Say “Cheese”…

So I am delighted to have been invited by Rotary District 1010 Governor Mike Halley to speak to their District today (Sunday) In Perth, Scotland about increasing the publicity in the press and media across their many Clubs. The District boss has asked me to make special reference to taking press photos – which as regular readers of this blog will know is one the many ‘bees’ I keep in my bonnet.

Therefore on the basis I have been working on Rotary research this weekend, I thought I’d turn the information I am going to be speaking to into this weekend’s blog.

So in preparation for the presentation to the Regular Rots in the largest District in RotaryGBI I undertook a fairly thorough search of the words ‘Rotary Clubs‘ and ‘Rotary Presentations‘ on Google images and, having trawled through literally thousands of images it appears the message is still not getting to Clubs in terms of how to positively present the organisation in and around the media. So it seems that the leadership in District 1010 is not only proactive but also frankly right to raise the issue once again – and therefore so should many others.


It seems that despite all the information available and the training offered by District Marketing and PR Officers the message is still not getting through in terms of media photos

Flipping through Google images I was effectively tripping over line-up after line-up of besuited men in ties and Rotary pins smiling into the camera as if recreating their primary school photo (obviously – and thankfully minus the shorts).

Then there was the competition to see how many cheque presentations (with regular, standard sized cheques) from Club Presidents Google images was willing to accept. Still so many photos of one man handing another man a piece of paper – with the picture telling you nothing other than the men (again, generally in suits and ties) like to haggle over a little rectangle of paper.

We then have the mandatory plethora of ‘grip and grin‘ photos – where we effectively have two grown men stage-managed to hold hands while they stare down the barrel of the camera pointed at them all in the name of Rotary. The point of which is…hmmm…well, erm to be honest…I don’t actually know?

I understand when Barack Obama stands on the steps of 10 Downing Street and poses in a similar stance with David Cameron – as that reflects the friendship, bond and camaraderie between both countries. But having the Rotary Club El Presidente shaking hands with the local butcher doesn’t quite have the same effect when it happens at the front door of the local hotel.

But the big one – and still the out and out winner – is the number of photos where the President absolutely has to, without question wear his bling! Whether rightly or wrongly in contextual terms of the photo – you’ll generally find one of the men with the big gold and shiny medallion slung around his neck. Every opportunity, there it is swinging there on his chest…I’m sure some Presidents would even insist on wearing it if they were doing a Swimarathon photoshoot in their speedos!

What is it with the necessity to wear ‘bling’ in every photo opportunity?

If you check out some of the Rotary images searches, there’s more jewellery on show than you’d find in a Cartier retailer outlet. Why? Is it because they’re President and they should wear the bling at every opportunity? Or could they just be proud to wear the jewel of office? There are likely to be many answers – but in terms of a press photo shoot – there really needs to be serious consideration as to whether the regalia is required – and my advice would be – in most cases, it’s probably not!

Just as bad as the bling is the fluorescent hi-viz tabards and waistcoats? Yes, I get the fact that they are emblazoned with the Rotary Wheel; but there are so many other ways of getting the brand image into a Club’s publicity. Strangely, when doing the Google news search – loads of images of Rotarians in hi-viz came up, and to be frankly truthful they just looked like a line of local authority workers having their photo taken by the side of the road.

Rotary is more than just hi-vis traffic management operatives – so let’s ditch the fluorescent tops and get a bit more catwalk than Council.

Taking all this into account, it poses a few questions. Surely all the great work by District Marketing and PR Chairs can’t have been for nothing? It cannot be the case that they haven’t actually advised their Clubs that these inane photos are less likely to be used in the press while at the same time are not representing the wonderful organisation that is Rotary particularly well. There is enough information out there from RotaryGBI available to Clubs to ensure their photos are to as high a standard as possible.

It is essential that the quality of photos being published on behalf of Rotary are substantially improved in order to engage the creative minds of various publishers around the country.

So having listened to many newspaper Editors and Photo Editors here is a quick rundown of some of the pointers I will be offering in my presentation today:

  • Think about the story you are trying to tell – and try to let the photo help you to do that;
  • Use a decent resolution image – do not send photos that are blurred or in low resolution;
  • You don’t need a professional photographer just someone who knows what they are doing;
  • You no longer need an expensive camera – modern phones take amazingly high quality images;
  • Think about your location – does it help the story? Make sure the surroundings are not untidy and your subjects don’t have things growing out their head;
  • Do not use grip and grin photos – try to animate the photo using your subjects;
  • No cheque presentations – and if you insist on doing them – use proper large presentation cheques in the photo, but still try and have other things going on in the photo;
  • Understand that grip and grins and cheque presentations will not be printed by some newspapers (as a rule);
  • Use people who are good for the camera and want to be photographed – there’s no use in dragging someone in front of a camera who doesn’t want to be there;
  • Don’t have massive groups of people – in general up to five maximum, unless a large group is essential to tell the story – but still have key individual at the front of the photo (the people in the photo should relate to your text);
  • Think whether the ‘bling’ is absolutely necessary in the photo?
  • Think whether hi-viz tabards are absolutely necessary in the photo? Take them off wherever possible;
  • Have a chat with your local Editor and find out what kind of photos they would like from you – and make sure you do not send the ones that they will not print.

Ultimately the message needs to get out there. Some of the images being used for the organisation leave a great deal to be desired and an awful lot to the imagination of the reader.

Remember if in doubt, just ask – your local editor will be more than happy to have a chat with you about what they need. Remember your photos help promote and sell their paper – so they want good images in it – and if you can supply them to their specification – then all the better.

Images by Michael Broad by CC