Using Pictures of Employees
In order to portray themselves as approachable and trustworthy rather than as faceless and uncaring, companies may decide to include pictures of some of their employees on their marketing materials.
This article explains the privacy concerns that employees may have, and the approaches that companies can take to achieve their aims without upsetting their workforce.
Why Use Pictures of Employees?A business may wish to incorporate pictures of one or more members of staff in various publicity material, including the following:
- recruitment campaigns
- organisation charts
Security and AnonymityThere is a security consideration to using pictures of real people who work for a real organisation. In some industries, such as banking, it can be important for staff to maintain a certain degree of anonymity.
You would not publicise a bank manager’s home address on a website for fear of kidnapping, so similar care should be taken to prevent their pictures from being distributed too widely. Images showing workers going about their jobs happily and professionally should not pose much of a privacy concern, particularly if they are not accompanied by the names of the people in them.
ReleasesA release, or waiver, is a legal document signed by someone to allow their picture (or likeness, to use the legal term) to be used by a specified third party.
Employers wishing to protect themselves against claims of invasion of privacy should ask staff to sign release forms if their likenesses are to be made public in any way.
Businesses wishing to use likenesses of other people, such as clients, should still protect themselves by obtaining releases for these. Attempting to use images of celebrities without their permission, especially to endorse a product or service, is likely to result in legal action.
Using Stock PhotographyThere may be better alternatives to using employee pictures when the images are to be used figuratively. For example, if a page on a website needs to show a professional business meeting, it may be more appropriate to use a stock photograph to illustrate this.
There are many libraries on the Internet that can license high-quality stock photographs at a reasonable cost. These images are taken by professionals using models and actors who have agreed that their likenesses can be used commercially.
Using images from a library also prevents the potential problem of company materials showing staff who have been publicly discredited in some way or who have left to work for a competitor.
Approaches to Using Employee PicturesThere are various approaches to using employee pictures in corporate communications. The least invasive is to side step the issue of privacy completely by using stock images of actors instead of real people within the company. This is appropriate when the imagery is only intended to be illustrative rather than factual.
If stock photography is not specific enough, pictures of real employees may be used. These should ideally be anonymous. In any case, it is prudent to ask those featured to sign releases stating that they agree to have their likenesses used for the intended purpose. This helps to protect the business from lawsuits claiming abuses of human rights.