By 2012, most organizations in DC have discovered how to have a presence on social media and get their messages out to their key constituencies. But as many legislative battles heat up, the stakes are raised and PR professionals must find new ways to leverage and carry the message. In today’s digitally-heavy nation’s capital, a robust social media effort demands more vibrant, resonating images to support other content. The emotional power of an image can put your message atop the rest.

But what should you recommend to your clients? Here I take a look at two dominant online photo sharing sites – to help you decide whether they hold promise for your organization’s communications goals.


Flickr is a promising avenue for a corporate client or conservative organization that wants something clean and controllable, or a site that is easy to access for anyone whether they are registered with the site or not. Like YouTube, it has made efforts into becoming more social and generating its own “Flickr contacts” within its system rather than relying on Facebook friends or Twitter followers.

My favorite Flickr feature for organizations is the slideshow you can embed on a web site or blog. It is a great way to make a post about an event or story much more dynamic and is easy for any user to view. 

This photo shared on Bread for the World’s Flickr page showcases an advocacy effort and makes great use of the caption to explain their purpose. The tags to find the photo include: “Lobby Day”, “DC”, “hunger”, and “advocacy”.

Source: Official Bread for the World Flickr page


Flickr, owned and operated by Yahoo, identifies itself as “almost certainly the best online photo management and sharing application in the world”. Well almost, certainly. But in the roaring age of smart phones and their advanced camera features, Flickr may have taken a backseat when it comes online photo sharing by not taking advantage of the mobile transition. While Flickr has a mobile app, it has only a 2.5 out of 5 stars average rating on the Apple App Store, with several reviews complaining about its limited functionality.


For Instagram, sharing and being social was in its digital DNA. As a photo-sharing app that operates more exclusively to mobile, it becomes a sort of on-the-go artistic swap, a gritty approach to capturing life’s images (hence its name’s origin from “instant”). Playing off of Facebook’s gigantic success with social photo sharing, the 2011 Apple “App of the Year” adds the extra element of allowing the user to enhance the photo through image filters, giving the photo more of a mood or personality. Only about a year old, the photo sharing app already has 15 million users.

A good example of a way to take full advantage of the app is the Boston Celtics, whose photographer provides followers with a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the team.

Source: Official Instagram of Boston Celtics


When it comes to advocacy groups trying to reach the policy shaper and sphere of influence in Washington, this approach could be seen as a way to capture a new point-of-view on issues, or better envision the real world impact. And while Instagram is inherently social in itself, it has always encouraged users to share Instagram-created images on different online portals, including Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Tumblr, and even Flickr. A grassroots campaign could have a lot of potential based on the handiness and prevalence of camera phones with Instagram.

Flickr, Instagram, or both for advocacy work?

Although they try to compete with one another on both web and mobile platforms, it’s clear that Flickr owns the web share and Instagram dominates the mobile audience. Flicker prides itself on its categorical, album-like nature, while Instagram thrives on a real-time feed.

When it comes to gaining traction in the DC market, the message as well as the image makes a difference. This is where Flickr can provide greater dividends for the PR professional looking for ways to promote a certain position through illustration. With the ability to add tags (keywords associated with your advocacy topic), Flickr helps categorize each photo as well as help others find them in relevant searches.

If you can’t decide between the image enhancing, convenience of Instagram and the sorting, slideshow abilities of Flickr: don’t fret. Use the Instagram app and then share those photos on your Flickr site, bringing the ease of mobile and a streamlined web presence together in a satisfying, happy medium that will make your online advocacy meet its expectations.