We’re a visual culture. We create images with the cameras in our pockets. Our digital streams are full of images of real people in real situations shared by our friends, followers, fans and even brands. When we see an image that rings false, we take notice.
Who are you? Who who, who who?
Meetings and hospitality consultant Joan Eisenstodt took notice of something disturbing: “Recently, while thumbing through industry and industry-related publications and viewing websites, I was struck by what I saw: men. And lots of them. In an industry purported to be made up of more women than men, the photos were of men!”
She started a discussion in ASAE’s Collaborate community about what images and illustrations say about an organization. In her blog post she asked, “Who is shown as representative of the profession or of the members or customers you want to attract?” Too many associations rely on stock photos that are stale representations of professionalism. Seriously, how many handshakes of men in suits do we need to see? Or, associations go overboard with images that represent their aspirations but not their reality —photos of what one person called “the Rainbow People.”
Susan Avery, CEO of the International Association of Plastics Distribution, had the right answer, as usual: “How about actually using pictures of our members?” Her association hires a professional photographer to take photos at their annual convention. Staff supplements them with photos they take at smaller meetings. As a result, their marketing collateral reflects their membership and industry.
Stock photos are a crutch, not a solution.
This discussion reminded me of an excellent post written by Vanguard Technology’s Ray van Hilst: Say NO to Stock Photography for Association Websites. To show the deleterious effects of relying on bad stock photography, he illustrated (with photos!) how often we see the same “silver haired business man” on association websites. That guy is everywhere!
Ray pointed to a study showing that photos of real people outperform stock photos by 95 percent. Wow! And here’s another stat: content containing compelling images attracts 94 percent more total views on average than content without images.
Compelling photos showing real people, not studio models, are better for your association’s calls to action and image. Instead of using fake, generic photos, opt for authentic, unique images. Avectra does this well with AUDC photos. Every time I see them, I think, “Hey, I know her!” (Hi Rebecca!)
You can do it!
In another post, Ray explained how two associations get their members’ help in collecting real photos. Besides the annual meeting, he lists several other events that are also good photo-taking opportunities.
To avoid liability, get the permission of your members and attendees to use their photos. ASAE publishes this “Consent to Use Photographic Images” on their brochures:
“Registration and attendance at or participation in ASAE meetings and other activities constitutes an agreement by the registrant to ASAE’s use and distribution (both now and in the future) of the registrant or attendee’s image.”
You have a few options for gathering a collection of photos:
- Hire a professional photographer. Be picky. Your image is on the line.
- Send willing staff to photography classes. If their photos aren’t quite ready for public consumption, use them for member platforms and publications.
- Get the help of members, as in Ray’s examples.
- Or, use Creative Commons licensed photos from the Web. Assume that all photos you see on the Web are under copyright protection. But if they have a Creative Commons license, you can use them as long as you give attribution and link back.
When I’m searching for a Creative Commons licensed photo, I start with Flickr or Google. Google recently made it easier to search for CC licensed photos. Go to Google Images, Search Tools, Usage Rights and then select “labeled for reuse.” The Atlantic and Modern Art Notes have lists of the museums and governments that offer CC licensed photos.
Your photos should represent and resonate with your target audience. And as much as I hate to say this as a writer, they’re (almost) as important as your marketing copy.