Who is that? Or how to waste journalists’ time

Who are they? | Supply a caption when sending photographs to journalists
Many journalists don’t have much time. They are often working to tight deadlines so have to get information fast. As many publications reduce staff, often they have to produce the same amount of material with fewer people.

This means that everything you can do to help journalists by providing interesting, good quality, detailed and accurate information gives your material a greater chance of being featured.

Who is that in the photo?

One of the most common pieces of information I have to chase up is the caption for a photo.

Many press releases are sent with accompanying photographs, but all too often there is no caption detailing the subject or naming the people pictured. Or perhaps the people are mentioned, but there is no clue as to who is who.

I have to know who is in the photo as it could be the wrong photo and include someone else entirely. This means sending an email or calling if I’m approaching my deadline.

This takes time, not a lot, but time that I would rather spend more productively on interviewing someone or writing.

Detail who and what are in your photo

When sending photos to journalists, it’s good practice to provide a caption.

Say who is in a photo and if there is more than one person, list them in order, eg (from left). It’s also a good idea to give their titles, eg managing director of [your company], so that the journalist can see the relevance of the photo to your press release.

It sounds like a small detail, but is quite important. Your photo might not be included if the journalist can’t be sure who or what it is.

It takes just a few minutes to write a caption.

Did you take my best side?

Did you take my best side? | presumeWhat do you look like?

Perhaps not a question we get asked every day, but often a journalist will ask for a ‘headshot’ – a portrait photo of your head and shoulders – to accompany an article you feature in.


Because we like to see what someone looks like.

Have you ever listened to someone speak on the radio and wondered what they look like? I find that I create a mental picture of announcers I hear year after year. Often when I do see a photo of them, they look nothing like how I imagined them.

Anyway, it’s always good to have a recent headshot ready to email with your press release.

A professional image

It’s best to get some professional portraits done, but now digital cameras can produce high quality results if you know someone good at taking photos.

To smile or not to smile?

Take a variety of shots and poses: some formal in a suit, if appropriate, and some more casual.  Smile in some and look more serious in others. I know, smiling to order is so difficult and I end up grinning inanely at the camera. An experienced photographer will put you at your ease to produce a photo that will look good in a high quality magazine.

Why a variety of photos?

To suit the tone of each publication and  article. If you’re writing about budget cuts, you probably won’t want a happy, smiling photo, whereas if you’ve just won an award you’ll want to look happy.

Select a clean background

If your office or workplace is a mess, make sure you prepare a uncluttered background. I find messy backgrounds very interesting and tend to examine them while ignoring the subject of the photo. If you have a pop-up banner or display board, pose in front of that.

Make sure that whatever is in the background does not detract from the image you want to project. It doesn’t take much to manage.

Keep your photos current

Yes, I’ve reached that time of life where I value each hair more every day: a receding hairline and a change to grey. I have a favourite photo taken about seven years ago, but I don’t use it any more because people would notice the fine head of hair now missing. Be realistic.

Be recognised

If you’re working to establish yourself as an expert in your field, a photo will help achieve this. People will spot you at events and come up and talk to you. Isn’t that great instead of having to work yourself up to introducing yourself?

Headshots are really useful in your PR.

Do you have a photo that will put you on the front page?

Do you have a photo that will put you on the front page?It’s a question I often have to ask when putting together my weekly newspaper pages. I receive an interesting press release, but there’s no picture to go with it.

How many times have you started to read an article because the accompanying photo grabbed your attention?

Do the same with your press release to get people reading your news.

What types of photo are suitable?

I always say ones that are interesting. I used to lay out a monthly magazine which had a new appointments page. Sending a good photo usually ensured inclusion on the page. After all, no editor wants their publication to look shoddy.

A high quality, interesting photo is a gift to journalists.

If your press release is about a new appointment, include a photo of the person (yesterday I had to ask for a photo from a law firm announcing a new appointment).

If it is about a new product, many general publications will prefer a photo of it in use, while technical or industry magazines could just want a photo of the ‘thing’ on its own. Look to see the type of photo each publication features and take a variety of shots to suit them all.

Generally, photos with some action or suggested movement look more interesting than people standing around looking uncomfortable.

Arty photos using light and angles creatively can provide creative interest, although some publications could find them too ‘way out’. Again, consider what each publication is looking for.

Professional vs DIY photos

A good professional photographer should be able to come up with lots of ideas for good photos and use their knowledge of technique, lighting and equipment to come up with stunning shots.

If you can’t afford professional photography, take your own. While many mobile phones now take photos at a higher resolution than previously, use the best equipment you can. Carry a compact camera with you and take photos during the course of your day or, if you want, carry a digital SLR.

Capture your people at work to provide natural scenes or capture fleeting moments when lighting creates interesting atmospheres at different times of the day. You never know what opportunities will occur and these will give you a library of photos to use when you need them.

It will also enable you to capture surprise photos like the one on this page I took when the driver of a car coming towards me too fast lost control and  flipped it on to its roof (no one was hurt). You won’t always be able to use the photo in your business, but you never know. At least you won’t say: “I wish I had my camera with me.”

Combine words and pictures

They say a picture can tell a thousand words, but often it will need five hundred words to tell the whole story. This is what your press release does.

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