BitDepth 760 - December 07

An overview of my thinking on photography's use in Corporate Communications in a digitally enabled era.
The accessibility network

Audience members at IABCTT’s What’s your online status seminar. Speakers also included Georgia Popplewell, Maxie Navarro and Andre Robert. Photo by Mark Lyndersay.

Speaking to a room full of Corporate Communications professionals about using photography in their business seemed to be as useful a project as hauling coals to Newcastle or even toting tassels to Tribe.
But the way that photography gets used in corporate messaging remains one of those things that demands some serious rethinking.

The brief from the local chapter of the IABC invited a conversation about using photography in the context of a world alive with social networking distribution, but the challenge of leveraging those fundamental changes lies in refreshing some basics about the way communication takes place and the role that photography plays in the messaging.

A key element of the strategy that’s worked for my own efforts on the web and informed the overall approach that I advocated during the talk is the idea of building an accessibility network for the corporate brand.
At the core of that principle is the notion, at once liberating and terrifying, that anyone on the web can be, with little effort, a publisher and broadcaster to the audience that’s relevant to them.

It seems likely that making the jump from the way things are now to the way they need to be is going to be more Matrix chasm jump than simple puddle hop from the response of the audience at the IABCTT event to a question about their web presence.
Extrapolating outward from that expressed lack of engagement and confessions of lethargic updating in their company’s websites from a group that had gathered to look forward to social networking opportunities, it doesn’t seem adventurous to assume that the vast majority of local corporate websites are static brochures rather than living documents.

This might seem to be a quite the leap from the idea of making better use of photographs in corporate communications, but without a leveraging platform, changes to visual approaches are likely to be cosmetic, delivering little change in communications metrics.
The ramifications of switching this perspective are significant and fundamental. Taking responsibility for your own news feed means assimilating both the principles of traditional newsgathering and the demands of open social networks and fusing them into a sustainable corporate process that must consistently deliver attractive, user-focused content.

As any editor will attest, that’s some tough stuff right there.
It’s also a radical reorientation for corporate communications departments which have traditionally issued information as packages rather than as streams.

Building an accessibility network means committing to three things.

  • Continuous, regular updates to a web presence that are then streamed into appropriate social network extensions of the corporate Internet profile.
  • Dynamic content that attracts the intended audience using engaging text, photography and video.
  • Winning supporters with transparency and honesty in online dealings and a strong sense of character that’s appropriate to the brand.

The critical difference in doing this kind of online publishing is that after building a web presence on a sound content management system, the cost of distributing content trends toward zero. 
Add to that the power of good analytics software and you have the ability to not only publish, but to gauge exactly what is working with your audience and what isn’t. Analytics will provide you with compelling information about your viewers and more important, what they are interested in
You can quickly rebalance a website to promote popular content while retooling material that isn’t working out
Working with photography in online environments was what IABCTT asked for, but my experiences with delivering my own content and the most successful examples of online brands suggest that effective photography must be supported by a web strategy that’s designed to raise all the boats of the communications message at once.

View a vidcast of the presentation here.
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