The rising power of images in Public Relations

the rising power of images in public relations
After the news of President Barack Obama’s re-election broke, his team tweeted an image of him hugging his wife with the caption “Four more years.”

12 hours later, it had been retweeted over 700,000 times.

Imagery has always played a crucial role in a PR campaign. Whether it is catching your audience’s attention with a striking photo or a picture of a client with a certain brand, imagery can communicate both a message and emotion.

The rise in social media has made communicating ideas through pictures easier and more effective. The increasing popularity of Instagram, Pinterest and Storify, and Twitter’s Vine function, shows our world’s increasing interest in pictures with short impactful messages.

In a survey by ROI Research, 44 percent of respondents were more likely to connect with brands if they included pictures. Respondents were less likely to connect with a brand through memes, links or status updates.

PR professionals must evolve quickly to meet the changing needs and desires of their clients’ target audiences. Matthew Fearn, The Daily Telegraph’s picture editor, said, “The sheer volume of imagescoming in means it takes a lot for a PR shot to get through now.” Ten years ago, The Daily Telegraph would receive 5,000 images a day. Today it receives up to 50,000 images a day.

A Diversified Approach

Andrew Parsons, photographer and co-founder of i-Images, an editorial picture agency that wires pictures to media across the world, was hired by both David Cameron and Boris Johnson during their election campaigns in the UK.

Parsons stresses that PR professionals should consider behind-the-scenes images, instead of posed corporate shots. Natural and personal images will offer a much greater affect than posed images. Today’s audiences do not trust posed business or political figures, they would rather see people or businesses as they really are.

Pictures have the ability to humanize a brand or a company. “Many are doing too many formal event-type pictures. Picture editors and the public are bored of seeing a man on a stage. They want a different angle,” said Parsons.

Neil Henderson, head of Communications for MasterCard in the UK and Ireland, feels that there is a lack of creativity and flexibility in PR agencies’ methods of delivering and producing images. He sees packages “with the same template that has been rolled out over the past ten years.”

Today’s audience is constantly exposed to messaging and “is getting bored easily and now wants to touch and feel experiences. Pictures allow this,” said Henderson.

The increase in social media has led to users uploading their own pictures and sharing them. Some innovative brands and companies have followed this trend and are now experiencing greater exposure.

MasterCard ran a visually-based campaign for the Olympics that captured people’s reactions to major events. Lego ran an image-based campaign where customers were invited to submit creative pictures of Lego creations to the company. The most creative image was used in their Facebook campaign. Lego’s head of social media, Lars Silberbauer, said, “at Lego, we are at a stage where we would rather build a stage around our customers’ content than a campaign using fixed assets.”

Genuine and Real Content

Jo Tanner, InHouse Communications co-founder, stresses the rising importance of amateur photographers and the authenticity they offer through their images. The images they produce help show the popularity of the brand, increase consumer engagement with the brand and give the brand’s image flexibility.

“There are times when the availability of authentic images is a powerful tool in itself and can be shared effectively. It offers a break from the manufactured PR approach,’” said Tanner.

New and Captivating Opportunities

Innovative companies are utilizing the power of images and putting more funding into developing better and more impactful imagery.

David Barrett, PicPR’s founder, develops client packages that include photos. “Opportunities are opening up. For example, media outlets quite often won’t have the budget to send out a photographer. And good photography still feels like an afterthought for many agencies.” That needs to change.

Whether PR agencies will take advantage of the opportunities images present is unclear, but those who do will be able to reach a greater audience in a way that will deliver their message and a greater amount of impact.

Consumer Content Opportunities

We Are Social helped Hunter Boots develop and launch a global Facebook campaign. During the time of year when many countries have some of the worst and most extreme weather conditions, We Are Social was asked to raise awareness for boots. The campaign was called Together Through Any Weather. Fans were able to win Hunter Boots prizes by entering pictures based on the daily weather theme.

Fans uploaded their images to a Facebook app. Hunter Boots selected its favorite images to post to its Facebook wall. The contest ran for a month and received 2,000 entries, 7,755 visits to the app and 8,000 Facebook fans. January’s Facebook sales, normally a slow month, were the third highest since Hunter Boots joined Facebook in 2008.

Behind the Scenes and Personal images

With the rising power of images, PR agencies must embrace the use of impactful and meaningful pictures. Posed corporate images are no longer sufficient. Today’s audience desires personal images that humanize a company or brand. Images must be able to not only capture a customer’s attention, but make them develop a deeper connection with the company.