Write a Press Release That Reporters Won’t Mock, Part 3
Looking back on the two blog posts I wrote about press releases, I realized I gave short shrift to the subject of photos, so this unplanned post will talk exclusively about visual elements.
As I mentioned last time, include hard copies of photographs of any person quoted in a release – if you don’t already have head shots of key executives on file getting them should be a top priority -- and also send electronic copies. Use a common format such as JPEG or TIFF.
Make sure the photos you send are of a high resolution. As a newspaper editor, I regularly see photographs that are of such low quality that they’re unusable. Take photos with a real camera if at all possible; at the very least, take photos with a high-end cell phone.
Meantime, you would think it would go without saying, but send photos that are in focus and clearly show the people or subject you’re highlighting. Too often, subjects are out of focus or are too far in the distance. Publications can crop and clean up photos to some extent, but a bad photo is still a bad photo.
And make sure you label the photo file instead of using the codes generated by the camera or phone. Instead of XP7193J.jpeg, write John Doe, CEO, First Mountain Power. Doing so makes it less likely the publication incorrectly identifies the subject. Don’t laugh – it happens all the time.
Now that those basics are out of the way, let’s talk about the photo content itself.
When it comes to press photos, utilities (and other companies) tend to stick with the tried-and-true – groups of people standing in rigid lines, “grip and grins,” executives holding big ceremonial checks and golden shovels at groundbreakings.
While the free local weekly will take (and print) whatever it gets, few others will use these photos because they are trite and boring. If you remember back to the first part of this blog series, I mentioned a bad photo “hall of fame” compiled at one of my prior stops. Guess what kind of photos we posted?
Show a little creativity when you take photographs. You don’t have to make the photos look like a classic rock album cover, but do away with the conventional. Utilities actually have lots of potentially cool backdrops that can be used.
Building a solar farm to generate electricity? A wide shot of row upon row of solar panels is a striking visual. At the very least, having a group of people holding up a solar panel is better than the rigid photos that resemble your third-grade class picture.
Was a crew of linemen honored for their storm response? Have them re-create the repairs they made.
Has your utility raised money for a local charity? Instead of having a cheesy shot of people standing by a giant fake check, take a picture of the charity in action.
Getting news coverage is all about standing out. The media is inundated each day with press releases and story ideas – a large chunk of my job is simply saying “no” to PR folks – so you have little opportunity to make an impact.
Submitting an interesting photo that is clearly labeled, is of a high resolution and depicts something out of the ordinary improves your odds of getting noticed – and getting coverage.