Crafting the picture-perfect pitch

To entice media interest, the right images can be just as important as the actual story.

To entice media interest, the right images can be just as important as the actual story.

When Lori Zelenko, LSZ Communications principal, was tasked with promoting the new Russian spa Okeanos, she hired a professional photographer to shoot images of the spa to illustrate the concept of it as a luxury destination.

"How can you convey a luxury image if you have no luxury images?" she asks. Those photos were instrumental in landing a cover story in American Spa.

Editorial demand for high-quality images is a constant concern for PR pros, especially in an environment where it's increasingly harder to capture people's attention.

And images aren't just a tool for getting a pitch noticed, they're also a key element to advancing the final story.

"Take a look at whatever you want to get out there, and think of every possible image that could be associated with that," says Paolina Milana, Market Wire VP of marketing. "Don't just show a product in a lightbox; actually show it being used by the target audience."

Brian Williams, VP of consumer lifestyle marketing at MWW Group, says it shoots both product- and lifestyle-specific imagery when working with client Volkswagen.

For the recent launch of Eos, targeting upscale professional women, the team shot images that put the vehicle in a "South Beach state of mind" with the car pictured along the ocean, sunset, and palm trees.

"Beyond securing placement," Williams adds, "the lifestyle images are really important for painting a picture for the type of positioning that you'd like reporters to take."

It's also important to keep in mind the rise of online media outlets and video. "Outlets like broadcast radio and TV, [which] had never used photos before, now have Web sites that need photos," says Dan Hennes, PR Newswire's director of photo services.

Adds Brooks Gibbins, EVP at The NewsMarket, "If you look at some generally non-visual companies, you actually can find that either the people behind the products or some of initiatives they're engaged in really lend themselves well to video."

Once you have the right assortment of images, Laura Sturaitis, Business Wire VP of new media development, suggests having four formats available: a thumbnail, a slightly bigger preview image, a low-resolution version, and a high-resolution one. But she points out that being able to create those formats is reliant on having the highest-quality photo available from the start.

Just as editors' preferences for receiving images vary, so do distribution strategies.
Williams sends thumbnails or JPEGs at a relatively small file size via e-mail, keeping those messages to less than 4MB in size. "That's usually for preview purposes," he says. "Then to fulfill the final image, we'll use an FTP link or a link to download a full-size image in either JPEG or TIFF format."

Milana advises using an HTML-based platform, where the images are embedded into the press release. This won't clog an editor's e-mail because it's not an attachment.
Many PR pros rely on newswires as a vehicle for pushing press releases out and storing images, but that's only part of the equation.

"The press release is great to get the media's attention, but we advise clients to optimize their Web sites to make sure that photos, graphics, and other multimedia content are available there because that's where people will look," says Sturaitis. "We want to use the news release as a portal to that information."

Ryan Donovan, HP's director of corporate media relations, says he gets editors' attention with the pitch, and then drives them to HP's Web site, "where we've put the images and video in places where it makes sense and [is] easy to access." Through the company's newsroom, journalists can access an online image database, offering 24-hour access to different images in different formats. HP requires media to register to enter the library.

"You want to protect the brand," he notes, "[so] you have to know how those images that represent that brand are being used."

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