By Rahel Kramer
This month’s column is brought to you by Rahel Kramer, an exchange student from Hamburg, Germany. Rahel is pursuing her master’s degree and interning with Fujita & Miura Public Relations through the first quarter of 2007.
“Brad Pitt unhappy as Vanity Fair splashes semi-naked photos,” was the Yahoo News headline a few weeks ago. They reported that Brad Pitt had his photo taken wearing only a pair of boxer shorts and socks. The irony is that Pitt signed a release authorizing the use of the photos. Still, “he was oblivious they would end up on Vanity Fair’s cover more than a year later.” Needless to say, Pitt probably now realizes how important it is to understand the approvals he signs. This can be a PR lesson to any one of us, and applies to all kinds of instances.

From a PR perspective, approvals are critical for professionals to secure and sign because they keep everyone on the same page and reduce liability. If you need to use a photo of a person for your business or organization, have them sign a photo release. The Publishing Law Center notes, “…it is advisable to always obtain a written release from any individual that would be recognized in a photograph.” Templates are available on the Internet.

Approvals are also useful in other business interactions. Have your boss read a letter for a customer before it’s sent. Get a client’s final copy approval on a brochure before it goes to print. Have a HR person review a classified ad before it runs. Whenever possible, have a second set of eyes look at and approve important communications. Put it in writing so there’s no question about who asked for what, when, why, and from whom. Be specific about the kind of feedback you are requesting. Also, give a deadline. And as always, be gracious in asking for and receiving feedback and approvals.

Releases and approvals are essential to keeping relationships with bosses, employees, clients, and the public strong. With informed consent, no one, including Brad Pitt, will get caught with their pants down (so to speak).

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