For want of a .jpg the war was lost?

In working up a blog post earlier this month, an experience with my family at a prominent arts organization in the Twin Cities sparked a subject.  In writing it up, my description of the experience fell short according to my editors (Hi y’all!).  They suggested a photo would help.

Not having taken any selfies that day, and wanting to respect the potentially copyright-protected art, I looked up the names of the nonprofit’s PR people on a press release and sent a request for a photo. After a couple of days, and pointing out that the viewership of the OCB Newsroom is over 20,000 people a month, I was sent a link to random photos from the organization’s archives – which include no visuals of the location requested.

This is a blog and doesn’t require anything fancy, so I wondered why one of the nonprofit’s staff didn’t just ask if an iPhone photo would do.  It would.

Then I thought about why a professional communication person at a prominent organization might forgo this opportunity to highlight a short-term offering to potentially thousands of new eyes. Certainly these people could see the cost would be effectively nothing.  Not that their time is not worth something, but it would be less time than writing me with the explanation of why there are no photos. While the benefit would be hard to measure, even one additional visitor would make a significant cost/benefit ratio against nearly zero expense.

I realized that what likely blocked the staff was not the doing, but getting the permission.  Whether for-profit or not, if the barriers to approval represent arduous effort to overcome, or the “risk” of reprisal or failure are too high, tactical level communicators will choose to do nothing.  It’s only natural.  Not unique to communication roles, but this is one way it is manifested.

Pretty unfortunate, no?

Whether you are in communication or some other area, and at a tactical or strategic level, think about what you did this week.  Did you miss any opportunities for the organization because getting approval might have been difficult?

Ask for forgiveness once in a while.

Dr. Michael C. Porter, APR is director of the Opus College of Business MS in Health Care Communication.