PR Bootcamp for Photogs
If You Want to Work, Network
August 2009

by Cathy Saypol

One of the first things I do when I begin working with new clients is to create a media list, and assign them to create their "Big Mouth" Lists. Both are crucial to a good PR campaign.

Whether you're shy and feel uncomfortable spreading the word about your work, or you love to tell anyone who will listen why they should hire you, sooner or later you're going to want to get a message out to the masses. And, the most effective way to do that – on a nonexistent budget – is to develop two indispensable lists for yourself.

  1. A Media List for press releases and announcements to editors and producers who can use (read "license") your material. And ...
  2. A Big Mouth List for jobs (YEA!!!!). (For those of you who are not sure that you should be hanging your career on my every word, or who missed my last column, in June, here on TDJ, my mere mention of a "Big Mouth List" inspired close to 100 of you to e-mail me, asking all kinds of questions about "Big Mouths" – like who they are, what they can do for you, and where to find them.)

This month's column will be devoted to both. But first, a word or two on what to send. (Future columns will detail the fine-tuning of the PR craft, but for now, here is PR101.)

It's really pretty easy: You send a press release or announcement to the media when you are exhibiting something, releasing a report, publishing a book, inventing a camera that will make images by itself, or doing something that you feel (honestly, in your gut) that the media would be interested in covering, and their viewers/readers would be interested in knowing about.

Now, no overworked, underpaid assignment editor or executive producer is really interested in your opinion or how you feel an issue should really be covered, or what they're doing wrong in their jobs. Neither are their readers and/or viewers (that's why God invented blogging. A notable exception may be your significant other who drank the Kool-Aid a long time ago, and is too polite or supportive to tell you what a boring ass you are sometimes). So, stick to the information about your work that is really important.

For your Big Mouth mailing, you'll be sending short notes to your Big Mouths when you have an idea of what kind of work you'd like to do (including, of course, the work that you are currently doing), and you want them to spread the word far and wide (hence, the term "Big Mouth") to their friends, colleagues, and others who could hire you (or buy your book, prints, or whatever you're selling).

Here's how to start creating a media list: Take a piece of paper, or your computer if you work and think better while poised over the keyboard.

Make six categories:

  • Newspapers
  • Magazines
  • Television
  • Web sites
  • Trade outlets (includes all of the above)
  • Radio (if you think that you'll want to be interviewed for an event – publishing/exhibit – in the future. There are several shows on photography that can be very effective for your projects.)

Begin with what/who you know (remember my "concentric circle" method that I described to a DJ visitor last month?). You start with your core audience – people who you know, and who know you – and you build outward from there. You'll want the correct spelling of their names, titles and job descriptions (the photo editor can hire you, or license your images; the photo columnist will write about you, talk about you, and maybe even want to have lunch with you, but doesn't pay you to mention you in their column), and their e-mail addresses and phone numbers (which you will NOT use unless you are on the scene when Captain C.B. "Sully" Sullenberger is landing a fully loaded passenger aircraft in the Hudson, and you're the only photog on the scene getting great images).

List your local media first, followed by the "nationals." By "nationals," I mean The New York Times, The Washington Post, USAToday, The Wall Street Journal, the newsweeklies (yes!! Include them, and their Web sites), the photo editors of your favorite Web sites, and radio shows you listen to, and would someday like to be interviewed on.

How to find the names, you might ask?

A) The new-fashioned way: Google them.

B) The old-fashioned way: Use your iPhone and call the switchboards. You don't need to talk to the editors/producers. You just ask the operator or assignment desk who covers what you cover (sports, fashion, food, pop culture, publishing, business, etc.).

C) You can pay for it. There are some firms that offer "searching" services for a reasonable fee (e-mail me separately if you want some referrals).

I recommend that you use a simple database, or Excel, for this project—one that allows you to assign categories to your names, and write little notes on each, if you want. If you think that your list will never grow to be that big, then a simple Word doc will do.

When you have your base list done, make sure that it's kept separate from your general e-mail address book. Do NOT – and I can't stress this enough – include these contacts in blast e-mails that you may periodically send out to your friends about recalls, virus alerts, your opinion about another newspaper going out of business, a political candidate, the state of healthcare in the country, or anything that doesn't have to do with your work.

Two exceptions to this rule:

  1. Some of these producers and editors are also your personal friends who you know want to be included in your blast list, and …

  2. Your work has to do with a news or noteworthy event. Great example: My friend, Les Stone (like Rick Falco and his project) has been doing extraordinary work on a project devoted to health care in rural America. That is obviously a subject related to news-of-the-day, and could be a welcome e-mail notification.

Now ... onto your Big Mouth List compilation. The same info is needed for this list as for the media list, BUT … these helpful-to-your-career professionals are the producers, editors, directors of photography, art directors, PR and advertising pros, and others who can assign you projects. For this list, you'll want to include people you already know (who may not know about your month-to-month availability or desire to work on a specific topic), and send a nice note asking for referrals to their friends and colleagues. It really works. I promise. For example, I recently got a call from another publicist asking for photog suggestions for non-studio author images. I recommended she visit several photographers' Web sites, and several of those photographers got hired for non-competitive projects. (I'm a good Big Mouth to know.) So, start putting together your lists, and next time I'll cover my least favorite assignment, and usually one of the most important ones: writing press material. Until then … keep networking.

From the CSPR BootCamp HQ in Upstate New York

© Cathy Saypol

Cathy Saypol is a PR consultant who has represented high-profile publishing, photography and documentary projects for more than 30 years. You can reach her at

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