Instagram Has the Potential to Disrupt PR in 2012

Some of us who work in PR are lucky.

Our clients are large corporations with entire divisions devoted to helping us tell our story, whether it’s a fully equipped broadcast studio that we can use to record podcasts, or an editorial division that acts almost like a news department, siphoning the best stories to fill slots that will draw the most eyeballs.

If you have this machine at your disposal, it can make your job much easier.

But not everybody has this luxury. In fact, with no stats to back this up, I’d wager that most of us have to do most of the leg work ourselves. Even out-duel the major players.

Thankfully, technology makes it easier to tell our story. And if there’s one piece of tech that has the best chance to disrupt our industry in 2012, I’d put my money on Instagram.

As of January 1, 2012, there are 15 million Instagram accounts that have shared more than 400 million photos. And organizations like the Boston Celtics and General Electric have started accounts to use photos to help augment their ability to reach their audiences, so there’s something to this service.

But how can Instagram change the way we do PR in the new year?

Well, in all PR situations, you’re trying to make news. It can be as straightforward as en email pitch to a tech reporter, or conducting a major event that is geared toward a large group of automotive media.

In both cases, you’re using words to draw their interest to interview an executive or attend an event.

But what if we added a visual element?

Even with a pool of photographers at your disposal, it can take hours (sometime a day) to get the high-res pictures you want to display.

But if you have an iPhone with the Instagram app, you can snap pictures and immediately post them wherever you want, and you can even add some artistic flair with the filters. And the iPhone takes a damn good picture, so you’re not losing much in the way of resolution. You might not be the next Ansel Adams, but even the most green PR person can create something worthwhile.

[Note: Instagram is only available on the iPhone, but an app for Android is coming soon, and I can’t imagine that Windows Phone would be far behind.]

And with the ability to use hashtags on Instagram to categorize your images, it isn’t difficult to reserve a hashtag for providing sneak peeks for upcoming projects, or hashtags that correspond with a specific event so that media who can’t attend can still watch the images in real time.

In no way should this replace the high-res images that a professional photographer will provide, but it can help us to “tell the story” while we’re waiting, and anything that helps us become better storytellers has to be considered.

2012 feels like the year where PR professionals who experimented with new tools in 2011 will take the next step and implement those tools in their standard PR toolkit.

If you don’t have Instagram in your regular arsenal, consider this your invitation.