Munich content marketing conference

It’s all about storytelling and VR – so here we are on the stand with the Munich crew at CMCx

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Not pointing at fish.

I’m not sure when the tacit agreement crept in, that if a political leader allowed him or herself to be photographed in a press-office-approved location, partaking in a press-office-approved activity for a press-office-approved minimum amount of time in front of a press-office-approved photographer or agency who would then distribute it to press-office-approved media, that it somehow guaranteed the aforementioned politician a photographic amnesty for the duration of their holiday.

It is however  now a ritual that we seemingly have to go through every time a politico, wants to get sand between his toes, paddle in the surf, or build a sand castle that is just not quite the best one on the beach.

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Today we had the latest in a steady stream of utterly predictable photo-calls with Dave and Sam Cam once again staring lovingly into each other’s eyes over meagre cups of Polzeath’s finest latte.  We’ve seen it many times before, and I mean we really have seen it many times before – exactly the same scenario, same expression, maybe even the same latte (it’s probably press-office-approved) – and this gets picked up by the papers who then discuss the colour and vintage of his polo shirt. When they are not in Polzeath, they tend to run the same routine in southern European venue, with the activity of choice usually being to point at some fish on a market stall.  In which case, see above for journalists reaction replacing colour of polo shirt with choice of footwear (loafers sans socks caused a furore one year).

This curious dance with press buys him and his family some shelter from prying lenses – well that and the Range Rover full of close protection officers.  I have no problem with the expectation of privacy, the media relationship with politicians in particular is unusual in that it is enforced more than chosen and as such there tend to be boundaries – some clear cut, others implicit.  What I do have a problem with is the current trade off, largely because I think it is driven by press-officers and media consultants, and I think we are sold a pup every time.

The Camerons will no doubt take a tiny amount of flak for staging the world’s most boring repetitious photo-call yet again.  I shouldn’t think they give a flying f**k at a rolling doughnut about any of it.  Thirty seconds of contrived coffee drinking and Bob’s-your-uncle off down the beach for some serious sand-castle action.

What I really object to here is the idea that by endlessly accepting this as the  status-quo, we the media, just reinforce the position taken by press-officers and the controlling hands that steer these political types, that it is dangerous to be seen outside anything but an entirely contrived situation.  Personally I warm far more quickly to someone who can show they are in some way as flawed as me.  I love the fact that Mr Cameron struggles to put his shorts on under a Mickey Mouse towel on the beach – who doesn’t?  Who can’t relate to that experience?

Politicians are not supermodels, athletes, or indeed in any way perfect; they should be allowed to be overweight, gawky, goofy, and basically real.  More like me.  Somehow the rule of PR has come to mean that anything near normality is somehow dangerous, it somehow shows weakness, or lays bares flaws in the otherwise perfectly controlled public persona of their charge.  And hence we are left with the bloody coffee drinking, fish pointing photo-call.

I understand the trade off with the press, I understand the desire not to have the kids in a photo, I understand only too well the desire not to be photographed in anything that comes close to a sunbathing situation.  However there is a middle ground and PR’s, press-officers and politicians should really all have slightly more bottle.

 

Going back through the archives, it really was never this bad, and the photocalls were generally a lot better.

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The Blairs were arch controllers and, sartorial comments aside, this still looks less contrived than today’s.

 

 

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Take a top tip from a past master – stage a photocall with something to real to do.  What could be more natural than taking the dog for a walk – a dog is a great political prop.  Larry the Downing St cat just doesn’t cut it.  Sorry Larry.

 

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In the same vein of having something to do – play safe, play golf.  You just can’t fail – hit a great shot and everyone nods in respect, hit a crap shot and everyone simply nods in empathy when you smile and  shrug – “know how that feels”.

 

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Golf again.

 

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Have something real to do – what is better than a bike ride with the kids.  OK its a bit contrived, BUT ITS BETTER THAN COFFEE AND FISH POINTING.

 

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If you can really do something and its quite cool, then that’s a bonus.  John Kerry took it to a slightly different level kitesurfing in 2004.

 

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Look a man goes swimming in the ocean  (he also just happens to be POTUS, and didn’t risk or lose any votes from the publication of this photo)

 

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There is always the French approach, but this is not recommended for your average Englishman for many reasons.

One of which is that it gets awfully complicated when more than one wife features in these photocalls.

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Plus they actually do “being in love” kind of for real.  Normal rules just don’t really apply here.

Then of course we have the unrivalled  king of the holiday photo.  The Russian Pres. himself, Mr Vladimyr Putin

He rides horses, he swims in lakes, he fishes, he shoots things, and rides motorcycles, usually with his shirt off and probably roaring like a bear (I think they roar?).

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But he is also not afraid to show his softer side and can do staring lovingly just like Dave and Sam

 

I know that Putin’s holiday snaps are hilarious, but they are also damn side more interesting, a lot more daring and a hell of a lot more engaging than Dave’s.  If I were a politician being laughed at for my holiday snaps, I would rather be laughed at for photos of me clearly enjoying myself, and maybe trying a bit too hard, than pictures of me not giving a toss and not trying at all.  If any PR’s are listening….

 

Ebola. Time to focus.

I must have seen hundreds of thousands of news images across my screen in various jobs and guises  in the world of photojournalism over the course of 25 odd years.  Many of them hail from conflict zones, from natural disasters and places on earth where the human condition is somehow coming unstitched.

I have become inured, if not blase about much of this.  I’m not proud of it, but images of dead or mutilated bodies have little effect on me; as a father I find images of children caught up or injured in conflict harder to handle but I have a relatively thick skin even where they are concerned.

Every now and then, however, my belief in the raw power of great photography has 10,000 volts put through it, and is kicked viciously into life.  Truly great photography can and should stop you in your tracks.  It  should surprise, you, amaze you, inspire you and sometimes shock you enough to challenge or even change the way you think.

I defy anyone to look through the work of Getty Images photographer John Moore, just landed in Monrovia, and not know instinctively that we are getting this Ebola thing wrong.  Look at the pictures, read the captions – for they are just as potent, then ask yourself if we, as a global society, are getting our priorities right.

Patients are dropping dead in front of him, their final moments documented, in a makeshift isolation centre (a schoolroom).  Disinfectant sprayed from a backpack sprayer I might use for greenfly, is administered at arms length like fairy dust.  Morgue workers are kitted out with plastic bags tied on their heads as protection, a hole ripped in the side, through which they can see and breathe.  Pause for a moment.            Plastic bags, to counter the spread of Ebola – a virus with 90% fatality rate, no known cure or effective treatment, that kills a human in 8-9 days.       Plastic bags,  school classrooms and Dettol.

There are too many comparisons to make, too many “what-ifs” to make it worthwhile considering.  Just look at the images, allow their message to sink in, and see if you remain comfortable.

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MONROVIA, LIBERIA – AUGUST 15: Ibrahim Fambulle, barely able to stand, tries to walk to a different isolation room in an Ebola ward on August 15, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. People suspected of contracting the Ebola virus are being sent by Liberian health workers to the center, a closed primary school originally built by USAID. The Ebola epidemic has killed more than 1,000 people in four West African countries. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

 

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MONROVIA, LIBERIA – AUGUST 15: Umu Fambulle stands over her husband Ibrahim after he staggered and fell, knocking him unconscious in an Ebola ward on August 15, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. People suspected of contracting the Ebola virus are being sent by Liberian health workers to the center, a closed primary school originally built by USAID. The Ebola epidemic has killed more than 1,000 people in four West African countries. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
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MONROVIA, LIBERIA – AUGUST 14: Three-year-old Nino looks at a blackboard in a newly-opened Ebola isolation center set up in a school closed due to the epidemic on August 14, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. People suspected of contracting the Ebola virus are being sent to such centers in the capital Monrovia where the spread of the highly contagious and deadly Ebola virus has been called catastrophic. The epidemic has killed more than 1,000 people in four West African countries. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
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MONROVIA, LIBERIA – AUGUST 14: A burial team prepares to collect the dead body of a woman suspected of dying of the Ebola virus on August 14, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. Teams of undertakers wearing protective clothing are collecting victims from all over the capital Monrovia, where the spread of the highly contagious and deadly Ebola virus has been called catastrophic. The epidemic has killed more than 1,000 people in four West African countries. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
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MONROVIA, LIBERIA – AUGUST 14: A burial team from the Liberian health department sprays disinfectant over the body of a woman suspected of dying of the Ebola virus on August 14, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. Teams are picking up bodies from all over the capital of Monrovia, where the spread of the Ebola virus has been called catastrophic. The Ebola epidemic has killed more than 1,000 people in four West African countries and has overwhelmed the Liberian health system. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images
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MONROVIA, LIBERIA – AUGUST 14: A burial team from the Liberian health department removes the body of a woman suspected of dying of the Ebola virus from her home on August 14, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia.
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MONROVIA, LIBERIA – AUGUST 15: A mother and child stand atop their mattresses in a classroom now used as Ebola isolation ward on August 15, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. People suspected of contracting the Ebola virus are being brought by Liberian health workers to the center, a closed primary school originally built by USAID, while larger facililities are being constructed to house the surging number of patients. The Ebola epidemic has killed more than 1,000 people in four West African countries. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
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MONROVIA, LIBERIA – AUGUST 15: Liberia’s capital city of Monrovia is seen from the roof of an abandoned hotel on August 15, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. People in the area suspected of contracting the Ebola virus are being brought by health workers to a temporary isolation center – a closed primary school originally built by USAID, while larger facililities are being constructed to house the surging number of patients.  (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)