Posts filed under ‘Other’

Business Portraits

By Andrea Obston, President, Andrea Obston Marketing Communications LLC.

Business portraits are like trips to the supermarket.  Nobody wants to do them, you don’t feel any better after you’re done and you almost never like what you bring home.

I recently made that trip and I actually felt good when I brought home the results.

I decided to get an updated portrait because it’s been awhile since my last one and, well, I no longer look quite like the last shot.  No Baby Boomer likes to admit he or she is “of a certain age” but 80 million of us are.   And that means there are lots of us on many a website looking like we did around the turn of the century (OK, just writing that phrase made me feel old).

My rule of thumb is that your portrait should age with you.  Think of it as the Reverse Dorian Gray rule.  You and your portrait need to get old together.  If not, someone who sees that 10-year-old photo first will meet you and wonder what happened to you.  Face it, none of us looks like we did 10 years ago and anything that opens up a comparison is not going to end up in your favor.

So, now that I’ve raised this issue with 80 million of you, in this video you will hear about a few tips to help you make your portrait work in your favor:

  • Dress for your business arena – If your normal business attire is a suit or jacket, that’s how people will expect to see you in on your site.  You are dressing for your clients’ expectations, not to indulge your need to look cute or comfy.    If, on the other hand, everyone in your field (and your clients) comes to work in business casual, that’s fine for your shot.  Remember though, that you still need to look neat and pulled together.  No one looks good in fleece or flannel unless they are an American Eagle model.
  • Wear clothes that fit and are not revealing – Skip showing off that smoking hot body with revealing or tight clothing.  This is not the venue for it.  You may have spent hours in the gym honing it to near perfection, but it has no place in a business portrait.  If, on the other hand, your trips to the gym are less frequent than you’d like, choose clothing that honestly copes with your expanded girth.  None of us are a size four anymore, so live with it and dress accordingly.
  • Choose a shot that primarily focuses on your face – The center of attention for a business portrait should be your face.  Think of it as a little moment of intimacy between you and the camera.  That means no shots of you with fake gestures, on the phone or in the bogus pose with your jacket slung over your shoulder.  Let’s save that for the Sears catalog.
  • Look for shots that feature your eyes – People find credibility in your eyes, so make sure they are well represented.  Good portrait photographers capture what’s called “catch lights” in the eyes of their subjects.  These give life to the whole face.  And while we’re on the subject of eyes, if you wear glasses normally wear them in the portrait.  You will look more comfortable with them on.  Don’t worry about glare.  A professional photographer knows how to deal with that.  With that said, do NOT wear dark glasses or half-height reading glasses no matter what you do day-to-day.  Both make you look like you look untrustworthy because we can’t see your eyes.
  • Watch that background – Make sure the background is complementary.  I am of the opinion that all business portraits should be shot in a studio with a muted background.  Remember it’s about you and the face you present to the world.  So shooting it in a warehouse, up against an office wall or even in front of a stack of books (yes, attorneys I’m talking to you!) does not do the job.  And speaking of backgrounds, do check to make sure you’re not blending into what you’re in front of.  If you’ve got gray hair, for example, do not pose in front of a gray background.  If you’re skin is dark, brown is not a good idea.
  • Spring for the pro – If you take nothing from this blog entry, please take this: Do not try this at home.  A professionally done photo from someone who regularly does portraits is worth its weight in gold.  Not a wedding photographer; not a publicity photographer; not a nature photographer.  A portrait photographer.  They have unique skills, tricks and experience that make their subjects look natural, warm and approachable.  I know your sister’s kid just graduated from art school and needs a portfolio, but she is not the one to immortalize you for all the world to see.  Let her take your holiday photo.  No one looks good in matching sweaters anyway, so she can’t screw that up.  Bite the bullet.  Go to the studio.  Get that haircut and sit still for a professional.  They’ll light you so you look alive.  They’ll pose you so you look natural (yes, I know that’s a contradiction) and they’ll get the smile that makes the viewer say, “I like that guy.  I want to get to know him.”

Okay, Boomers, what are you waiting for?  It’s time our photos and our faces looked alike.  Trust me.  It’s better this way.

Comments, Questions, Answers, Suggestions?




May 17, 2011 at 8:30 pm Leave a comment

Just Say Less

By Andrea Obston, President, Andrea Obston Marketing Communications, LLC.

One of the biggest frustrations people have about interviews with reporters is that the story doesn’t turn out the way they expected.  “I spent an hour with that reporter and nothing I said ended up in the story” is a common refrain.   Or, “I don’t understand. I explained myself so carefully and the story’s just wrong.”

Why is it that sometimes the results of an interview seem to bear no relation to the interview you know you gave?  Because you gave too much.

The attorneys we’ve worked with are smart, educated and passionate about what they do.  The interviews they give often reflect the knowledge and zeal they have for the law.  But the flip side of all this knowledge is that attorneys often say too much.  They go into more detail than the reporter needs or cares to know.  Reporters for most news outlets have neither the time nor inclination to share an attorney’s passion for how laws come to be.  What they do care about is what the changes mean.  Whereas attorneys are often fascinated with the process of the law, reporters are only interested in the outcome.  That’s the key difference between attorneys and reporters and the source of frustration for both parties.

So, how do you get your words heard, understood and used by news reporters?  Here are a few suggestions:

  • Use MAPS – Narrow the scope of your remarks to three to five main points. We call these your Must Air Points (MAPS).  Make sure you keep an eye on the clock so that you deliver all of your MAPS during the interview.  It’s perfectly fine to start an interview by asking a reporter how long it will last.  If you’re 20 minutes into an expected 30 minute interview and you’ve only delivered one of your three MAPS, you can say something like, “Before we go any farther, there are two other important points I wanted to make with you.  They are the keys to understanding this issue.”
  • Dumb it Down – Don’t assume that any reporter is as well-informed as you are. Explain everything from the layperson’s perspective.  Think of it as if you were speaking to a jury.  Avoid legal terms.  If you must use them, explain what they mean and why they are important to understanding the topics.
  • Be Succinct – Get to the point quickly.  You’ve probably heard that reporters want 20-second sound bites and nothing more. It’s now down to seven seconds.  Use this guideline for interviews with both print and electronic journalists and you will have a better chance of being quoted.
  • Use Visual Images – Paint verbal pictures as you talk.  It makes your words more memorable and more quotable.  For example, “My client’s employees do not leave their child care problems at home.  They cart them into work in a paper bag.”  After these statements, pause and give the reporter time to write down the “pearls of wisdom” you have just imparted.
  • Summarize – When you have covered a lot of ground it’s a good idea to summarize where you’ve been in the interview.  If the summary is good enough, it will help the reporter structure the story and give you a better chance of being part of it.
  • Examples – The magic words to reporters are: “Let me give you an example.”  Examples help them frame their story.  Concentrate on timely examples from your firm’s experience. If you can’t deliver that, consider a situation in the public eye that demonstrates your point.  If you use a client example, you will probably need to withhold the name but give enough detail so the reporter knows it’s a real example.  For example, “We worked with a manufacturer in Bridgeport that was dealing with this kind of labor situation.  Here’s what happened…”  Be aware, though, that the reporter may request an interview with this client who can illustrate an issue…  Real world examples give a story substance.  Whether or not you can supply these names is obviously a matter of your choice and consultation with a client.
  • Interest Makers – Use these phrases to grab a reporter’s attention.  They indicate that something important is going to be said.  When you approach these phrases, slow down.  When you finish with them, be quiet and give the reporter a chance to write down your comments.  These phrases include:
    • “What is important…”
    • “What this all means is…”
    • “The major point is…”
    • “The key to understanding that issue is…”
  • When You Just Don’t Know – When you don’t know the answer or if you are still working on the information, it’s okay to admit it to a reporter.  In fact, it’s better to tell them you’ll look into a tough question and get back to them than to fake it.  You want to remain in control of the situation and be recognized as an ongoing, reliable source of accurate information.  Make sure you deliver on all promised information before the reporter’s deadline.  If a reporter is counting on information from you and doesn’t receive it in a timely manner, that does nothing for your credibility or chances of getting another opportunity for an interview.

Fair and accurate coverage of your story is often enhanced by an effective interview with the attorney.   Media interviews give you and your clients the opportunity to get your story out to a large group of people through a trusted source.  Interviews also offer a valuable scenario in which to build relationships with reporters whom you may utilize again, long-term.

Comments, Questions, Answers, Suggestions?



May 9, 2011 at 1:47 pm Leave a comment

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Andrea Obston, President

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