PR Tactic In Focus: The Photocall


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What is it?

When you gather press photographers and videographers together to take a picture or video footage for a story. Photocalls have evolved from a straight ‘picture opportunity’ to one where video clips are very important.

Why should you use it?

The old maxim is very true:

“A picture is worth a 1,000 words.”

If you have a great image, or really arresting footage to go with your story you will get more media coverage and the media coverage you get will get much more attention. Images also make an immediate connection because they are much less taxing on your attention. We passively consume imagery, where we have to make a conscious decision to read or listen to something.

How should you use it?

This seems like a really stupid thing to say, but the greatest determining factor in getting a great picture is to hire a great photographer. The easiest way to find a good press photographer is to look in the daily newspaper or go online and see which photographers are getting the most credits, and are doing the best work. In every media market, there is a Press Photographers Association. They will have a listing of members and an annual awards so you can see who the top performers are.

When I’m booking a photographer, here are some of the things that I consider:

  • What is my story about? Is it a jobs announcement? Is it a new initiative? Is it a positive story? Who are the people involved?
  • What is the headline on the story? How can I represent it visually?
  • I will do a Google Image search for some key terms around the story and see what it brings back.
  • I will look at the work of a number of photo agencies around the topic and see what type of work they’ve done.
  • Who will I have in the picture? Are they co-operative? Or are they completely wooden? Do I have a proper balance of gender and ethnicity?
  • What are my best two ideas for a picture? There are no hashtags allowed because that’s just lazy.

I then pick a great photographer and tell them the story and my ideas and we brainstorm. We talk about the location, the people involved, any props and the constraints. These could be time, weather or the limitations of the people involved. We agree on a budget. Photographers are paid by time. It’s best to set this in advance. It leads to less confusion.

We agree on a release strategy. I will usually do the local and trade papers and they will do nationals. Remember, photographers know photographers. National picture editors will always open a message from a nationally renowned press photographer. In essence, you’re buying their eye and their reputation. Once you have a great press photographer working for you, you know your images will be considered. That’s massive. It means your image is in the game.

If it’s a big event you should send a Photocall notice to all of the national picture desks and news desks. This is like a press release, but it gives the name, time and date of the picture and why it’s newsworthy “X person of significance to open new £500 million hospital wing.” Always put your mobile at the end of it.
Ask your photographer if they can do some video too? Sometimes this can be a big ask and some of the more traditional photographers might not want to do it. Video is essential for social media. You can do this in a couple of ways. You can do some videos live around the photocall, without giving it away, you can then share the video of the photocall afterwards.

When should you use it?

A good picture costs money, but it’s always worth it. It’s a game of percentages. If you really need a story to succeed then go all out with a picture strategy. For other stories, you should have good images on file that you can release. This could be a good photograph of the person quoted. You should build an image library of the key people you will feature in releases and have these on file.

At MediaHQ, we have the contact details of every journalist, media outlet, producer and editor. If you’d like a demo on how to use the platform, email Gaye Gleeson on [email protected] or request your demo here.