As networks seek to promote their wares to media, there are various strategies adopted by different channels.
New programmes are announced in Press Releases sent to journalists, radio presenters, editors, online media, yes and even bloggers, in the hope it will attract attention and lead to articles, interviews, media opportunities, cover stories and thereby excite a viewing audience.
And in a world where every picture tells a story, photos are a crucial tool of communication. Some networks provide online galleries for journalists, while others prefer the human touch and meet each request on a case by case basis through publicists. But the difference between the two methods can often make or break whether the network gets the story.
For some years SBS, ABC and several subscription channels have hosted password-protected photo galleries with high resolution photos that are available 24/7. Many journalists who work freelance from home offices see value in accessing content at their convenience. Indeed it may even inspire them to write copy.
Katherine Raskob, SBS Marketing Communications Manager, told TV Tonight, “SBS has had an online gallery for journalists to find out information and get images for programs for about five years – recognising the importance of providing people who write about SBS programs access to materials anytime they need. We’ve found that journos and television writers – when deadlines are looming – give more and better coverage to SBS programs because it’s so easy to get the information they need.
“Knowing that, we are planning a major upgrade to our site to allow for more and better information and images as well as a way to get access easier and faster,” she said.
ABC’s Victorian Publicity Manager Liz Green concurred, saying, “We developed our publicity website in consultation with journos and as a result, it delivers extremely well on its two key objectives. It gives journalists much greater control over accessing information and images – they can do so at the time best suited to them and choose the image they want. Secondly, it frees up publicists to strategise, publicise and pitch stories, as opposed to spending all their time selecting and emailing images and information.
“We’ve had a fantastic response from journalists to the site and nothing but positive feedback.”
Both ABC and SBS indicated they are now exploring adding clips to their sites.
Online FTP galleries also exist for several subscription channels including FOX8, Arena, Bio, Crime & Investigation, History, Comedy, 111 Hits, W, Main Event, FOX Classics, Showtime, Showcase, LifeStyle and LifeStyle Food. Others including TV1, SciFi, CNN, World Movies, UKTV use a third party platform provided by Getty Images.
Seven, Nine and TEN all prefer to distribute upon request. But as several journalists told TV Tonight it can make the difference in whether they get the story.
One source said on the whole networks were helpful in providing photos but added, “It is easier to go to the ready-made sites, with all pictures available because if publicists aren’t at their desk you can’t get the picture then and there which, working for a newspaper on a tight deadline, is vital.”
Another agreed, saying, “God bless those networks that have online galleries, and a curse upon those that don’t. It’s such a simple thing but trying to get hold of a pic can increase the difficulty of getting a story up by a factor of ten. I have to say, most networks most of the time are pretty good about making pics available but with everyone – us and them – under-resourced and pushed for time, just being able to help yourself makes life so much easier for everyone. I really don’t understand why they don’t all do it as a matter of course.”
One editor said networks had no idea how many stories they were losing by not offering online galleries.
“If you look at how the television networks handle the photos of their programs they could be better called ‘anti-publicity departments,'” they said. “I think they would be shocked how much more their material would be run if their material was widely available. I’m not even sure it needs to be stored on a limited access website. Just put them all out there for anybody to use…what’s the worst that could happen?
“At the very least FTA networks need to get all their current offerings on a site for easy download where journalists and editors can view the full range of material and make a choice that fits their needs.”
Some went as far as to suggest publicists were reluctant to provide a photo if they smelled a critical article.
“While the networks are always happy to give out pictures for publicity reasons when it suits them, they are far more reluctant when the image is to be used in a genuine news story,” one journalist said.
“News stories may be negative, or they may run after the show has aired, so the publicists don’t see any value in helping out.”
But online galleries must also offer precise captioning. “Sometimes they don’t have captions, or are captioned incorrectly, and then you have to ring the publicist anyway,” said one print journalist. Captioning at newspapers is important for archiving and subbing photos during layout.
There are also ramifications for TV Guides and as one newspaper source suggested it can affect whether Top Gear or Spicks and Specks is given a daily highlight over Desperate Housewives, NCIS or The Mentalist. That impacts greatly in the living rooms of the nation.
A production manager at one print newspaper said, “I often end up highlighting an ABC or SBS program simply because I can source their pictures with ease, unlike the commercial outfits. It’s just much faster, more practical to source images myself via the ABC and SBS publicity sites.”
TV Tonight asked Seven, Nine and TEN about their future plans to provide online galleries for media. None indicated any changes in the short term.
As one journo said, “Seven, Nine and TEN need to ‘get with the program’ pardon the pun. Portrait or landscape? 10×8 glossy headshot or episodic? Just decide if a photo is approved, whack it online and let’s get the story out there. What’s to think about?”