Check your marketing images are sending the right message

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The revelation that the woman and daughter on the cover of the Government’s 2019 Budget document moved to Australia for financial reasons is a timely reminder of the value of knowing the story behind any photographs you use in your business.

Stock photography can be an inexpensive and convenient source of images for your websites, publications and marketing materials, but it also carries a degree of risk. Especially if the photographers or the people photographed hold views or have life stories at odds with your intended messaging.

In the case of the Government’s Wellbeing Budget document, the National Party gleefully went to the media after becoming aware that the woman and daughter photographed on the cover, Vicky and Ruby-Jean Freeman, had moved to Australia.

When spoken to by Newshub, Vicky Freeman said it was “just hard financially” being a single mother in New Zealand, and she had moved to Australia after finding the cost of living in Auckland high.

It was not the kind of publicity the Government wanted after releasing a budget that they aimed to have celebrated for its significant increase in funding for mental health, families, vulnerable children and beneficiaries.

It’s not the first time a stock photo has left an organisation red-faced, and certainly not a worst-case example. Much more mind-boggling was the 2015 international fundraising calendar released by Greenpeace USA, which featured a photo of zebras and giraffes taken by wildlife photographer Alain Mafart.

Staggeringly, those involved in the calendar’s production did not realise until it was printed that Mafart-Renodier, previously known as Alain Mafart, was the very same man who had been convicted of manslaughter for his involvement in the infamous 1985 bombing of Greenpeace’s flagship Rainbow Warrior.

Upon realising the identity of the former French military operative Greenpeace USA destroyed 14,000 copies of the calendar it held in stock, but could not prevent the majority from being sold to the public.

So what can we learn from these two examples? One key takeaway is to make sure you know the story behind your image. The easiest way to do that is to take any photos you plan to use in-house, or with the help of a professional photographer who conducts a photo shoot using talent that has been checked and vetted. That way you can more easily verify that those being photographed don’t have any controversial skeletons in the closet.

If you are going to use a stock image – and let’s face it they are often the lower-cost option – then it is worth checking up on the photographer and the people in the photos, just to make sure their views and background aren’t at odds with what your business stands for.

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James Heffield
James Heffield
Director of Bay of Plenty marketing and public relations consultancy Last Word. To find out more visit www.lastwordmedia.co.nz or email james@lastwordmedia.co.nz.

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