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Guidelines for Using Employee Photos for Marketing

employee storytelling
employee being interviewed on camera

You know a stock photo when you see one, don’t you? Authentic photos of a business and its people are much more effective at nurturing trust and building relationships with potential job candidates and prospects than a generic stock photo. Getting great employee photos, however, takes a lot more effort than just browsing through a library of stock images, and you need to take care to make sure that using real photos of your people will be a good experience for employees and that you’re not violating privacy concerns.

The following guidelines for using employee photos come from Tami Murphy, an independent HR consultant in the Mankato area.

Permission and Your Employer Brand

At the heart of Tami’s recommendations is the management of an employer brand that is sensitive to the needs of the employee. Employees should feel safe in their work environment and that includes maintaining their privacy.

“You need to be transparent from the beginning. If you’re going to start using employee photos and you haven’t done this before, it’s a good thing to let your employees know, and also get their authorization and permission,” said Tami.

Build Expectations with Examples of How You’ll Be Using Photos

You can be transparent by letting employees know exactly how their photos will be used, and where they’ll be published, be it on your website, social media posts or other marketing materials.
Some ways that you might use employee photos include:

  • Headshot on your team page
  • Candid shots during the workday
  • Formal and informal group shots
  • Employee stories and testimonials

If you’re just starting to use employee testimonials, mockup an example to give your people so that they’ll know exactly how their image and words will be displayed.

Related: Who Should Be Featured in Employee Experience Stories?

Yes is Yes, No is No

Employees need to be able to comfortably opt out without having to give a reason for their decision. In fact, make this extremely clear when you’re asking employees for a photo release so that when someone does decline, it’s not a big deal.

“An employee’s photo is their property so let’s ask them and make sure that they’re okay with it. We don’t need to have all the details if they say no,” advised Tami.

Documenting Permission

Some companies ask employees to sign a photo release during onboarding. A release of this kind can be all encompassing but should include examples of how the photos will be used. A photo authorization may be included in your company confidentiality agreement with employees. Making sure that you have authorization documented is not just for protecting employee privacy, it will protect your company, too.

Some states, like California, have laws that specifically state the kind of authorizations that are necessary for using employee photos. Know and follow any laws for your state and then build procedures into your process that include photo authorization whenever it’s necessary.

Revisit Permissions

If you have never used employee photos in social media posts, and you decide to start doing that, go back to your employees and make sure that this is okay, even if you have a photo release. You don’t want someone to be surprised to suddenly see their picture in the company LinkedIn or Facebook feed.

People are usually amenable if you ask, and they’ll be happy that you did ask. According to Tami, the practice of asking permission is just one way to build a good employer brand.

“Let’s make sure that we’re doing what we expect of our employees. Put yourself in their shoes and consider how being surprised by their photo could stimulate anxiety or stress. If we reach out to the employees first, we can make this a whole lot better,” Tami explained.

Related: Learn How Employee Testimonials Pump Up Your Recruiting Messages

Keeping Photos Up to Date

It’s inevitable that people will leave your company from time to time, even if you have an exceptional employer brand. When that happens, you should remove their photo from your marketing materials. Don’t be tempted to leave up some alumni pictures and take down others. Some separations are amicable, and some are not and the lack of a consistent policy will only stir up stories.

“How an individual left your company, whether it’s disgruntled or not, is confidential information. We don’t need to give the other employees any reason to make assumptions. It just didn’t work out and we don’t need to take it any further than that,” advised Tami.

Make Permission Your Policy

Whatever reason you have for using employee photos, getting permission is always the best policy. If you’re going to err, then err on the side of transparency. You’ll avoid a lot of problems and it might even strengthen your relationship with your employees at the same time.

Learn more about Tami Murphy and her HR consulting business, Extended Human Resources at https://extendedhr.com/

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