Look a little more serious

Last week my husband was interviewed for his company magazine.  A member of the in-house communications team carried out the interview and brought along a photographer to capture the action.  Everything went successfully and was completed in record time.  Next step, team photo.  The group were naturally delighted that everything had gone smoothly, in good spirits most of all engaged with their task.  So animated in fact, that they were requested to “look a little more serious”.  In summary the photographer took the corporate ‘catalogue man’ type of shot.

The interesting part of this story from a corporate communications perspective is that according to the Edelman Trust Barometer, trust in authority is shifting and there is a focus to portray an ‘authentic voice’ rather than a corporate voice.  How we choose to illustrate that also needs to be authentic.  If the purpose of the staff magazine/ezine is staff engagement surely an authentic picture of staff laughing and smiling would portray engagement more than a serious shot?  For a video news clip, how rich would it be to see the project unfold and then end with the team shaking hands or patting each other on the back.  If staff engagement and authenticity is the goal then surely staff, genuinely celebrating success is a gift.

Serious messages do require a picture that matches the tone, however, an animated photograph has a part to play.  So you have to ask, why didn’t it pan out that way?  Is it that in-house staff more so than agency staff become ‘institutionalised?  Or, are both trained/over-trained to follow a pre-scripted corporate style?  Just because we may have written ‘capture the moment’ in the photography brief does not mean the photographer is going to deviate from producing the expected corporate shot .

The danger is that corporate communications can be so focussed on achieving an authentic voice that matching this with an authentic image is overlooked, staff become blinkered by corporate style guides.  Whether you’re on the producing or receiving end of a corporate publication I’d love to hear how authentic  you believe it is.

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8 Responses to Look a little more serious

  1. 007scorpion says:

    I know what you mean I have worked for several large corporations and been asked for the ‘more serious pose’, the look busy and focused serious work face… and also in a small group (when inappropriate – like using new equipment) to smile like you’ve won the lottery.

    All to often pictures don’t capture the right mood. Children are grateful for chocolate leads to a happy face…but you can’t give those it the workplace tools for their job and get a happy picture the ‘big bosses’ (parents) have given you something to cheer you up. Too often company magazines are full of the same unimaginative pictures and hence the readership and feedback (at the water cooler) negative.

    Good post Anne I never knew I had a bee-in-my-bonnet until you posted

  2. Country Lass says:

    Great article Anne.
    I felt tinged with sadness when I read that your husband and his colleagues had been asked to be more serious. I then started to question, did the photgrapher ask them to be more serious so that he could get his ‘safe shot’ in the bag first? Then I thought, had the Company who employed him specified that he should get the people in the picture to look serious? Or, had experience taught him that this Company only liked ‘serious shots’? In any event, whatever the answer, (which we may never find out) one thing’s for sure, if a Company, during the current challenging times that we are all facing, has happy employees who are prepared to be caught on camera – they should embrace them and take as many shots as possible! In my view, the photograph portraying happy employees will be worth far more than any corporate speak that may be chosen to accompany the article!

  3. Claire Farfield says:

    I don’t actually bother to read the company magazine, I consider it corporate propaganda, aren’t we great, rah, rah, rah. Inauthentic.

  4. Judge Jon says:

    There are some smiley pictures in our company magazine but they look staged not authentic. As for the articles I think a lot get dumbed down, written for the newbie in the workplace rather than the vast majority of the work force who would like to know a bit more detail.

  5. Helen Hayes says:

    Hi Anne

    Interesting couple of blogs you’ve put up – well done for embracing the new world of blogging!

    Sometimes a corporate shot can look very staged and stiff and lose credibility with employees I agree, that said I do feel that a smiley happy, back slappy shot can also look smug and self agrandising. Both of these shots are clearly to be avoided but the problem is in the readers perception. My perception of somebody looking proud of a job well done could be your perception of somebody gloating. It’s a challenging problem.

    I think perhaps in the current climate of change and job insecurity employees do want to still see a more austere and “safe” photo and accompanying text. I think employees are genuinely apprehensive and need to feel reassured by familiarity and to some degree a patriachal tone. Maybe smiley, happy man wearing shorts doesn’t quite cut it at the moment?

    Interesting blog, thank you for the opportunity to comment.


  6. Heather (Williamson) Barratt says:

    Great blog, prompting some good questions.

    Having been sent to take many a corporate photo, sometimes with a very ‘limited’ camera, I’ve come across the very same problem.

    Sometimes the subjects feel inhibited, especially if the photo is at their desk or in their work area, watched by colleagues.

    Props can help. I’ve used party poppers, hands in the airs and in my astrazeneca years got a load of scientists to jump of a wall at the same time! (Not quite sure how we pulled that one off?) I sometimes coach the subjects to go ‘ha ha ha ha ha ha’ so they look like their smiling, but not all are willing.

    The thought of this photo going into a corporate magazine seen by their boss also makes for a more conservative photo.

    If anyone can give me some more examples of celebrating success photo ideas I’d love to hear them.

  7. Anne Dyke says:

    Dear All
    Thanks for your comments much appreciated. I must admit I did not expect quite so much cynicism and dissatisfaction with the company magazine/ezine on one level or another. With the growth of information rich websites and regular news items I wonder how valid it still is as a medium for staff engagement particularly as by the time it is published articles are likely to already be at least a month old. Thought provoking! Thank you.

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