Staging a Photo Op: Pros and Cons

Attracting hordes of media isn't always your best bet – consider the scenario that could unfold before staging a photo op.

Staging a photo op
Targeting niche bloggers and small audiences can be a safer bet when staging a photo op.

Attracting hordes of media isn’t always your best bet – consider the scenario that could unfold before staging a photo op.

As the collision between a Vancouver cyclist and an electric vehicle in the “World’s First Zero Emissions Race” illustrates, the staging of a photo op to attract favourable media coverage isn’t always a guaranteed winner. If something goes wrong – an electric racecar creaming a cyclist in front of assembled cameras – the blunder is captured for maximum exposure. In this unique case, a videographer from a TV station was injured in the accident, “causing significant damage to the camera and the motorcycle” according to The Vancouver Sun. No hope of favourable coverage by that TV station in the near or distant future.

Admittedly this was an improbable occurrence, and the real danger of most staged media events or photo ops is that no media show up at all. You are left with your banners and balloons and a cranky CEO. Attracting the media hordes to your 10 a.m. announcement is fraught with peril and best left to sure things, like an NHL star offering a free street hockey camp to kids on the eve of the Stanley Cup.

Smaller markets can be easier staged for photo ops or events, as media generally have less story options. In Vancouver, often your best move is to offer a photo op to a select media outlet or individual. I’ve had success with private preview tours offered to the media outlet I think will offer the best benefit or value to my client, versus inviting the whole gang over. Striking this kind of deal in an exclusive arrangement with a targeted media outlet can offer your client good exposure, and save you the embarrassment of the stale cake.

The downside is that you don’t get all the media outlets in town to cover your news, and competing media could boycott your future calls if you leave them out of the deal. I’ve found the best way to proceed on these so-called “exclusives” is to select the media person who covers that beat or niche – for example, the heritage writer touring your recently restored building – so non-heritage media aren’t offended that they are left out.

There’s also a growing community of niche bloggers who cover events and announcements that are related to their interests, such as environment, food, culture, and sports. If your media event includes an interactive element that allows bloggers to engage and experience something new, this is a good way to build online buzz for your client.

THE contributor

Patricia Dunn is the principal of Vancouver-based Dunn Public Relations. She has 16 years’ experience in communications consulting in the public and private sectors, as well as non-profit. Previously she held news-producing positions at CKNW Radio and BCTV News (now Global). Twitter