CFM Strategic Communications

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.

Your Discovery Session: The Ultimate First Date

We measure our worth by results. To get results, we build research-based plans, not whim-based ones. Our ideas are creative, vibrant and zesty, but always grounded in research. Style plus substance. Beauty and brains. We’ll never counsel you to execute tactics without the strategic intelligence to back them up.

The CFM Discovery Session doesn’t take place in a courtroom or involve a trail, but the session is a critical first step to becoming your partner and creating made-to-win strategies.

The session is primary research in the form of a mastermind meeting between your team and ours. We’ll learn all about your business, goals, resources, pressure points and past efforts. You live and breathe your brand everyday. The session allows us to dive in beside you to match our marketing PR expertise with your dreams and goals.

Our PR team develops a custom interview question set for your Discovery Session. Here’s a sample of some of the things we ask about.

Goals

What do you want your brand to do within the next six months, one year, five years? What’s the big idea, the vision, the raison d'etre?

Objectives

Objectives are measurables we track throughout our relationship to monitor program success. We discover objectives as we break down your goals. What do you need to achieve? Here are some examples:

  • To increase sales of our product by 30 percent in our local market

  • To engage new audiences in community decision-making

  • To attract 1,000 consumers to our summer event series

  • To build relationships with industry thought-leaders

National Media for Local Recognition

Nothing reinforces a reputation more than being quoted or written about in a national news outlet.

The biblical quote, "A prophet hath no honor in his own country," applies as much today as when it was written. Sometimes you are nobody until The New York Times says you are somebody.

This is where effective national media relations comes into play. In addition to seeking news story placement in your local media, you package stories that can earn coverage in national publications or a syndicated talk show.

"It isn't easy, but it's doable," says CFM Account Executive Suzie Giacomelli. "You need to be creative in thinking about stories that sell beyond your own community."

Oregon's wine industry has been practicing national media relations for several years through vehicles such as Pinot Boot Camp. Wine writers are invited to spend a few days sampling the latest vintages and talking with winemakers, which results in an unfolding series of stories that highlight what's new and tasty in Oregon Pinot Noir.

One of the best ways to attract the attention of a far-off reporter is to pitch a story about something familiar with a new twist. A product innovation or improvement with a clear consumer benefit — a power toothbrush with its own toothpaste dispenser — can perk up interest among the vast and growing array of reporters and show producers looking for nuggets of news like this.

Another tried-and-true tactic is to tout a program's unique character or stunning outcomes. There are highly successful programs that fly under the radar screen in their hometowns, but can be the star of a major feature in a national publication.