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There is no way around the social web for communication experts nowadays. However, does each and every company have to be active on Snapchat, Instagram, and You Tube? Neil Hudd of AP Content Services spoke to TREIBSTOFF about the latest trends in multimedia storytelling. And the business development manager of the worldwide leading news agency gives away the DOs and DONTs of international photo PR, telling us why new technology needs complementary content to go with.
TREIBSTOFF: How do you assess Snapchat and Instagram for the exchange of information, especially for PR Industry?
HUDD: Snapchat and Instagram are interesting since they're the second generation of social media platforms with real momentum that everyone is watching. Much of this has come about due to so-called 'Generation Z' seeking an alternative to what their parents use (i.e. Facebook) or they want a platform more rooted in lifestyle such as Instagram, as opposed to one rooted in politics and breaking news such as Twitter.
If anything they illustrate a difference in the behaviour of those younger demographics which is telling. For example a recent report by Snaplytics (not affiliated with Snapchat) stated that more than 50% of Snapchat users will open a brand's story and more than 85% will watch the entire story. Are younger audiences becoming more conditioned and accepting to the sponsored content model or will they become more discerning with age?
It would be a mistake to try to box or compartmentalise any of these platforms- they're all constantly evolving (much like their users!) and learning from each other's successes and failures. Each appears to be adopting each other's functionalities whilst setting new trends and methods of engagement.
TREIBSTOFF: Could you elaborate a bit on this?
HUDD: Facebook is now taking notes out of Snapchat's book in terms of its messaging service. Instagram have been making huge inroads in their live video - particularly the way it seamlessly runs on the platform amongst all the other content and is easily discoverable with a focus on mobile.
Conversations are also being had between social influencers who are moving from Snapchat to Instagram simply down to difference in data usage. Instagram Stories has also gone a long way to replicate what was attractive about Snapchat. This is reinforced with a huge network of influencers to follow and explore. For PRs there is also the added benefit to link out to external websites.
Whilst the jury will still be out for quite a while on these platforms, one thing is certain -it's all about the visual content and its quality. This could pose problems for many PRs because their messaging is heavily text based. The flip-side to this, as any professional picture editor will tell you, is that an image with no caption is next to useless - particularly in this age of fake news and fact checking. Get the visual right and your user will want to know more.
TREIBSTOFF: AP is experimenting with 360-degree videos. What are the chances and opportunities in comparison to standard videos?
HUDD: The AP is equipping many of our journalists with 360 cameras now in the field, but the use of these comes down to whether the story is the right fit for 360 and this is paramount. 360 isn't ideal when only 180 degrees of what is going on is attention grabbing!
The basic options - which are easily accessible and now more affordable, are perfect for capturing the atmosphere and activity of a news event or the environment around a feature. However, if capturing detail is important, (e.g. at a fashion show when you want to be able to see the products clearly), then a higher spec camera and set-up would be highly advised.
TREIBSTOFF: Which industry is best for using the 360 degree technology?
HUDD: Some NGOs have started using this technology very effectively. For example for one NGO centred on displacement, it was the perfect vehicle to explore the new environment that refugees have found themselves in. Also the travel industry could benefit from this technology, and I expect to see many developments in this arena. The ability to overlay text and graphics can also further enhance the story and narratives.
TREIBSTOFF: Let´s talk about Photo-PR: Are there any regional differences for photo distributions? For example Dos and Donts in Asia or Middle East in comparison to Europe or the US?
HUDD: The obvious ones are cultural sensitivities around nudity and also alcohol related products. Even in the United States (partial) nudity can cause offence and raise issues. Hand gestures are another one to look out for. They may mean something in one country but in another they may mean something very different!
TREIBSTOFF: What about children?
HUDD: One should be careful when using children in any shoots. Model release should always be encouraged. Despite this there are territories such as Spain where they run the risk of prosecution if they publish an image of a child regardless of a model release, so it's down to editorial if it's worth the risk.
Lastly the obvious Dont is not to let 'over branding' ruin a good image. Too many times images have become practically unusable after a brand suddenly decides to avalanche a scene with its products. That is the case regardless of the territory you're targeting.
TREIBSTOFF: Could you provide some examples for successful PR photos, which have generated large coverage?
HUDD: A very successful image was one we took with a PR firm in conjunction with Lego. They had built the UK's largest Lego statue in the UK to coincide with the film 'Age of Ultron'. The issues were that it was very UK centric plus it was also the premiere of the film that was due to take place that evening - so in all likelihood coverage would be given over to the red carpet and celebrities.
When the client approached us we made it clear that the importance was to achieve a sense of scale to demonstrate the sheer size of the statue which was the story. Similarly it was important to have some emotion in the picture as opposed to an individual just standing next to the statue.
It was also crucial that all the details and statistics around the creation of the statue were included within the metadata - the information that went out with the picture. Not just that it was the biggest but how many bricks, how long did it take to make, how high, how much does it weigh. In essence you ultimately have a dynamic image with some good text to run with it - an interesting visual accompanied by insightful facts and a story.
Later on the client told us how surprised they were by the pick-up. It had even been used on a couple of front pages. The client in question was only supposed to be looking after a certain territory. They received a call by their counterparts in the US asking how on earth they managed to secure placement of the images in some of the New York papers. These had come from AP.
TREIBSTOFF: What advices would you give companies planning to use multimedia content in the future?
HUDD: First thing: what is the story? That should be the hook and then build out and think about what media suits it and your target audience. What will your audience want to know and be interested in? Don't just shoehorn your story into the latest trending tech or start out with 'let's make a video'.
Make sure that your story also comes through any visuals and video. It's also important when shooting or filming anything that you keep in mind how they will sit with each other, particularly if you are thinking of publishing a sponsored article. Think about what the main piece of media will be - an image or a video? And last but not least: Never neglect the headline that accompanies it.
TREIBSTOFF: Thank you for the interview!
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