Photography in the decisive moment

The decisive moment in media relations

One of the most important techniques in media relations is to find a decisive moment for issuing a story. What is a decisive moment? Well, the term comes from photography: Henri Cartier Bresson, the celebrated French street photographer expressed it in an interview with the Washington Post in 1957 as this:

There is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera. That is the moment the photographer is creative. Oop! The Moment! Once you miss it, it is gone forever.

Often, organisations chuck out press releases at times that are internally convenient, but which lack a news hook – and are not strong enough to gain serious coverage on their own. The same story, issued a month later, might well receive much more pick-up.

Issuing stories at the decisive moment relies on two things: planning and nimbleness. For planning, a good forward diary of relevant, major news pegs helps hugely. The Precise Media Planner, which is used by national newspapers and broadcasters is a useful tool for finding pegs. The everyday reading of news around a subject will also bring up forthcoming opportunities.

For example, if publishing research on how to increase investment in the water systems of developing countries, the UN’s World Water Day is a good time to release it. Or if announcing a book of cocktails of summer drinks, including Pimm’s based ones, the Wimbledon tennis championships is a good time to release it. That’s because there are already stories around about Pimm’s, a spectator stable.

Meanwhile, nimbleness is rather handy: the ability to send news out quickly when you realise that a decisive moment has unexpectedly hit can pay dividends.

Alex Singleton is author of The PR Masterclass, out now from Wiley.