How to handle Media attention with Damien Lovegrove
New found fame can be accompanied by undesired attention from Newspapers, TV and all sorts of media people and publications hunting for stories.
Whilst some media organisations offer superb exposure to mass markets, the less salubrious are simply looking for sensationalist mud to sling. The latter have no regard for the harm and embarrassment they can cause.
Here we talk to Damien Lovegrove a well-known and respected Photographer who has worked with talented X-Factor contestant Chloe Jasmine. That connection was picked up in Media circles and before he knew it the likes of Sun Newspapers and Heat Magazine wanted interviews.
This can be a minefield and a very difficult situation to navigate. One false step and Damien could have been in trouble. His and his clients reputation and commercial opportunities could be at stake. We wanted to know how he avoided the banana skins
1. Infocus: How were you approached, was it a phone call, an e-mail or a journalist camping out on your doorstep?
I was approached by telephone, with no undue pressure and no journalists camping outside.
2. Infocus: Was the approach from Heat Magazine different from The Sun Newspaper. Did either make you feel uncomfortable or at risk.
Had only good and positive things to say about working with Chloe and welcomed the opportunity to get that across. Heat were “after an interesting back story” on Chloe Jasmine, whereas The Sun “were reacting to information they had”. Both were after Damiens opinion and comment but with perhaps different story-lines in mind to cater for their respective audience. When asked for photos Damien advised that all his pictures were available through his agent and photo library, Rex Features. Damian was familiar with the process and so, whilst wary, was not uncomfortable
3. Infocus: Did you discuss the approach with your client and get her agreement before doing any interviews?
No discussions were had directly with the client, all permissions and discussions went through her agent as she is currently “busy with X Factor and other commitments”. Commercial arrangements and agreements were in place before the approaches.
4. Infocus: What sort of leading questions did they ask and how did you respond
Often the leading questions will be quite “deviant” as they are looking for quotes rather than answers to the questions. The journalists may say things to get you to quote or “to put words into your mouth”. Damien gave us a few tips:
● Be careful what you say and know exactly who you are talking to
● Understand the risks
● Record questions and answers so you have evidence to challenge incorrect stories
5. Infocus: Do you think it is possible to turn this attention to both yours and your clients advantage or should Photographers take a ‘no comment’ approach
“No comment is usually best” unless you’re in a position to capitalise on the publicity and not cause upset to the subject of the approach. Damien’s way of controlling his photographs is through his agent Rex Features who handle all commercial aspects of his image library.
6. Infocus: Wherever your pictures reside, how do you secure them and prevent them from being used without yours and your clients permission.
Utilise professional photo library agencies, such as Rex Features. They then act on the photographers behalf and make sure any pictures that are used are paid for. Using the public library will stop people using your photos without permission or payment.
7. Infocus: Although it didn’t happen, how would you have dealt with a media frenzy resulting from the theft or unauthorised use of Private or compromising pictures? Are you insured against the costs of dealing with a PR Crisis and any potential lawsuit from clients?
This is an example of why having an agent is beneficial to any photographer who has dealt with clients in the public eye. “You need someone with the resources to check the usage and know how much to charge”, using an agent will allow you to recover any money owed. “Leave it to the professionals” and let them handle any PR issues.
8. Infocus: Finally do you have any tips for Photographers facing similar situations?
● Agents know how to handle and capitalise on commercial opportunities. Leave it up to them is Damien’s advice
● When approached by people purporting to represent the Media, research who is asking the questions. Freelancers taking a chance of getting a story do not have the resources of a national newspaper so recourse against them for twisting the truth is unlikely to be viable?
● Owning Copyright is not permission to make money from your pictures. Permissions and agreements need to be reached such as Model Release forms and commercial agreements need to be in place setting out how Royalties are shared for example
So to summarise, professional press agencies and photo library agents are both a useful business tool in getting the best value out of your pictures and are also valuable protection against the risks posed by Media attention.
Ultimately though they would not meet legal defence costs should you have to defend yourself against legal actions. In the case of Infocus insurance, allegations of professional negligence from your clients would be dealt with by your Infocus Professional Indemnity policy along with associated PR Crisis Containment costs.