As an employee communication consultant, seminar leader, and trainer, I see lots of bad corporate visuals. The latest trend is “hostage videos,” where an executive stares into the camera and reads a script, like someone captured by the Taliban.
And of course there’s the old standbys: The “Execution at Dawn” photos, where you line up a bunch of people against a wall and “shoot” them; and the ever-present “Grip and Grin,” where the photographer manages to take the shot at that precise, magical moment when both people have their hands on the prop—be it a plaque, a trophy, or a check.
But I may have recently come across the worst corporate photo of all time. A communicator friend sent it to me, after she pulled it from her company’s archives. Here it is:
Oh, my. Where does one begin?
Well, I guess we have to begin with the fact that they decided to take a groundbreaking photo indoors! That’s right . . . if the picture is to be believed, these yahoos are about to start driving their shovels into the floor of their office!
I’ve seen thousands of stupid groundbreaking pictures … but this is the first one I’ve ever seen taken indoors! This is real “man bites dog” stuff. As my source wrote in her email when she sent me the picture:
“That’s right, even when there was no ground to break, someone thought the ol’ shovel pose was appropriate!”
They sure did! I would love to know the thinking behind this. I imagine it went something like this:
Burned Out, Hung Over Corporate Editor: “We need a cover photo for this month’s newsletter. Anybody win an award this month? Did we get a shot of someone handing over one of those big checks? Christ, I’m sick of this.”
Fresh-faced Intern: “No sir, Chief. I’ve been pounding the pavement every day, but it’s a slow news cycle. But I finally got wind of a scoop! I heard we’re breaking ground on that new facility over in Muncie tomorrow. We could bring the shovels and get a groundbreaking shot! I think I can even round up some shiny hard hats for the leadership team to wear!”
Burned Out, Hung Over Corporate Editor: “Oh damn, boy. Muncie’s like, two hours away. And it’s supposed to rain. I don’t want to lug all those shovels over there and get rained on. We got rained on once at one of these things and it took us three hours to clean the damn shovels and get them all shiny again.”
Fresh-faced Intern: “Uh, I don’t see where we have a choice, Chief. That’s where the ground is being broken. Got to go where the story is, right? Boots on the ground!”
Burned Out, Hung Over Corporate Editor: “The hell we don’t have a choice! You got to think outside the corporate box, son! We can do the groundbreaking shot right here in the lobby! Go round up the usual suspects, get the shovels from the prop closet, make a sign, and we’ll shoot it right here. We’ll save four hours of driving and stay nice and dry.”
Fresh-faced Intern: “But …. but …. a groundbreaking shot indoors? That doesn’t make sense.”
Burned Out, Hung Over Corporate Editor: “Son, let me let you in on a little secret. Nobody reads the damn newsletter anyway. We could put a picture of the CEO burying the mayor’s severed head with a shovel and nobody would notice. Let’s just get ‘er done.”
And besides the fact that it’s a groundbreaking photo taken inside, there are so many other things wrong with the photo, it’s hard to know where to begin to talk about it.
But let’s try. First, let’s take another look at the photo and go from left to right.
What’s the first thing you see on the left side of the photo? That’s right … a disembodied arm! It’s just kind of floating there. And take a close look at what it’s doing: It seems to be pulling a string out of that old man’s zipper! What in the hell goes on at this company?
And speaking of that old man, what the heck is he doing? He’s obviously not supposed to be in the shot, or they’d have given him a shovel. After all, they have an extra one, leaning against the wall over to the right!!
And he’s not even looking at the camera. He looks like he just stumbled in from a four-martini lunch and wandered into the picture because he couldn’t find his cube. This guy may have been the first-ever photo bomber!
Then you have the next two guys, who are taking this pose very seriously. You just know these are a couple of those Six Sigma Black Belt types, and they probably think they really are going to drive those shovels through the carpet and into the foundation of the building. And they’re ready!
Then of course you have the obligatory sign. The only problem is, you can’t read it, partly because the girly cowboy dude is blocking half of it! And speaking of the girly cowboy dude, what’s going on with the way he’s standing? He looks like he just climbed down from Brokeback Mountain!
He also seems to be engaged in probably the most awkward handshake of all time, with that big bearded guy. It looks like the bearded giant is actually trying to snap the cowboy’s wrist.
And then we end with that odd, lone shovel. Just kind of leaning against the wall. Is the guy with the string hanging out of his zipper supposed to be posing with it? Did someone else not show up? Is it there as back up in case one of those Sigma guys really does try to dig into the floor and he breaks his shovel in two? We’ll never know.
Any one of these elements would make this a bad photo. But when you put them all together, you get what might be the worst corporate photo of all time.
Anyone who enters a photo will go into a drawing to win a free registration to the 2013 Ragan event of their choosing. One submission per person. The deadline is Friday, June 21.
So get to the archives! Or maybe you don’t even have to … maybe you have an example from a story you did last week. Either way send it in … we’ll even let you be anonymous!