CFM

The Picture of Opportunity

Pope Francis blesses a baby at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Saturday, Sept. 26. The pontiff visited Philadelphia as part of the World Meeting of Families. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Nick Ameen)

Pope Francis blesses a baby at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Saturday, Sept. 26. The pontiff visited Philadelphia as part of the World Meeting of Families. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Nick Ameen)

The whirlwind U.S. tour by Pope Francis should convince every marketer of the power of photo ops to reinforce key messages.

Pope Francis departs the U.S. Capitol after his address to Congress. (Photo Phiend)

Pope Francis departs the U.S. Capitol after his address to Congress. (Photo Phiend)

From riding around in a tiny Fiat to having lunch with the homeless to meeting with prison inmates, Pope Francis exhibited what humility means in practice and underscored his pleas not to forget society's downtrodden souls.

The imagery from his trip was searing and kept most of the nation spellbound. The Pope's insistence to stop his car to bless a child provided a viral visual witness to his words.

The papal visit is a reminder that imagery can tell a story in a way words never can. Yet so much time is spent on words and too little time on actions that could convey your message in a genuine, impactful way. Even when visual communications are considered, choices often boils down to a video or an infographic, which can lack the raw appeal of an opportunistic photograph.

Photo ops have earned a bad name as manipulative ways to make a point in front of a camera. That bad reputation is deserved for the most self-serving "shots," such as the grip-and-grin pictures of someone handing an oversized check to a charity.

The art of the photo-op is to avoid making it look phony. That usually requires making sure it isn't phony.

Pope Francis is a media-savvy guy who keenly understands the value of walking the talk. He knows he is photographed constantly whenever he steps outside. But his actions that generate endearing images appear spontaneous. There is nothing forced or phony about them.

Pope Francis and President Barack Obama are greeted by Catholic school children on the flightline at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Sept. 22. The children are local to the National Capital Region and presented the pope with a gift of flowers. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys)

Pope Francis and President Barack Obama are greeted by Catholic school children on the flightline at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Sept. 22. The children are local to the National Capital Region and presented the pope with a gift of flowers. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys)

While Pope Francis is a hard act to follow, his ability to curry powerful imagery is something everyone can emulate by following his example.

First, the Pope looks for moments that can crystallize his messages. After a wedding ceremony at the Vatican, Pope Francis donned a red nose like the ones worn by the bridge and bridegroom, which was captured by the wedding photographer. He enabled a photographer during his visit to a prison to capture his arm in the papal robe firmly in a handshake with a heavily tattooed inmate's arm. Francis kissed, hugged and fawned over children with grandfatherly naturalness, with iPhones clicking madly.

Second, the images we saw on TV, online and in social media were all captured and shared by journalists and onlookers, not a Vatican production company. They were in many cases crowdsourced, which attested to their authenticity, even if in some real sense they were stage managed.

Finally, the Pope evaluated his schedule on its symbolic qualities. He insisted, for example, to go to the 9/11 Memorial Museum, not just to be photographed paying homage to the dead, but to participate in a live inter-faith service. The service delivered some of the most emotional imagery of his trip, which never would have been filmed if he hadn't gone there.

Incorporating photo opportunities into marketing PR plans requires a lot of creativity and hard work. But an image that takes seconds to comprehend and embeds itself into memory is worth the effort.

Where Can Color Take Your Brand?

Color can transport a brand from bland to Boom!

A great example is Sherwin-Williams, a brand that generated about as much excitement as watching paint dry. Now it's colorful TV ads have injected freshness and vitality into its paint products. Watching them is like looking through a kaleidoscope.

Airing on stations such as HGTV, where people are watching and imagining how to spruce up their tired kitchens or bedrooms, Sherwin-Williams ads feature expressive use of color and design. Their TV ads qualify as visual art and they have the same purpose as art – to fire the imagination of viewers. 

There are differences in paint quality, which matter. But the real puzzle consumers want to solve is what colors to choose to warm up rooms that are cold and stale. Sherwin-Williams turns its ads into invitations to plunge into its world of color and leave inhibition behind.

Sherwin-Williams isn't the first or last company that spins the color wheel to separate itself from its competition in a commodity market. Target staged a major turnaround, going from a disdained discount store to an attractive go-to shopping center by emphasizing color – on its walls and in its products. 

The explosion of color, it seems, is everywhere. Go to a sporting goods store and look at the wide spectrum of colors for T-shirts and yoga pants. Once the preserve of black, white and gray, sports apparel now comes in colors once reserved for neon signs.

Self-Publishing and Online Newsrooms

Attract attention and control your message by publishing high-quality press releases on your own online newsroom.Reporters and TV and radio producers routinely look online for story ideas. They also tend to work unusual hours, and many prefer to find information on their own. A nicely packaged and well-stocked online newsroom is a fruitful place to search.

Even if your website fails to snag journalist eyes, others will find it — bloggers, viewers looking for specific information and customers or stakeholders. They may not be looking for story leads, but are interested in your information and thought leadership. Bloggers frequently feed off this kind of information, which can extend the reach of your press release to a more targeted and interested audience than would read it in a traditional media outlet.

Fresh content such as a self-published press release can boost your ratings on search engines, increasing your story's chances of being discovered.