I’ve noticed that there are a number of common PR mistakes photographers make when seeking out publicity to market their photography businesses.
If you aren’t experienced in promoting yourself through the media or dealing with journalists, you may well find yourself making some of the following mistakes too.
So, before you start contacting journalists, I recommend that you consider these and make a conscious plan to avoid falling into the same pitfalls.
Common PR mistakes photographers make
PR Mistake number 1: Not dedicating time for PR
This is so common. As a busy photography business owner, you tell yourself that you “don’t have time” to do things that fall outside of your immediate priorities.
But the truth is, we all get the same amount of time every day. You simply have to MAKE the time for PR if you are not already finding the time.
Right now, I’m actually writing this blog at 5.15am. The house is quiet, my family are still asleep and I’m enjoying this blissfully quiet, uninterrupted time when I can get my blogging done in peace!
I’m not suggesting that you should get up as early as this to get PR done. But the point is that you need to find time in your daily/weekly schedule that works for your personal circumstances. That might mean finding an hour to two in the mornings, evenings, or allocating a set day of your working week to focus on promotion and marketing activities.
Related reading: Eight habits to boost your productivity
If you aren’t finding the time for PR, or any other kind of marketing, when could you allocate some time within your daily or weekly schedule to it?
Treat PR (and marketing) as a non-negotiable priority. If you consider it as an essential part of your everyday life, you’ll suddenly find the time you always thought you didn’t have!
Related reading: What is public relations?
PR Mistake number 2: Not daring to put yourself forward due to a lack of confidence
A lack of confidence holds many photographers back from approaching the media, and it’s a real shame.
My view is that there is nothing to lose and potentially everything to gain from targeting the media and pitching your news and photography to journalists.
As with most things in life, your potential is only limited by your mindset. So, try to stop listening to the mind monkeys that are telling you that you are not worthy of being featured in the media, or that your images are not good enough.
You won’t know until you try!
The worst that could happen is that your approach to a journalist gets ignored. But to be honest, this is highly likely! It’s no reflection on you or your photography necessarily.
It could simply be that the journalist in question is overwhelmed by emails and ends up missing yours. This is highly likely when journalists receive hundreds of emails every day.
So, try to build up the courage to pitch, be confident in your approach and give it a go.
Related reading: Why are you not using PR to promote your photography business?
PR Mistake number 3: Failing to think like a journalist
Another common PR mistake that photographers make is to approach the media with a sales pitch rather than with a newsworthy story.
When promoting your photography, it’s crucial that you consider what a journalist’s role is and what they are looking for from you. Remember, as a business owner seeking free publicity for your business, you need to realise that journalists are not there to promote your photography.
Journalists have completely different priorities to you. A journalist’s or editor’s first priority is their audience – their readers, listeners, viewers.
Therefore, they’ll only consider you worthy for a free mention in their (highly coveted) article or publication if you have genuine news, valuable insights or something to offer that has relevance to their audience.
To be successful with PR, you need to realise that journalists are not going to regurgitate a sales pitch about your business or your latest work. But they might give you a mention in an article or a broadcast or news update if you offer them something that you’re involved in which will interest their audience.
When reading your press release or email pitch, you can be sure that they’ll be asking themselves, “Will my audience care about this and need or want to read/hear/watch this?” If the answer is no, your story won’t make the cut. If you simply send them a sales spiel, it definitely won’t make the cut!
PR Mistake number 4: Thinking that your photography must be the focus
As someone who earns their keep from the images you create, you might well think that if you are to promote yourself through the media, that your photography must be the focus. But this isn’t necessarily true.
There are likely to be many experiences from your work and personal life that you could draw from, and stories that you could tell, that could interest the press. Your photography may be relevant, but it might not be.
Yes, your ultimate aim is to promote your photography services, products, books, exhibitions, training workshops – to get more visibility for your brand and your work. But don’t be afraid to pursue PR opportunities that don’t relate directly to your photography business. These, too, could help raise your profile and get you visible, and this all helps in the wider purpose of brand building.
Getting featured in the press, even if it doesn’t include a mention of your photography or business directly, is an opportunity.
Once you start building relationships with journalists and sharing your stories, you never know what else it could lead to.
PR Mistake number 5: Not researching the media enough before pitching to journalists
It’s crucial to research the media before you start firing out press releases to journalists. But, many people don’t take the time to do this step properly.
While the temptation might be to quickly pull together a story and ping it out to hundreds of people in the hope that someone (anyone) might be interested. This is not the approach I recommend.
Spend time thoroughly researching the journalists and the publications you plan to reach out to in order to establish whether they truly might be interested in what you have to share.
Things you’ll want to consider:
- Is the publication/journalist relevant to the story you have to share?
- What is the most direct way that you can get in touch with them? A generic newsdesk@ or editorial@ email address is potentially OK. But even better if you can get a direct email address to the journalist/editor you’re trying to reach.
- And, once you‘ve identified a journalist’s name and contact information, are they definitely the best contact on the publication for your particular story? Are they even still working there? Journalists do move around a lot and there is no point pitching to a now-defunct email address. It’ll obviously go nowhere.
Related reading: How to find journalists’ contact details
PR Mistake number 6: Taking a scattergun approach to PR
I’d always recommend that you consider which are your priority media targets and then focus on those, rather than taking a scattergun approach to PR.
You’ll want to get featured in media relevant to your target audience rather than try to get featured anywhere that’ll have you.
This is a more strategic approach which may take more time and prove to be more challenging, but will likely pay off in the long run.
When your time is so limited, it would be far better to spend it pursuing opportunities that will get you visible to your ideal clients. So, don’t bother with publications, TV or radio programmes or podcasts that you’re pretty certain they don’t even read, watch or listen to.
PR Mistake number 7: Not being ‘PR-ready’
Once you’ve decided you’re going to have a go at PR and pitch a story to your local newspaper, for example, it might be tempting to ping off an email to a journalist on a whim, without doing much work beforehand to get yourself ‘PR-ready’.
But, should they be interested in what you’ve pitched and come back to you asking for more information, then you’ll want to have this to hand so you can send it over to them without delay.
If you don’t have what they need and so need to write some copy or have some self-portraits taken, then you may end up missing out on a valuable PR opportunity.
Often journalists are working to tight deadlines and they may not have the time to wait for you to compile additional information or to create the images they need.
So, do ensure that you have a few key things available before you start pitching to the media;
- a few high-resolution headshots photos of you (both portrait and landscape),
- some copy about your business – a short biography of your business journey and who you serve,
- links (URLs) and background information about all individuals/businesses relevant to the story,
- and, ideally, some short soundbites/quotes that reflect your ethos or personal views on topics relevant to the story.
The beauty of having these pre-prepared resources ready and available for journalists is that you can send them over straight away, or spend just a few minutes adapting it to suit the opportunity.
Either way, this is far easier than having to draft something under the pressure of a tight deadline, which could end up not being your best work!
Related reading: How to write a press release for your photography business
PR Mistake number 8: Giving up too easily
A final common PR mistake that photographers make is giving up too easily.
PR can be time-consuming and success isn’t guaranteed, but I would always suggest that you keep trying even if you get knockbacks or no interest from the media.
You never know, that follow-up email or that next publication you approach could be the one that leads to a valuable piece of press coverage!
Media publicity tips for photographers
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