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Pinterest is the latest social network to take the world by storm. Even though it launched its beta version about two years ago, it was a less known platform that has only recent caught fire with a slew of media highlights and a gazillion of blogs such as this one. When Google+ launched last year, thousands of photographers jumped on ship immediately, and in fact, photography was the most over represented profession on the google network, most of us lured by the search engine prospects and all that talk that Google uses to  sell its products. But let’s be honest, usually (not all the time) prospective clients that come through Google searches or that find you after a search engine search are budget weddings. May your experience is different depending on where you live, but that’s my experience. That’s why I can never invest a penny in google adds or SEO experts. Of course for the latter, by now you know that the best way to improve your rankings is to publish conte t, which If you are a professional photographer, you should already be doing. By reading a few online articles (free), you can become better.

But let’s go back to Pinterest; why do I say that it is changing the way of business for wedding photography and even for the whole entire business wedding industry? First, with so many tech platforms, the information overload is in overdrive. So I did not discover Pinterest on my own like I have with others in the past. A prospective client from Japan who is planning a wedding in Masai Mara, Kenya had a Skype meeting with me a few weeks ago. Then in answering my questions on what kind of wedding photography style she would prefer, she quickly sent me a link to her pinterests. On here she had several photos from popular wedding blogs and from all over the Internet that in a way mapped out her personality in a handful of photos. I could fairly visualize the vision for her wedding and therefore also for me to know whether her vision met my artistic and visual communication style. As you know already, 98% of the brides make the hiring decision for a photographer (not scientific but you do get the drift). And you also know that most brides are very organized, carry folders with “interests” to the meeting with a wedding vendor. It may be difficult to see the brides file with crumpled pages and very few minutes for the meeting where you also have to show them a tone of products that you offer.

Other brides may be reluctant to share the folder with a photographer or vendor they are only meeting for the first time. Occasionally, varying from client to client, I will let them show me their folders. Thankfully I have. Ever been rejected as that would put me down – nobody loves rejection. But now, things have. Hanged. Rather than gather paper and stuff, wedding brides will be pinning their interests on Pinterest. This will help you and me as vendors serve our clients better and exceed their expectations. Of course I am assuming that for you and and for me, it’s not about us, but about them, right? Cos we are getting paid anyway. And did you know that the phenomenon growth of Pinterest is being pushed by women? While Google+ has a lot of men (and photographers), Pinterest has more women subscribers. So, i just discovered the Pinterest page of a bride we are shooting this Saturday. I am sure we will be a me to surprise her. A of Word of advice, please brand your photos with a non destructive logo (better-still your blog URL) that you plan to post on Pinterest. So that as the photos make rounds and pins and re-pins on the website, someone will be able to trace the photos to you and perhaps translate into business for you.
Let us know your thoughts on Pinterest and everything. Peace.

PS: This post was made on iPhone and may contain a lot of typos. Also, it’s 100% opinion so I do not quote anyone or make any reading references.

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Yesterday, I perused a friend’s blog post and was reminded of what I had promised my self to do when I was in Kampala; to write about the populist multi-media campaign that is taking place right now in Uganda. The campaign, Genext is about advocating for smaller families in Uganda, targeting the youthful population of 18-30 years. With all pomp, it has crafted some cool youthful messaging distributed through “high impact” billboards all clad with statistics, television commercials and social media campaigns. Uganda’s population is worrying, no doubt, and very few get it. But UHMG (Uganda Health Marketing Group), the brainchild of the campaign gets it when they say that the “fast growing population growth currently poses more challenges to the social, economic and political development than opportunities.” But there is quite a few things they do not get, which in my view, has led to the wastage, again, of our dear US tax dollars.

Population control needs a national policy framework. In such an environment, the messaging from different groups that have a stake in the future of Uganda would be congruent, understandable and not confusing. Without this, it makes the work of advocates such as UHMG very difficult; because on one hand they are advocating for small families, while on the other, the government of Uganda (read President) theorizes that a large population represents a cheap labor force, an incentive for a growing middle class. Should UHMG then sit and do nothing? Hardly, because there is USAID money to be spent. But there are smarter ways to spend this money. For example, UHMG or any other interested parties could lobby members of parliament, invest in authoring a bill and finding a sponsor/s of this bill in Parliament so that this issue can begin to get to the fore front. The debate that is likely to ensue could have an impact 10 times higher than your current campaign. Moreover, who knows that it would get adopted and then as a country we would have one direction.

Spending money on billboards and television in the english language clearly shows that they also either don’t get it or have a different agenda. By targeting the youth who are 18 – 30, they are right on the money; because this is the demographic that is either about to get married or has been married for a while. Urging this group to have smaller families is therefore a no brainer. In fact, I would take the target age group down to 15 or 14. Because in rural areas, kids are getting married and having children. While 18 is the age of consent in Uganda, so what? Children are getting married younger and no one is doing anything about it, so the campaign could as well include them.

But that’s where this campaign is not relevant to the population growth issue in Uganda. Crafting a massive media strategy that devotes probably more than 70% of the media dollars to the urban and english speaking demographic misses the mark – gapingly. This group already knows what you are saying. If they haven’t read it somewhere, they have heard it in school. That is why in Kampala, or in other urban centers, the number of children in a household, especially for those below 40 years is less. We need a scientific survey, but I would argue that the average is about 3, a far cry from a national average of 7 children. We therefore need to understand why such a huge disparity? And the answer is quite simple because we all know it (may be we don’t); it lies in the economics.

Families – all the way to the rural areas that earn a livelihood through meaningful monetary transactions also are compelled to budget, whether on paper or otherwise. They budget for food (land production), school tuition (private and better performing schools), and independent healthcare (not Mulago or affiliated hospitals). Because they barely make ends meet, they are forced to make sober choices. They consciously ask; if we want our children to inherit a piece of land, what’s a reasonable number we can produce? If we want our children to acquire a quality education since UPE is still crawling (roots for quantity and not quality), how many children can we manage? This internal self reflection and realty checks are imposed by economics; money! And so, here goes the question? How can we begin to reverse population growth in a country of 33.5 million people in which about 30 million are poor, where there are allures of free (substandard) education, free healthcare that doesn’t work, and free land (in the rural areas)? What’s the mindset of the poor person who’s got these attractive advantages? When his village is facing famine because of poor environmental practices, the UN and USAID at the begging of his government come to his rescue.

How can we begin to teach our people that while it’s true that “Children are a blessing (to us) from God”, we have just become a curse to them! We also need to become a blessing to our children. We need to be able to provide, period. That’s the whole duty of parenthood – whether it is providing love, security, education, protection, we must strive to provide. This calls for holistic approach, it calls for a National Security Strategy (which I still argue Uganda doesn’t have) in which we can all operate, with or without our hip messages. Almost two years ago when we did election messaging, I went to the deepest of the villages in Uganda. I realized then that the people of Uganda’s most immediate means were not elections; it was their survival. No wonder that our message would get eroded by the stacks of cash that made rounds in the villages on the eve of election day.

The poor have become the pawn in a chase game. Corrupt governments need them to keep ruling, NGOs and aid agencies cease to be relevant without them; but this gotta stop. Addressing poverty challenges and helping people out of that misery is the most logical way. People need to get integrated into the economy first. And lastly, learn from those who are doing things right. Ask the right questions; for example, how has Rwanda managed to reduce/drop the fertility rate from 6.1 to 4.6 in less than a decade?

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Feb.9 2012, posted in Africa

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