Inappropriate Smiling – When Business Isn’t on Your Terms
Are your key staff caught smiling during a disaster?
Like a petulant loser swiping pieces off a chess board with the flick of a wrist Mother Nature wiped a few towns off the map during the 2011 Brisbane Floods. During that time the media were providing constant updates with the latest and most gruesome information. Every conceivable expert was given airtime making the people of South East Queensland among the most informed of any disaster in history.
As a photographer you notice some pretty strange things; things other people don’t necessarily notice. One afternoon I saw a Barry Dennin, CEO of the SEQ Water Grid providing a TV update on the current situation at Wivenhoe Dam.
The update was delivered via phone hookup, so no vision was available, only his staff profile photograph – Ok, no problem.
Except in the photograph he was smiling – Ok not great but not a huge problem either.
Except when you read the flashing text updates beneath him that say there are 10 Queenslanders dead and 78 missing – Ok. Not fine. HUGE problem.
Mr Dennin delivered the update with authority in a non-alarmist manner. He was calm, informative and professional. His delivery was exceptional. But his smiling profile picture seemed in direct contrast to his mood, message and the gravitas of the situation.
No doubt his staff was asked to provide a picture to the TV station at the last moment. No doubt the situation was so desperate that to shoot another one at the time would have been impossible and a waste of valuable time.
It got me thinking
- How many businesses could be called on at the last minute to provide comment during a serious situation?
- How many of those would have an image of their key staff that matched the mood of the situation?
Business on your terms
Most businesses focus on images that build trust between themselves and their clients. You know the image. The ‘smiling-with-a-slight-head-tilt-towards-camera’ image.
These images are great when business is being conducted on YOUR terms.
What happens when business is not being conducted on your terms?
- During an emergency, a disaster, a scandal, an accident, a death?
- Dealing with or operating in cultures where smiling in a profile shot is culturally inappropriate, like some Asian cultures?
This means they have an image for any situation; one where trust is built through having an open face and appearing approachable, and the other where having a sombre expression is required to convey a key message or is more appropriate for the culture they are working within.
During your next staff portrait shoot make sure your photographer fires off a few tightly cropped images of your staff with a serious expression. One day the reputation of your business could depend on it.