Public Relations for Photographers
Joan Jett didn't give a damn about her reputation, but unless you're a teenage rock star, you should probably give a damn about yours. As Oscar Wilde famously said:
“There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about."
So how do you start the conversation? Basically, everything you do or say is public relations.
Build a Great Reputation
“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently.” – Warren Buffet
Most photographers and their studios are what the marketing pros like to call “hyper local” businesses. Don’t worry – this is a good thing! You’ll never be outsourced. First, immerse yourself in the local community.
Join a Group
Your best bet is the local Chamber of Commerce. Even if your town has it’s own, join neighboring town groups to expand your presence. If your town doesn’t have one, start your own local or regional photographer’s group so you can position yourself as a thought leader in your field.
Offer to shoot animals at the local shelter, take portraits at a senior center (grandkids day, anyone?) shoot food for a new restaurant in town or offer to curate a photography show for the local library.
Create a Media List
Make an Excel spreadsheet with every single local media outlet you can think of – print, web, radio and TV. Find out who to submit news worthy stories to – not just a generic email but an actual name. This may require some legwork and entail personally calling the media outlet. Include the hyperlink to their online presence so you do not have to continually look it up.
Be persistent. Once you get a contact name you’ll be able to build a relationship with this person. Remember, the media needs content and by giving them free news they’ll remember you. Reporters are often looking for professionals to quote for a story.
Most media outlets have special monthly features or regular sections of content. Download their editorial calendars to find out where your photography studio can fill their content void.
Learn How to Write a Press Release
There’s plenty of free information out there on this subject like this article from Inc. If you’re too busy, consider hiring a freelance PR writer through sites such as Craigslist.
Sign up for HARO (Help A Reporter Out). You can either search for reporters looking for stories or receive a daily e-blast tailored to your subject.
If you’ve got the budget consider services such as Cision or Vocus (which owns HARO) which allow you to blast your releases out to numerous media outlets at once and even post videos, images and a live feed from your site.
How to Generate Monthly Topics
Do something new and noteworthy or partner with a cause. You should be sending the press at least one press release a month. Pay attention to seasonality. This is especially great for portraits photographers. Holidays, graduation, weddings are all times that should be highlighted in your yearlong PR strategy. Be sure to be ahead of the season. For example, submit content for graduation time in early spring.
Blog & Social Media
According to Ad Age “A recommendation from a trusted friend conveying a relevant message is up to 50 times more likely to trigger a purchase.” Become that trusted friend by spreading the word in the blogosphere about your work either through your own blog or by guest blogging.
Set up a LinkedIn profile to publish content from your blog and social media profiles such as Twitter and Facebook. You can also create a company profile about your studio and publish content through it to establish yourself as a knowledgeable professional. If you're having trouble generating posts and tweets on a regular basis, create a content calendar to keep yourself on track. Hubspot offers a great free template.
Do Some Reading
I recommend David Meerman Scott’s The New Rules of Marketing and PR. Learn more techniques from Jay Conrad Levinson, the man who gave us The Pillsbury Doughboy and Morris the Cat, in his book The Best of Guerilla Marketing.