if you want your company news to be not only printed, but also read, it is important that imagery is a central part of campaign planning. The visual side of a story should be researched, discussed and deliberated to the same extent as the wording of an announcement.
Picture desks look for pictures that define the news. A strong image can raise the prominence of your story, and even enable a ‘softer’ story to achieve coverage that it otherwise would not have. Make sure your picture is not an afterthought, but an image that captures both your message and also the news agenda.
However rather than an easy route in, picture editors maintain a high bar. They are also deluged with offers of images from staff, freelance photographers and PRs. The Press Association alone add 25,000 new editorial images online each week.
Furthermore many of the most talented PRs were born to write, able to make the most turgid news sound groundbreaking. However we are all not born with a good eye for a picture. To address this we include people with picture editing experience in all PR planning meetings.
But for us without the gift of visualisation, here are a few tips to help:
- Get to know the pictures that publications use and make sure your picture story reflects this. The satirical image of Nicolas Sarkozy today in The Daily Telegraph is in stark contrast to the close-up celebrity-led shot of Kate Bush on the cover of the Daily Mail and reinforces the difference in art direction and readership.
- A couple of great sources include The Guardian’s picture desk live, giving you the day’s best news photography ( www.guardian.co.uk/news/series/picture-desk-live ); The Daily Edit from blog aphotoeditor.com also gives creative inspiration.
- Work with freelance photographers who gain great coverage in your target publication. There will be a handful. Make sure you know who they are.
- Once you have your iconic image, don’t miss out due to failing on the basics – embed captions in your pictures, make sure your branding is subtle and get it to the nationals well before the 3pm editoral planning meeting.
I guess if nothing else, this all explains why the BBC’s most popular and successful schools programme of all time was called “Words and Pictures”.