UK trade magazine adopts Social Media interaction as editorial policy – is this the future?

October 30, 2009

A major b2b title in the UK has become the first to employ Social Media directly in the production of its print-edition editorial. Control Engineering magazine under the editorial direction of David Greenfield has only been an active participant in the business networking site LinkedIn since May 2009, but has already built a strong following of around 3,500 users. LinkedIn allows users to organise themselves into groups based on interests or professions. Each group offers its members an interactive discussion board facility that allows them to debate the various themes and topics they are interested in. By following and participating in these discussions on its LinkedIn and Facebook pages, Control Engineering’s editor has been able to tap into a rich seam of lively debate and informed comment from which to create highly-topical editorial. You can read the first article developed in this way here.

In a publishing world that has for so long simply regurgitated print editorial in online form, this is a very interesting development. Closing the loop between traditional and modern media makes a lot of sense from an editorial point of view; comment is easily obtained, it’s dynamic, fresh and completely democratic. Anyone has a chance to have their voice heard, not just those with big PR budgets and advertising spends.

For PR companies, it provides the clearest signpost yet that the role is changing. Clearly, it is no longer enough just to be writing and sending out press releases when editorial policy is being built in such a dynamic way; PR companies now have to take an active role in monitoring and engaging in forums such as Linked In and Facebook or risk having their messages left behind. It’s like the editors are stepping down from their ivory towers into a vibrant, thronging marketplace filled with colour and distraction. The challenge for PR people is to ensure they maintain an influential position in this melee; if you like, a guiding hand to lead an editor gently but firmly to their client’s stall. We can only do that by being there and staying connected.

Honesty is the best policy

October 21, 2009


“Photoshopping” – the deliberate manipulation of photographic images to enhance, conceal or mislead – is in the news a lot lately,  mainly as a result of the media’s growing unease about the use of implausibly-skinny models to promote ladies fashion. But as far away as it may seem from the glamour of haute couture, the world of B-2-B PR is not immune to Photoshop controversy, particularly when it comes to the portrayal of professional display equipment such as LED screens and videowalls.

The problem is – like stroppy catwalk models – such devices are notoriously difficult to photograph well, particularly with digital cameras. There are problems of exposure, viewing angles, unpredictable moiré effects and screen refresh artefacts. Little wonder, then, that some manufacturers resort to the “artist’s impression” approach to creating imagery for their products.

Personally, I don’t like it. Trying to promote a visual product by using a picture that has been faked is questionable practice at best. Particularly so when the subterfuge has been badly executed, as in the example above. In this recent image from a well-known European manufacturer, the fake image has been badly aligned, resulting in a picture that seems to float a good centimetre outside the physical dimensions of the screen. Not good. The same image also features fake mullion lines superimposed over what is quite clearly a stock library image. To my mind, not only does this seriously undermine the quality proposition of the product concerned, but it also raises questions of ethics –  a deliberate attempt to mislead a potential customer surely is not a good start to the relationship. If a manufacturer is willing to “lie” about how its screen actually looks, what else are they willing to lie about?

We do, from time to time, manipulate images of our client’s products to enhance their appearance or correct some of the technical problems that often occur when photographing screens. However there is one big difference: We NEVER use library shots to fake a screen image because it is vital to maintain integrity. We would never for a second consider putting an untruth into a press release – why would we do so with an image?

When we go on a shoot we always take lots of shots at various timings and exposures, and then use these collections of real images to create a composite or an HDR composite of a real, genuine product image.

If you or your client are a display manufacturer – please think twice about using fake pictures. With just a little more effort and skill, you can achieve great results without cheating. As they say – honesty is the best policy.

Ian Pickering wins top photography award

October 14, 2009

We just heard this afternoon that our favourite photographer has been awarded the title of UK Commercial Photographer of the year 2009 by the Master Photographers Association, at its Annual Awards Presentation on Sunday evening in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. These awards are the professional photographer’s equivalent of “The Oscars” – contested by the very best of the UK’s photographers. And as if that wasn’t enough, Ian also scooped first AND second place in the Midlands area Best Wedding Photograph before capping the evening with a Special Silver Award for his outstanding achievements. Quite an evening!

IPP_7895 We’ve worked with Ian on many occasions and as our clients will testify, Ian is not only a gifted and visionary photographer but the consummate professional. Ian could be briefed to photograph a black cat in a coal cellar at midnight and still come away with a picture good enough for a magazine front cover. And not only that, he’s one of the friendliest and easy-to-work-with people we’ve known.

Well done, Ian – your awards are richly deserved.