Recently, I’ve been focussing my writing on my blog on content marketing and visual storytelling. Many of my recent posts have revolved around brands using these techniques in an awesome way, and included some of my thoughts on how to best go about applying content marketing and storytelling. This led me to a somewhat delayed epiphany: these are techniques I could and should employ myself as well in marketing my photography.
Content marketing 101
Let’s first review what content marketing really is. I won’t be citing any Joe Puluzzi and instead try to explain in my own words. For me, content marketing boils down to providing potential customers and the general public with genuinely interesting articles, videos or photo series that are not actively trying to sell your brand. Through providing readers and viewers with quality content, they will value your brand and keep coming back for me. In storytelling, what I would often advise brands to do is tell someone else’s story, not your own brand’s. If that story shares the values you most cherish and is an authentic and compelling thing to watch or read, customers will value your brand for supporting this person. The key point in content marketing and visual storytelling is to focus first on bringing quality content and be genuinely interested in showing a good story. Branding has to take second place.
Photographers may be doing it wrong – yours truly included
Now the interesting thing about photographers is that they have some quality content to share from the get-go: their photos. Many brands have to hire photographers to shoot their visuals, photographers can instead easily employ their main product as a prime marketing tool. I think it’s this readily accessible nature that causes many photographers to not stop and think about it from a somewhat higher level. I’m absolutely guilty of this myself as well. When I’m sharing photos on social media or in a blog post, it’s always about me. I’ll tell about my process, my thoughts, struggles and experiences while shooting or things I’ve accomplished. Recently it hit me that while that may be useful some of the time, I might as well take my own prescribed medicine for brands and instead tell someone else’s story.
One form I’ve recently been applying this is through focusing on what other (sports) brands are doing in terms of visual storytelling. It’s so much easier to write kinds words about someone else than yourself, and I love analysing these pieces of content. An added benefit is that through talking about these well known campaigns, potential clients can see that I know what’s going on in the (sports) marketing world and understand the marketing language.
Tell stories about the athletes
Even better than talking about brands though, is talking about athletes. Really, in my photography, it all revolves around documenting people’s active lifestyles. Why not focus my blog articles and social media posts on those people as well then, promoting their dedication to their sports and beliefs, instead of pimping my own work and accomplishments? For starters, this makes for far more interesting content than some photographer being all pleased with himself. Of course I should probably still talk about my process and accomplishments at times, but it wouldn’t hurt to focus more on my subjects instead of myself. Second, this shows potential clients the genuine interest I have in these people’s lifestyles and gives me a chance to show off my storytelling abilities – something I could be doing for them in a future assignment.
Content marketing for other niches of photography
What this boils down to in daily practice for me personally, is writing a few extra words about my subject, their background, dreams and accomplishments. Not as much focus on behind the scenes content and gear talk, but more emphasis on the human story. In certain niches like wedding photography, this is pretty much standard practice already: most social media posts from these photographers tell a bit of a story about the newly weds. This makes for extremely likeable content, from friends and family especially, but how could you not like such newfound happiness? I feel that in my own niche, which is capturing passionate people’s lifestyles, portraits and action, the concept should be just as easily applicable though. The same goes for industries like landscape photography, fashion and cars: make your own online content a showcase for the destination, designer or car you’re shooting. Focus on the unique characteristics of the subject, doing marketing for the subject, not for your own photography. I genuinely believe this will make for stronger content, happier readers and followers, and more interest and respect for the photographer’s work.
The photos with this article are part of a series of work I shot in a studio with athletes. Pictured here are former PSV Eindhoven midfielder Oscar Hiljemark, and London Olympics field hockey silver medalist Tim Jenniskens.