By Melissa A Vitale
Okay here’s the scenario. You are scrolling through social media and see an article about a brand you’ve worked with. You click on the article and WOW: There’s your photo! You either took the photo on behalf of the brand or you were at an event of the brand’s where there was photography. You’re not upset about being featured, but damn, you want to be credited.
Totally understandable, especially if it’s a big outlet. That exposure could be so monumental to your brand or business.
Before we get into what happens in this scenario, you need to first understand that as much as I like to think I’m a powerful woman, there are many things in media that I as a publicist absolutely cannot control. (Shameless plug to one of my previous blog articles, quite literally titled “Things a publicist cannot control”). Does not matter how many times you ask me, or if you threaten me with consent violations to try to make your point--which yes has happened--this is an area where even my hands can be tied.
There are a lot of people involved in every story that gets published. For every single story published, there’s usually a writer, a section editor, a site editor and a photo editor involved. I get into the specifics more in this blog. This is why you can see mistakes in a published piece. The writer may know your name, but the 3rd editor making a pass at the article doesn’t have the same first-hand information as the writer (something like they wouldn’t know if your name was “Vitaly” or “Vitale”). The photo editor usually is the one who finalizes the image choice. They usually get sent a link that was provided by a brand which images to choose from.
I slipped that sentence in there so you may not have even noticed it. The brand provided the image to the photo-editor; Even if there were paid photographers, paid models, personalized props, typically the brands pay to have the photos available to them for use. Often times, the publicist and editorial team won’t always know who took the photos or what’s going on in them. They just know they were provided on behalf of the brand.
I’ve even had photos labeled “Must be credited to PHOTOGRAPHER NAME” but still credit was not given to the photographer in editorial. WHY? Why is that? Do journalists, newsites, publicists and journalists hate creatives so much they won’t give them credit for their work?
Obviously, this is not the case. Every, single, time, I’ve asked about additional credit, the writers and editors (and myself the publicist) will ask until we’re blue in the face about credit. We’re creatives ourselves. As a publicist my entire job is doing work that I don’t get credit for. A good publicist is known by brands and journalists, and everyone else doesn’t know I exist. Every day my clients tag work and are praised with getting the attention of big-name outlets. Even non-clients who get a placement from my network will forget to credit me; the only reason why they had that coverage was because of my relationships yet does my business get that credit? I know how absolutely frustrating this can be. So I don’t ignore these requests. Writers often freelance and understand how crucial credit can be so they also almost always will submit the request to their editor.
This is where the rope comes around our wrists.
We’re usually hit with one or the other reasons: site capabilities or editorial guidelines. Sometimes in order for a magazine website to be able to have video popups, interactive ads, newsletter signups, the web team is limited on the other functions of a site. For brand stories, often times, photography credit is limited to a handful of words. That’s not an editorial guideline. Photo captions can be limited to a few words because of the website’s limitations. This is a big “something a publicist cannot control”. I cannot ask Business Insider if I can try to code their backend to try to get someone, who was already paid for their work on behalf of a brand, credit on an already published piece.
Sometimes, in places like Forbes where many of their articles are self-submitted by contributors, it’s nearly impossible to go back and change crediting.
So let’s go through what can happen if you were not credited in a photo you are a creator of in some way.
I know this sounds harsh. Again, I understand how hard it can be when you’re not the one whose name is outlets like Forbes and Allure. I know. I know. I know. It's literally my job to do work I don't get credited for. If you don't want to be included without credit, that's okay! We can have your image replaced, often times they replace with a stock image. Until I have one of the biggest PR firms in the country and every media outlet knows my name, there’s not really much I can do when I’m told no.
Because many of my brands are startups, I’m often in this situation where brands work with tons of creatives in their network to create their media assets. Even when the magazine cannot credit the photographer, those involved with the article will tag everyone who made the article possible. Press hits always take a village and we love to credit those involved in whatever capacity we can.
If you have a credit request, please submit it to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will give you an update about what to expect once the request has been received by editorial.
Melissa A Vitale Public Relations
A public relations agency specializing in brands and startups in artificial intelligence, sexual wellness and legal cannabis.