Pictures of the

Year International

During this senior capstone project I served as the art director in charge of laying out our book and findings. My experience as both a photographer and having volunteered previously with POYi gave a large amount of insight into our target audience and allowed me to create a more meaningful set of survey questions. 


Through our primary and secondary research findings, we found two underlying trends of photojournalist’s attitudes toward the Pictures of the Year International competition.

One: Photographers enter into the contest majorly in hopes that they will gain recognition for their work. In a primary research survey taken by 110 professional photojournalists, 66% stated the most important factor they considered when entering POYi was to gain professional recognition.

Two: Our target craves an online community to interact with his peers. From our secondary research, we found that POYi “has a need for a strategic communication plan centered around communicating the story and goals of the competition, highlighting the accomplishments of the award-winning photographers and building a community.”

Our goal: brand POYi as the premiere photojournalism contest in the world that makes great photographers famous. To execute this goal, we decided upon leveraging our target, 25-30 year-old white males’ frequent engagement with brands they love on social media. To position POYi as the method to make photographer’s stories known, we will use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as an online community where professional photographers can engage with the brand and follow their peers’ accomplishments. We will also leverage traditional media tactics in the form of posters and digital postcards to extol past winning photographer’s work on a public platform. 


One of our first major steps in our secondary research was doing social media audit on POYi vs the competitors we had identified. Which showed despite the brand's prestige it's social media presence was lacking compared to World Press Photo. 

Some of the internal characteristics ofPOYi that gives it an advantage over its competitors we identified included:

  • Online, live judging which allows for complete transparency
  • Conducted in an educational setting for educational motives
  • POYi extensive archives that date back to 1943 - 40,000 winning images

Some of the weaknesses we discovered:

  • Lack of analytics for advertising, social media and website data
  • Low usage of social media
  • Low involvement in new categories

Our main source for primary research came from developing a Qualtrics survey that was then sent out to the previous year's entrants, about 1,500 email addresses.  I personally was in charge designing a large portion of the survey which ended up being 39 questions varying in scope. We offered a $200 Visa Giftcard to be randomly drawn from those who elected to leave their email address at the end of the survey that helped us achieve 110 fully completed surveys. Some of the research is displayed below. 

So who is this guy?

We named our target the “Social Freelancer.” He is an Caucasian American male between the ages of 25-34 who routinely submits his photos to the POYi competition. He enters this competition as opposed to others because he feels he can gain professional recognition for himself and promote the community issues he photographs. He also chooses POYi based on the brand’s credibility and reputation. However, he is concerned about the entry fees the organization imposes upon entrants. He is active on his own social media, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. He most likely ‘Likes’ POYi on Facebook, but engages with the brand less than once a month. He is also unlikely to have ever seen the POYi advertisement. As a freelancer, he found his passion for photography early on and competed in contests starting in his youthhood. He likes the POYi competition but wishes there were more of a community where he could share his photos and learn from other professional photographers. 

Why We Choose Him

In our survey results, we found that:

  • Entry fee was a large point of concern amongst our photographers. Many cite the fact that not only do other similar competitions have no entry fee, but they also provide monetary prizes and tickets to award ceremonies. In addition, many survey respondents said that the entry fee was a major part of their decision regarding which contest to enter.
  • He rarely engages with POYi. We speculate this is because there is not much activity on POYi’s social media platforms in the off-season.
  • One respondent even cited that he first heard about POYi through another photographer’s Instagram account.
  • Social Freelancer is detail-oriented and tuned in to current events and the world around him.

Creative Brief 

Through our research and in speaking with the client we developed our creative brief to dictate what would be largely a social media campaign. 

Why are we advertising?

Our goal is to position POYi as the world’s leading photojournalism competition by using and expanding POYi’s social media platforms to engage with the target and create a greater overall awareness.

Brand Strategy Statement:

Make POYi the authoritative voice on all things photojournalism through growing its social media presence. 

Who are we talking to?

We’re targeting our “Social Freelancer” we talked about previously. He is an American Caucasian male between the ages of 25-34 who routinely submits his photos to the POYi competition. 

Points of Differentiation:

  • Through the open judging process, POYi fosters a community of camaraderie which challenges entrants to produce their best work. 
  • POYi has the unique opportunity to become an industry expert via their social media channels thanks to the organization’s credibility and outstanding reputation. 

Brand Identity

POYi has utilized the same branding for a number of years but had not established it a clear style guide. This is one of the first things I tackled after we had established our creative brief. 

Campaign Strategy

Of our multi faceted plan for POYi our biggest initiative was hiring on a student worker to run and manage the various social media accounts of POYi. The accounts had been run in a fairly nonchalant manner with the off season not seeing many meaningful posts being made. So our advice was that someone needs to own these and engagement needs to happen throughout the year. 

The other major initiative would be the creation of an Instagram account to engage with photographers on the platform where they are most prevalent. The main issues around this and why it has yet to be created is twofold, photographers are nervous about copyright issues and the graphic nature of a number of winning images. These two things would prevent displaying all of the winning images which ultimately is why our client has yet to implement this idea.  

In addition to the social media intern we determined that a one time search engine optimization facelift would be very beneficial since our secondary research showed that when searching terms like 'photojournalism contest', POYi didn't show up until scrolling through three to five pages of results. So we asked a local company for a who had connections to POYi for a quote. 

The seven of us presented this book as well as a slide presentation to our client. They were overjoyed by the result and have implemented a number of our strategies. As of June 2017, in the two years since the presentation their Twitter account has seen a 65% increase followers and their Facebook page has seen a 45% increase in likes. 

To the right you can view the whole book in a PDF format. Please give it a moment to load as it is over 90 pages long.