Help me get you coverage

As a dance photojournalist I often find myself giving the same advice about how to help me get your project, troupe or performance covered in the press. Sometimes I forget to mention something, or take for granted that the person I’m talking to knows how it all works. This post makes a start on addressing how it works for me, but don’t assume it’ll work the same way with other photographers or journalists. We’re different people with different priorities and are excited by (and therefore more motivated to sell) very different things.

I hope the following helps and look forward to improving it as a result of your feedback.

Audience at the London Cabaret Awards, taken to support a news piece. (c) Carole Edrich 2013

Audience at the London Cabaret Awards, taken to support a news piece. (c) Carole Edrich 2013

How do I get you to cover my work in a magazine?

Tell me about what you’re doing in sufficient time for me to research it, craft good pitches, send them to editors and see what they think. The best way to tell me is through email or on this blog. Facebook, which seems to have a logic all of its own, often hides messages from new people, but if you must use it, DM Carole Edrich Dance Photography  or join the facebook group ‘I want to be in a dance magazine’. I need at least 4 months to get a piece into a magazine (ideally more), at least 2 months to get a well thought-out pitch to a newspaper (although this is more difficult and I might decide it’s not worth trying) and very little time to get the piece online (which I’m more likely to do as a favour because of the very small returns).

How do you get commissions?

An editor might approach me directly with a request to provide images or an article. If this happens I’ll either contact the appropriate organisation or individuals directly or ask on facebook and (less often) twitter for whatever it is I need.

If I send the editor a pitch. This is a short summary that often takes as long – and occasionally longer – than the article itself. A good pitch has a good angle, it’s original, it has some kind of relationship to what’s going on in the rest of the world and demonstrates a reasonable level of background knowledge.  If I think it’ll fly, I’ll probably ask you questions as part of the research for the pitch. Since this is all time consuming and unpaid I’m very careful about what I take on. I might also include sample images if I think it will help sell your story. Eventually (the time taken depends, on who I’m dealing with, how busy they are and whether they’ve bothered to read my email because busy editors who don’t know me might not) the editor or one of their representatives will let me know if they want the work.

If the editor wants the piece or the images I have to deliver the work by the deadline. That means fitting it around all the other things I’ve committed to and meeting – and photographing – you or your project at least once. If that particular editor doesn’t want the piece I might pitch it elsewhere. That will depend on whether there’s enough time, whether I think another publication might like the story and what else is on my plate.

Normal practice for most publications is to pay after the piece is delivered although some publications pay on receipt of my copy (words and images). That means it can be as long as 5 months between doing the work and getting paid for what I’ve done.

How do I help you maximise the chances of getting my project or performance into a magazine or newspaper?

The sooner you can tell me about it the better. If your project is timed to coincide with something else or is part of a bigger event tell me as that might help find the right angle. If you’re not sure whether your plans will go ahead or not, tell me that too. It’s better to tell me about something that doesn’t happen than it is to tell me at the last minute about something that does, because the editor will have already planned the publication and there won’t be any space left for your story, even if it’s right up their street.

So if you’re thinking of doing something in the future but aren’t sure if it will come off, tell me you want it embargoed. If you embargo it I know that we can’t publish anything about it until you lift the embargo, but I can tell this to the editor who will, if the idea is right, allow space for it in the media while setting up a contingency in case your project doesn’t go ahead.

How do I maximise the chances of getting my project or performance into one of your blogs?

I only ever use my own images on my blogs and always have more photographic opportunities than I can manage. If you’re unable to facilitate my taking photographs of your project, troupe, event or performance or are unable to tell me who can, I won’t have the time to try. If you are able to facilitate my taking photographs of your project either directly or by introducing me to the appropriate individual you are much more likely to get featured.

Because I don’t get paid to blog I prefer to cover projects, events and people related to things I’ve been commissioned to cover or that are associated with one of my longer term projects. Depending on how busy I am, I’ll consider anything else that’s interesting, provided I’m able to use my own images to support the blog post. I’ll be more enthusiastic about ideas that I can see developing over time or that I might be able to sell to mainstream or specialist press.

I’m particularly interested in dance snippets, things that add value, strange prizes, dance travel, different perspectives, different dance forms and other related experiences or in ideas that introduce me to a new audience or that introduce a new audience to this blog.

You asked if you could come to my event, what happens now?

I’ll take photos and do my best to get coverage. If I’ve asked you and it has been arranged in good time there is a good chance of this happening. If it’s weeks rather than months (or even days) the chance is very much smaller unless I’m responding to an editors’ specific request (if that is the case I will have told you).

Do you post images or words in return for money?

I accept sponsorship and sponsored experiences, free travel and tickets because without these I’d not be able to maintain the blog or do much of my other work. However those who provide such facilities have no control over what I post or when I will post it (because if I have sold a story to other media I won’t post anything online that detracts from the story I’ve sold until after it is published). If an experience has been specifically provided so that I can blog about it, you’ll read that in the post. Most PRs expect me to make some kind of guarantee up front, something I’m happy to do provided it doesn’t impinge on my ability to express myself freely and honestly. Examples can be seen here and here.

I’ve arranged or facilitated access so that you can take photos. What can I expect from you in return?

As a journalist I will do my best to get something on whatever it is you have facilitated published in the mainstream and/or specialist media.  I may also write something about it on my blog. I may ask for feedback or clarification on related matters because I want my work to be as clear and accurate as possible. Occasionally I might show you a draft of what I’ve written or selection of images. This is because I want to be sure that what I’ve written is correct, and that the photos are appropriate, but it doesn’t give you any rights to have anything changed you don’t like or to keep any images unless I’ve made a factual (or spelling) mistake. You also have no right to select different images for the piece, partly because that would compromise my journalistic integrity and partly because it is the editor and not me who makes the final choice.

by, and (c)  Carole Edrich