Marketing & Communications Centre > Marketing Essentials > Help Sheets > Painting the Picture

Painting the Picture

A picture tells a thousand words.

Everyone knows the old saying, but for a community group trying to get media coverage for events, announcements or launches, it takes on renewed emphasis.

Community groups tend to come up with a story, get a media release written, send it out or contact a journalist.  The question that often comes back from the journalist or media outlet is - "Is there a picture in it … how can we illustrate the story?"

Being ready with a photo opportunity or good pictures for TV or print can make the media far more receptive and most likely boost coverage of your story. Conversely, the absence of a photo opportunity could see a reduction in the coverage or, worse still, see it ignored all together.

In coming up with a visual image it pays to remember that someone standing behind a podium is unlikely to provide exciting or interesting enough pictures for TV or newspapers.  There are exceptions such as major set piece speeches where it is important enough to draw people no matter what the location, but even then, the trick is to organise a backdrop that provides not only an interesting picture but helps to sell your message.

Why is it important to think in pictures?

A really strong story, good or bad, will push its way into the paper on its merit.
But any journalist or editor will tell you that a good, colourful, striking, interesting or dramatic photograph can elevate a story into the paper or take it from something that would normally appear on Page 27 and push it to Page 3.

And a great photo can be run with just a caption and no story at all - just because it's a fantastic image.

Every newspaper and TV station looks for good picture-driven stories to balance the daily news coverage. If the main story of the day is fairly heavy covering politics, social problems, war or violence, the editor will try to balance the pages with a change of pace, something with an upbeat or good feel about it.

Ensuring your group provides a good photo opportunity

Keep in touch with photographers or picture editors

Journalists and photographers can come at stories from different viewpoints.

Journalists look at the story itself, what it can offer, how it can be told and who they'll have to interview. Photographers, on the other hand, view a story in relation to possible picture opportunities.

There are times when journalists might think there's "not much of a story" in the media release you send them, whereas a photographer may respond differently, placing it at the top of their priority list because of the potential for a great picture.

Working on your media contact list and talking consistently to media outlets relevant to your organisation (the help sheets Creating a Media Contact Book and Using Your Media Contact Book can help your with this task) you will soon develop good relationships with both journalists and photographers.

It's a good idea to attention any of your press releases to both the journalist and the photographer, especially when dealing with larger newspapers or media outlets.

The situation can differ on suburban or regional newspapers, where photographers and journalists usually communicate more often and are more aware of what each other is doing.  This means you may only need to send one media release to these outlets, noting clearly that a photo opportunity exists or can be arranged.

Another advantage of building relationships with photographers is that they often provide useful suggestions or ideas that make stronger photo opportunities for your group.

Photographers are always on the lookout for a great picture and often maintain a circle of contacts that they rely on for picture ideas. Building a strong relationship with a photographer can see your group become one of those contacts and can provide you with a foot in the door when it comes to media coverage.

Try to keep a couple of photo ideas up your sleeve to put to a photographer looking for a picture on a quiet day.

Be clear on the message and who you're targeting.

The important thing is to work out the message you are trying to portray and who you are pitching that message to, then make sure your photo opportunity is a "good fit" for those requirements.

For example, if your group is releasing a report on problems with the health system in your area, a gimmicky photo with a zany stunt would be inappropriate and unlikely to advance your cause or add weight to your message.
  • Targeting your photo "pitch" is important.
    • Generally speaking, your group should avoid tacky or gimmicky photos that are at odds with the news you are trying to promote.
  • Incorporate worthy work or activities into your photograph.
    • Use real people, not rent-a-crowds.
  • Don't forget the local newspaper.
    • Local newspapers have many readers that can be hugely supportive and parochial when it comes to local groups and their activities.
  • Target certain sections of the paper.
    • If your group can't get its picture run in the early general news section of the paper there are still plenty of other places your picture and story could appear:
      • Arts and Entertainment
      • Sport
      • Money
      • Motor
      • Features
      • Pictorial section.
    • Think about a specific section of the paper your story and photo idea would suit, and target it.

Other elements towards success

Other elements helpful in getting a photographic opportunity into the paper are:
Often an announcement can be made more interesting by its location. Holding it on a boat, in a tunnel, at a squat, operating room, classroom surrounded by children, a farm, or somewhere that's unusual can often help attract interest.

If you have to have your event on a stage in a hall, use the backdrop to include your name, group logo or information, or an image that sums up your message.

Think about the timing of your media event in the context of the media you are trying to attract.

If you want coverage in your local newspaper, know their deadlines and don't hold your photo opportunity on deadline day.

It is also a good idea to organise your event mid-morning or afternoon, rather than too early or too late. Weekend photo opportunities can also cause problems for some media outlets, or can clash with weekend sports coverage requirements.

Outside photo opportunities often make more interesting pictures with attractive or interesting backdrops to liven up a picture.

Is it a first? Last? Only? Newest? Oldest? Is it something really unusual?
The planting of the first of a 10,000-tree revegetation project by your environment group is a news picture, the 1017th isn't.

Colour and Movement:
Where possible have some colour and action attached to your event so there is a better chance of photographers getting an interesting image.

Real People:
If your group wants to talk about a program to improve child literacy skills, hold it at a school and organise with the school for some children to be photographed reading.

Find real living, breathing examples of what you are trying to say. It brings your message to life.

The information contained on this site is subject to change. Our Community will not be liable for any loss or damage whatsoever coming from reliance placed on all or part of its contents.