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How to use Flickr for PR & marketing

Whether your work is focused on media relations, content marketing, or community events, Flickr is a great tool to help drive coverage and attract more people to your business.

What is Flickr? Why it is important for communicators? How you can use it for PR and marketing? In this screencast, I answer those questions and show real examples of how communicators can use Flickr. 

View the screencast

What is Flickr

Flickr is a photo hosting and sharing tool created in 2004, largely for the photo enthusiast community. 

Long before there was an Instagram, photographers used the site to showcase and comment on their photos. For a long time, it was seen as the default platform to share images. 

Today Flickr claims more than 51 million registered users and 80 million unique visitors. Yahoo, which purchased Flickr in 2005, says more than 6 billion images are hosted on the site.

With that kind of traffic, brands have now found Flickr a useful platform to fuel their communications campaigns.

Why Flickr?

Flickr has a rich feature set that lends itself to business communications:

Photo stream - All your uploaded photos are displayed in a running timeline called a photo stream. Visitors can always see the latest photos displayed prominently. Each photo can have a headline and a caption. This makes it easy to tell your story.

Flickr allows you to organize your photos into sets. Creating sets for events or news stories can make it easier to tell the story.

Flickr allows you to organize your photos into sets. Creating sets for events or news stories can make it easier to tell the story.

Sets - Photos can be organized into Sets. This is a useful tool for uniting images from a specific event, product or news release. Your set can have its own caption and link back to your site.  Sets can also be shared or viewed as slideshows.

Groups - You can invite others to share images based on any theme or event. Let’s say your team is volunteering at a walkathon. You can create a special Group for the day and invite all your participants to contribute their own photos. This makes it easy for everyone to share within the community.

Galleries - This is the tool you will use to curate and share the best images. You can create a gallery of your 20 favorite images and share those selections. Like your sets, a gallery can be viewed as a lightroom (dark background) and promoted separately.

Tags/keywords -  You can tag each image with an endless number of keywords. These tags are used to help searchers find your images on Flickr. Search queries also include your captions, so make sure you keep those keyword rich as well.

High resolution images, fully downloadable - Your images are available in a number of different sizes for download. If an editor decides to use your photo, she can download a thumbnail, web resolution, or high resolution file. No need to resize. There are plenty of options.

Creative Commons - You determine the Copyright or licensing structure for each of your images. Under Creative Commons, you can pre-authorize use of your images within certain guidelines -- attribution, commercial use, derivatives, or share alike. Many editors search specifically for Creative Commons photos, so selecting one of those options increases the likelihood that your images are seen and used.

Discussion platform - Within groups, you can create discussion threads. This is a great way to encourage interaction. If your group is focused around a conference, create discussion threads around specific speakers or big ideas. Keep the conversation going.

Easy to share & distribute - Flickr photos have all the usual sharing options -- email, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr. You can also create direct links to the images and codes for embedding photos on your site.

How would you use Flickr for PR & Marketing?

Store images to distribute with news releases -- Create a set for your news release. Each image can include full captions and instructions for photo credits. Include a link back to the full story and news release on your site. 

When you publish your release or pitch your story, you can provide the link for journalists to download high resolution or web images.

Since you will be including all your keywords in tags, bloggers or journalists who are covering your topic or industry are likely to find your images for any related story. This is another way to find sources you might not have targeted.

The White House photo stream is a great example of how Flickr can be used to distribute newsworthy images.

The White House photo stream is a great example of how Flickr can be used to distribute newsworthy images.

Showcase images of products -- Store your high-end product shots on Flickr with full descriptions and links back to your site. Bloggers who are looking for illustrations are likely to find them. If your photos are tagged as Creative Commons, the stories will be required to carry a link back to your site. This is a great way to create even more exposure on stories that might not specifically be about your company.

Share images to drive traffic back to your site -- This is related to the previous example. Create stock photo-like images of your product in use. With Creative Commons licensing, you can encourage use in other blogs or marketing products, all pointed back to your site.

Create a community around your events and curate the best photos -- Use the Groups and Galleries during your next conference or volunteering event. Create contests that encourage customers or employees to join and contribute. Curate the best and showcase them on your site. This is an easy way to get more images to fuel your content marketing campaigns.

How can you use Flickr in your communications campaigns. Share your best examples.

Six musts of magnetic business photos
Apple is known for creating hero images with their products.

Apple is known for creating hero images with their products.

Want more clicks? Use more photos. So goes the popular marketing advice these days.  

Not so fast. Just because you have a camera and good intentions doesn't mean you can expect people to start clicking away. Downloading a generic stock photo won't encourage anyone to read your posts. Taking a yawn-worthy photo will have the same effect as a bland headline.

If you want the kind of photos that attract more readers, you must give your images the same attention you give your headline, messages, keywords and other strategic elements of your marketing material.

Whether you snap or select them, here are six musts for more magnetic business photos.

1. Create a hero

Like many boys, I was always attracted to the idea of heroes and villains. From Superman to Spiderman, I loved stories where we all knew that all eyes would turn to our hero, who would save the day.

When you are creating a photo for your business, you should be thinking about your hero. There should be only one point in the picture that you decide is most important, and it should be obvious. That's your hero. It can be a person. It can be your product. It can be a concept. Whatever hero you choose, make it unmistakable.

The reverse is also true. If you ever find that you aren’t crazy about one of your pictures, ask yourself, ‘what’s the subject, or hero?’ If a long, awkward pause follows, you’ve just solved the puzzle for your lackluster photo. Create a hero.

2. Make it prominent

It’s not enough to have a hero, you must make that hero prominent. Nobody wants a superhero who gets lost in the crowd.

The easiest way to create a prominent hero is to give it most of the real estate in your image. That often means getting close. It might mean standing back and zooming in. Either way, it means filling the frame.

The reverse rule also works here. If you look at your image, and your subject isn’t obvious or imposing, you are probably too far away. Zoom with your feet, and get closer.



3. Look for the light

There's an old adage that photography is painting with light. If that’s the case, you have to find the light to create great pictures. Your employees, customers or products will look their best when they are in plenty of light. Many new cameras can take great pictures in low light, but that will also require some more skill with camera settings. If you want tomake everyone look their best, photograph them in lots of light.

4. Show the action.

Here is a question most people will wonder as they look at your photos. "What are the people in this photo doing?" The least interesting of all business photos is called the grip and grin. It is a staple of awards ceremonies. The awardee and the boss clutch hands in a fake handshake and manufacture a smile for the camera. Better to ditch that boring concept and capture your awardee doing something. A more interesting image shows them at the task that earned the award.

If you are taking a picture of a product, showing it being used also helps people answer the question "...but what does it do?"

Take every opportunity to photograph action. A photo where there is action will usually be more interesting than one where people are just standing and staring. 

5. Tell me a story

A great picture usually tells a story at a glance. The photo’s elements, characters, and setting all communicate in an instant exactly what is going on. That makes it easier for your reader to connect with you. 

What stories are you trying to tell with your business? What problems do you solve? Great storytelling has strong characters, an obvious challenge, drama, controversy, and a satisfying conclusion. It might be hard to get all these elements into one photo, but with enough creative elements, you can tell a story that helps me connect with your brand. An effective picture must tell me a story.

6. Make me care

Red Bull uses photos to cultivate an brand that appeals to the active, outdoorsy type.

Red Bull uses photos to cultivate an brand that appeals to the active, outdoorsy type.

Here’s a question you must answer with your photo: So what? So many messages and images clamor for our attention. Why should I stop to look at yours? Great images have an arresting quality about them. They create a mood or evoke an emotion. They make me stop. They make me look. They make me feel. You must evoke my interest if you want me to care.

Can you get all six musts in every photo? Probably not, but the more you do, the more likely your photo will capture attention and lure your prospects to act.

This we must do.