Using employee photos on a corporate website

iStock_000008731824XSmallx150A picture is worth a thousand words and this rule applies on websites, too.  And photos of people and specifically faces is powerful in marketing; it creates an immediate emotional connection.

Benefits of using employee photos

Now, there are plenty of stock art photos you can purchase online and chances are, you already have some on your website.  Chances are, other sites are using the exact same stock art images.  An excellent option to stock art are real photos of your employees.  In fact, real photos not only make your website imagery unique; it brings other benefits such as authenticity, personality and employee excitement about participating in your marketing.

From small start-ups to Fortune 500 corporations,  employees are often a company’s best asset.  Show them off!  And if you have attractive premises, expensive equipment and such, photos of employees in their environment are superb.

DIY or hire a professional?

Of course, you need a certain level of photographic finesse.  You don’t want dingy, unfocused and awkwardly composed photos.  But, say you can achieve an acceptable quality.  Or say you hire a professional photography– they are not as expensive as you think!  What are the rules about using employees in marketing photos?

Are there laws against using employees in company marketing photos?

Some states do indeed have statutes that prohibit the use of someone’s photo without consent.  In a lawsuit, an employee’s right to privacy will trump a company’s advertising needs any day.  Regardless of the law in your state, you should get written consent from each employee before you start taking photos of them.  The consent form should include the purpose and exactly how and where their photo(s) will be used. The consent form can serve a second purpose and that’s letting employees know that a) they will not be compensated for the use of their photos, b) using their photos in no way indicates permanent employment status, and c) photos of them may continue to be used after they leave the company (it may be an expensive or complicated photo shoot that you want to continue using).

Can you demand that employees give their approval?

Some companies get a “blanket” permission signed at the time of hire.  I don’t personally like this approach as some people may feel their employment depends on them giving you permission.  No-one should be forced to participate.  There may be highly personal reasons someone doesn’t want their photo on a website or in a brochure and you should respect that, no questions asked.  But, most staff will feel honored and rewarded for being included in the company’s marketing, and think it’s fun, too!

A statement in the employee handbook is not good enough should any lawsuit arise.  Only individual, signed consent and release forms should be used.

The Consent Form

We’re not lawyers so we won’t venture to tell you what to put in the form.  If you Google “photo consent and release form“, you’ll find some templates you can download and modify as needed.  You may want to draw up the form and then have your corporate attorney review it for you.

When presenting the form to your employees, make sure you put a positive, enthusiastic spin on it.  Ask if they would be willing to participate first, and if they sound stand-off’ish, let it be at that.  If they want to participate, bring out the form and have them sign.  You may want to make the announcement at a staff meeting and ask them to stop by your office afterwards to sign the consent form.  Chances are, as a group, they will get each other excited about it!  File the signed forms safely in the employee files.

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