Getty focuses on its image development

Customer and media education is key as the 13-year-old company discusses its evolution

Even though Getty Imageswas founded only 13 years ago, the company has reinvented itself more than once. It started as a stock photography company, mailing negatives of photos to ad agencies and waiting for the return to send them off to the next firm.

Then the Seattle-based company turned to the growing digital space, making it the first image company to license imagery online, according to The New York Times. And now, through a series of acquisitions, Getty is a full-fledged media company, with offerings ranging from music, video footage, multimedia, and, of course, its old standby, photography.

For example, the company moved into the music industry when it completed the acquisition of Pump Audio, a provider of independent music to content creators around the world, in June 2007.

When Caroline Andoscia, who was named VP of corporate communications this June, began to talk with Getty about joining the corporate communications team, the evolution of the company, as she calls it, appealed to her because it presented challenges for her as a communicator.
Andoscia is now using her background in consumer and fashion PR – she previously worked for Omnicom Group's BlueCurrent and Condé Nast Traveller – to help shape Getty's evolving message platform.

“We've got the strongest brand as far as imagery goes, so trying to reshape that is definitely fun and interesting,” adds Bridget Russel, the company's Seattle-based senior director of internal and corporate communications.

In February 2008, Getty announced that private equity firm Hellman & Friedman would acquire it for $2.4 billion and it would become a private entity. Both Andoscia and Russel speak to how going private allowed the company to tell the story it wants to, without being weighed down by earnings reports and investor relations.

“Sometimes you don't get to tell the real depth and breadth of the story that you have because – as we know from what's happening in the stock market now – a lot of news is just market-driven,” says Andoscia. “Since we really don't have to do that anymore, we don't have to really focus on that story.”

Russel notes that educating the media and customers about changes to the company has been a big component of its reshaping. She adds that there has been an effort to educate internal divisions about what the other departments may offer so they can speak knowledgeably to both current and potential customers.

In terms of media coverage, the company has found itself in the unique position of expanding from its traditional outlets, which included business reporters, analysts, and the creative trades. Now it targets a much broader, more consumer-based media audience.

Even the number of trade magazines that the company targets has grown. Its footage division looks to Variety, while its music division targets Billboard. Image publications like Photo District News and American Photo Magazine remain important for the core business. Andoscia notes that increased outreach to the New York media community and digital media has been vital for Getty.

“Now we're trying to tell the digital media story,” she says. “When you hear the name Getty Images, I think a lot of people think of a stock photography company or the photo credit in the newspaper.”

In July, the company announced a partnership with Yahoo's Flickr that allows the members of the online photo management site to have their images licensed by Getty. The company has based its growth on anticipating changes, especially in a media industry that has undergone so much recent tumult, explains Russel.

The Flickr union was one of the first leaps into the consumer market for the traditionally b-to-b company. Andoscia says that consumer shift is one thing that drew her to the position. She also notes that the company is preparing to launch a number of consumer initiatives for the first time, highlighting Getty's progression.

“My greatest achievement would be, in two or three years, to say, ‘Oh, it's that great digital media company,'” says Andoscia.

At a glance
Company: Getty Images
Headquarters: Seattle
Cofounders: Mark Getty and Jonathan Klein
2007 revenue: $858 million
Key trade titles: Photo District News, American Photo Magazine
Comms budget: Undisclosed
Comms team: Caroline Andoscia VP of corporate communications; Bridget Russel, senior director, internal and corporate communications; Alison Crombie, senior director of PR, Europe, Middle East, and the Americas; Peggy Willett, director, community and industry relations
PR agency: Edelman

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