How visual is PR?

12 Sep

I’ve had several discussions with colleagues on how to illustrate public relations, in books, magazines and in teaching tutorials (the discussion could also consider PR blogs).

I take an old-fashioned print journalist’s view and tend to think in words, not pictures. Think how few books on PR are well-illustrated (Stuart Ewen’s PR! is an exception, but his illustrations are drawn from history and advertising). Think how most presentations/proposals are formed in words. Most PR outputs are words, not pictures (though a balance is needed).

Consider two books by Wally Olins (both from visual arts publisher Thames & Hudson). ‘Corporate Identity’ (1989) is lavishly and appropriately illustrated, as befits this visual subject. ‘Wally Olins on Brand’ (2003) reverts to text, with black and white photographs adding little to the subject matter.

Where can I go for lessons on turning ideas into images?

3 Responses to “How visual is PR?”

  1. Piaras Kelly 12/09/2005 at 3:03 pm #

    Well I think it’s easy to how how visual PR is. Just open up a newspaper and point out the photocalls. More so for the tabloids where creative Consumer PR concepts are required. I know someone is going to chirp in with a ‘Put a couple of models in bikinis and your picture will land in the papers.’ But as the old saying goes a picture is worth a thousand words.
    I was recently involved in a child saftey initiative in Ireland and at the launch we had a photographer involved to picture some of the children involved. Needless to say we landed in all of the Irish national broadsheets and a couple of the tabloids, making a much greater impact than the press release because of the emotional connection.
    I think the only way to teach the visual aspect of PR is to bring a few papers into the class over a period of time and show them what picture editors like, and then set a topic and have a brainstorm to come up with a photocall concept. You’d also need a couple of business maagzines to illustrate corporate shots.
    Last, but not least, explain about how planning when to hold a photocall is very important because despite how innovative your concept is, if there’s a lot else going on then you may still not land. And there’s always the unforeseen circumstances like the weather, although that seems to apply a lot more here in Ireland!

  2. David Phillips 14/09/2005 at 9:50 am #

    Hmm… Richard, why stop at semiotics? Perhaps one might look at communication through all the senses: hearing, touch, smell and taste (not forgetting heat, pain, balance and body awareness). This would mean we can create a greater effect on memory to aid learning.
    I have a little item about memory here:

  3. Joerg Hoewner 14/09/2005 at 11:39 am #

    I think it has something to do with the fact, that a lot of PR pros are former journalists or people with a background that is rather in “writing” than in visualizing. Just look at how few information designers there are in PR departments. So a lot of thinking there is done rather in words than in images.

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