FOCUS: PHOTOGRAPHY; Giving pictures the right focus

PHOTO FITTING: Allowing photographers to exercise their individuality can make your photo call too good to refuse THE CELEBRITY ANGLE: Soap stars and sports heroes who aren’t too heavily branded make good focal points PHOTO LIBRARIES: Putting images on-line allows easier user access and lets agencies target specific markets

PHOTO FITTING: Allowing photographers to exercise their individuality

can make your photo call too good to refuse

THE CELEBRITY ANGLE: Soap stars and sports heroes who aren’t too

heavily branded make good focal points

PHOTO LIBRARIES: Putting images on-line allows easier user access and

lets agencies target specific markets

If you want your publicity shot to reach the page you’re going to need a

picture that is exciting and preferably individual. Nick Purdom gets

advice from the experts

‘We get 25 or 30 photocall notices a day from which we select four, so

they’ve got to be good,’ says Ron Morgans, picture editor of the Daily


With so many photocalls taking place, not to mention the plethora of

other non-PR generated news events, you need to get everything right if

your photocall is going to produce pictures in the papers.

So where do you start?

The key factor to the success of a photocall lies in realistic targeting

of the press. ‘One of the biggest problems I find is PR staff not

knowing about the papers they’re targeting,’ says David Jester, picture

editor of the Birmingham Post. ‘Grip and grin cheque presentations are

really local paper stuff and go straight in the bin.’

John Voos, a staff photographer for the Independent who also works on

the paper’s picture desk, advises getting the photographer involved at

an early stage, but not all papers welcome such an approach. ‘We haven’t

got the time to advise PRs how to get into our paper,’ says Morgans.

One of the most common complaints levelled at PR people is the tendency

to exaggerate the potential of a photo opportunity. ‘Often a photocall

sounds good, and the PR does a good job selling it, but when you get

there it’s nothing like they said,’ says Financial Times news picture

co-ordinator, Chris Lawson.

Coming up with a good idea, getting the photocall notice right, choosing

the right time of day is fundamental, but the most professionally

prepared plans can be undermined by bad handling on the day. ‘All too

often PR operators spend more time trying to lay down the law to

photographers, rather than their clients. PR people often seem to be in

awe of the people they are representing.’ says the FT’s Lawson. ‘They

should tell chairmen and chief executives about the value of pictures in

the papers, and advise them to expect to spend a fair amount of time

having their picture taken.’

Most photo-journalists recall good photocalls as those in which they

were allowed enough time to create a sense of exclusivity to their

product. Colin Beere, a freelance photographer for the Financial Times

says: ‘Too often the PR says you’ve got ten minutes, when another five

minutes could make all the difference to getting in the paper. You need

to ensure that all photographers have the chance to get a different

shot. If the picture desk only gets one decent shot they will suspect

that the other papers have got that too and are less likely to use it.’

Branding is another sensitive issue, particularly with celebrity-backed

consumer products - most papers react badly to blatant plugs. The

Independent was recently invited to a photocall launching the BT

Festival of Dance. The photocall notice advised that Wayne Sleep and

three young dancers would be appearing in a field with BT satellite

dishes behind them, forming the perfect backdrop. ‘I can’t think of

anything worse,’ says photographer John Voos. ‘The whole thing was

contrived, the satellite dishes were there to publicise BT and were not

the perfect backdrop at all.’ Needless to say, the Independent did not

attend the photocall.

Celebrities tend to be seen as a catch all, particularly when it comes

to consumer product launches and announcements.

Dan Holliday, account director at Hill and Knowlton, recently organised

a photocall linked to a Walkers Crisps ‘in pack’ sales promotion.

Realising that the tabloids were already swamped with stories of major

National Lottery wins and that a customer digging a Golden Tazo out of a

bag of Walkers Crisps wasn’t going to be a major draw, Holliday chose

the celebrity route.

He picked on Coronation Street girls Chloe Newsome (Vicki McDonald) and

Tracey Shaw (Maxine Heavy) to provide the necessary bait for the

photocall. ‘You need to understand the draw of different celebrities.

Coronation Street has such a strong pull that if you use people from the

show the tabloids will cover it if it’s a good story.’

Holliday provided the link between his chosen celebrities and the Golden

Tazo story with a ‘Streets of Gold’ strapline. The strongly tabloid

angle, together with the presence of Chloe and Tracey in short gold lame

dresses and long boots, ensured a good turnout by press photographers

and strong branded coverage in the Sun and Daily Star.

A larger than life personality, American football giant William ‘the

Refrigerator’ Perry, provided a perfect photo opportunity for Cohn

andWolfe on behalf of client the London Monarchs. The Fridge was used to

gain publicity for the start of the American football season in Europe.

Photocall notices went out to all the nationals with the angle ‘The

Refrigerator touches down in London’.

The photocall took place in Piccadilly Circus, and the whimsical

inclusion of a refrigerator as a prop. A subsequent press conference

enabled the press to meet the Fridge and find out more about the

Monarch’s ambitions for the season. Photo coverage appeared next day in

the Times, the Daily Mail, the Independent, the Daily Express and the

Guardian and later in the Sun, the Daily Telegraph, 1015 (the Times’

kid’s supplement) and the Young Telegraph.

‘We allowed photographers scope in the shots they could take, but at the

same time ensured the Monarch’s logo was clear in all shots,’ says Cohn

and Wolfe account executive Tanya Veingard.

‘We also employed a picture agency, Allsports, so we could have the

photo wired to the regionals and those nationals that couldn’t make it.’

This led to regional coverage in 12 papers, including the Eastern Daily

Press, Shropshire Star and Western Morning News.

A celebrity minus a story line, however, is likely to fall flat on his

or her face along with the client, and it is often unknowns, combined

with a news angle and a visual hook that create column inches.

Countrywide director Pauline Kent recently achieved coverage in all the

tabloids for a photocall about Safeway’s new advertising campaign. The

photocall used the stars of the campaign, Harry and Molly before the

advertising broke on television. - the story of ‘When Harry met Molly’

encapsulated in a carefully staged first kiss. ‘It was very simple, but

it worked,’ says Kent. ‘The timing was right, the characters are cute

and cuddly, and kids and sex appeal seem to work.’

Kent also secured a page and a half feature in the Sun for the launch of

Safeway’s Kids Zone by giving the Sun an exclusive shot of young Harry.

Arranging a creative photocall for City news is particularly difficult,

but some City PRs are meeting the challenge.

‘In the last year there’s been a movement away from the dull head and

shoulders shot and an attempt to inject as much interest as possible

into pictures,’ says Julian Hanson-Smith, managing director of Financial

Dynamics. ‘We try to give pretty well total freedom to photographers,

but there is a cut-off point if they try to make senior managers do

something that is patently out of character.’

On the day Sainsbury’s launched its new ‘loyalty’ card, Financial

Dynamics sought to achieve counter-publicity for client Tesco linked to

the announcement of additional benefits for Tesco Clubcard holders. The

agency ensured coverage in a majority of the nationals by playing to

both consumer and City interest by parading Tesco chairman around one of

the stores clutching a basket of his produce.

‘There was a lot of consumer interest, because so many people have a

Clubcard, and there was a link to the financial pages given the impact

of the announcement on Tesco’s trading performance,’ says Hanson-Smith.

Well staged photocalls still stand a good chance of producing column

inches, but there are no guarantees against the unexpected.

‘Photocalls are risky, which is why I usually spend no more than pounds

2,000 on them,’ says Kent. ‘I’ve known people who’ve spent pounds 10,000

on a celebrity and got no coverage at all because a major news story

happened on that day. This leaves the client very disappointed because

they feel all their money’s gone up in smoke.’ l

Photo calls: Getting it right


Do choose your day with care - if England are playing in a cup final,

forget it

Do give enough notice - don’t expect photographers to turn up for a 2pm

photo call if you only informed them at 10am the same day

Do brief your client properly and don’t be afraid to tell the client

what to do.

Do book a celebrity who’s in vogue, sadly that doesn’t include Val


Do get permission to use the location - shots of policemen throwing out

the managing director have impact, but are not the sort of publicity

you want

Do give photographers time to get the shots they want - mugshots are


Do ensure you give a contact name and for the following 24 hours so

picture editors can call you for more information


Don’t arrange your photocall for 5pm on a Friday evening just because it

suits the client

Don’t expect photographers to troop to the middle of nowhere

Don’t line up board directors with BS5750 certificate and ask them to

say cheese

Don’t cover the subject in company logos

Don’t try to order photographers around

Don’t be afraid to ask the chairman to smile

Don’t think champagne and caviar guarantee a picture in the paper

Don’t confiscate a photographer’s film if you’re worried it’s got an

embarrassing shot on it - it may have a good one too

Don’t pester the picture editor by asking if your picture is going to be

used - you’ll probably make him say no

Photo libraries: The digital revolution

While most users still prefer traditional paper catalogues,

photolibraries continue to prepare for the expected digital revolution.

Getty Communications followed up its acquisition of Tony Stone Images in

March 1995 by buying the world famous Hulton Deutsch Collection in April

this year.

Nick Wilson, director of Digital Getty, is responsible for new media

strategy within the Getty Communications group. He plans to increase the

appeal of CD-ROM by improving the user interface and targeting releases

at specific markets. Getty is also looking at DVD (digital video disc),

which will be able to hold far more images than CD-ROM and have a more

sophisticated indexing and interface system. But it could be four years,

Wilson believes, before DVD has sufficient market penetration to make it


Hulton Getty already offers digital fulfilment for its black and white

images, but Wilson says it may be some time before clients can receive

high quality colour pictures on-line. ‘There are a number of

technological barriers to fulfilling client requests digitally - for

example colour calibration problems - but we aim to test a system in the

near future.’

Signpost is developing its multimedia on-line business library, adding

about 300 images a week, and now has around 170 customers. The system

can be used as a media desk facility, but the company is still looking

for its first project in this area.

Corporate archiving is another target market for Signpost. British

Steel’s photo library, which contains shots of generic interest such as

suspension bridges and steel-clad housing, is now on-line and available

to subscribers. ‘The connection and service charge to get on the system

is pounds 10,000 and we then charge pounds 1,200 per managed gigabyte,

so you can effectively set up corporate archiving for pounds 11,200,’

says Signpost MD, Richard Johnson.

Another library to go on-line with Signpost is the Pickthall Picture

Library, which specialises in watersports.

A new service offering PR agencies a direct line into all national and

regional newspapers and magazine picture desks is being provided by PR. Companies can buy time on the system at pounds 250 for

one hit for one week for up to 20 images. can scan in photographs in any format, but prefers 35mm colour

negatives or transparencies. Images can be supported by captions and

press releases. Publications access the system free of charge, and are

sent a bi-weekly fax telling them what’s available. ‘Unlike existing

wire services, it is the PR company that decides what material they

would like to put on-line,’ explains director, Aidan Sullivan.

Of the other major libraries, Robert Harding Picture Library is trying

to encourage people to use CD-ROM by releasing some images only on this

format. This spring it released a CD-ROM containing around 9,500 images

covering a complete spectrum from lifestyle to industry, none of which

are featured in its paper catalogues.

Zefa has just released its second Stock Market CD-ROM, containing around

6,000 images, and a new European people catalogue - ‘because our files

were looking a bit American,’ says director, Harold Harris. Stock Market

is digitising 50-60,000 images so it will be able to send selections to

clients on Photo-CD. ‘This is already being done in New York, I think,

but there is no demand for it here yet,’ says Harris. In Germany, Zefa

is also experimenting with low-resolution images on the Internet.

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