You've just won an award. You've just been invited to speak at a gathering of professionals. You've just been quoted in a newspaper article. In each of these cases, a photographer is sent to take your picture to accompany the written material. On the designated day, the harried photographer dashes in, snaps a few shots and flies off to his next assignment. The photo appears, and-well, Charles Manson's mug shot probably looked better. Your eyes are pouchy; a patch of hair is sticking up. And can you really be hatching a double chin?
Savvy entrepreneurs have a publicity photo on hand to submit on such spur-of-the-moment occasions, says Joan Stewart, publisher of The Publicity Hound, a Saukville, Wisconsin, newsletter devoted to marketing and public relations issues. "If you're going to seek a lot of media coverage or do a lot of marketing, it's imperative that you have a publicity photo," she advises. "I know that when a newspaper article runs about me, people always say 'I saw your picture in the paper.' If you leave it up to someone else to take your picture at the last minute and you're having a bad hair day, it's a lost opportunity."
Dana Burke, the 34-year-old owner of Mind Your Business, a homebased desktop publishing and marketing firm in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, always advises her clients to have a photo taken. "You get one in hopes that you're going to need one because you'll be successful," she says. "Photos make potential clients feel comfortable with you before they even meet you." Burke's publicity shot came in handy when she was quoted in a local newspaper and again when she won two awards. Others use publicity photos on their business cards, in their brochures or on their Web sites.
Publicity shots range in price from $75 for a basic set of above-the-shoulder shots to $500 or more for "environmental" photographs taken in your office or surrounded by your products-so even those of you working within a tight budget can afford them.
To get the most flash for your cash, ask the photographer to give you the film, then have it developed at a low-cost photo lab. Photographers often offer lower rates if publicity shots are done in a group, so gather some colleagues and make an afternoon of it, Burke suggests. "Some organizations bring in a photographer during a meeting and just charge everyone $25 or so to get their photos taken," she adds.
To find a good photographer, ask friends for a referral and look at samples of different photographers' work. Before the session, spend time discussing with the photographer the look you hope to achieve. Some people bring a few changes of clothing to the sitting so they can have some photos that appear more casual and others that appear more formal. Even so, the effect still may not be what you're looking for. In that case, don't be afraid to ask the photographer to re-shoot.
Burke told the photographer ahead of time that she wanted to appear informal in her publicity shots, but she was still dissatisfied with the results and had them retaken soon afterwards. "I looked too conservative," she explains.
Stewart reminds her clients to update their photos regularly. "You don't want your photograph to look like it came from a yearbook," she says.
And a bad photo, Burke points out, is worse than not having a photo at all, so don't rush the process. "This is an investment," she says. "Take time to do it right."
- Have your hair cut one or two weeks before the session, and wear your usual style.
- If possible, have your makeup professionally done on the shoot day.
- If you wear glasses, borrow a set of frames without lenses from your eye doctor. This will eliminate reflection and distortion.
- Avoid sleeveless and high-neck clothing.
- Wear solid colors that complement your skin tone.
Source: The Publicity Hound
Loss Prevention Specialists, (407) 816-9601, www.lossprevention.com
Mind Your Business, (414) 536-7274, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Publicity Hound, (262) 284-7451, www.publicityhound.com