The phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” might be a wheezy old cliché today, but its meaning is pretty much literal. Coined by one of America’s greatest old-school newspaper editors, Arthur Brisbane, it remains one of the golden media rules.
This gives anyone looking to promote a particular story, event, fundraiser or award win the most effective tip possible: Get the picture right.
Need proof? Consider this. On 9/11 the world was horrified by the enormous loss of life, but would its impact have been so massive had it not been broadcast live around the world? Would the attack have even been launched, without the knowledge that it would be televised?
Single images have even come to symbolise decades of war. Think of the ‘Napalm Girl’ from Vietnam, or the student in the Tiananmen Square Massacre, stood in front of the tank.
It may seem an extreme example, but it’s because this is news in its most distilled and digestible form. Whether it’s hard-edged story or soft news, in magazines, newspapers or on television, the rule applies equally and unequivocally.
So how do you apply this holiest of mantras to a PR campaign? Essentially, what you’re aiming for is to tell the crux of your story in a single shot – before a reader has even clapped eyes on the headline.
Investing in a proper photographer is almost always money well spent. Don’t try a series of fly-on-the-wall shots or anything complex. Concentrate on one, all-encompassing still image that shows the key people for the story and represents what’s happening. This alone can be enough to secure a big lead article, or even a front page.
Meanwhile, those competitors with grainy or missing pictures will remain confined to the ‘news in brief’ section.
If you need any more evidence of my theory, why not take a look [here] at how a powerful image of Trevor’s created a worldwide story.