This is a guest post from Deborah Block, the Senior Manager of Earned Media at Libris.

Real-time events and real-time marketing go hand in hand. As an event marketer, it’s your job to deliver engaging and relevant visual content to your audience — which means if your event is happening now, you need to share it now. Tomorrow is too late. 

Enter: Bull riding — the most dangerous eight seconds in sports. As the official photographer for Professional Bull Riders (PBR), Andy Watson has captured every major moment in PBR’s 25 year history, amassing an archive of 1.5 million images.

Andy works directly with his wife Jacey to power PBR’s visual storytelling and run their business, Bull Stock Media. Together, they have mastered the art of getting compelling, high-resolution photography up online in mere seconds. And shooting 40+ PBR events a year, that’s a lot of content.

“Engaging fans on social media is crucial to PBR’s content and marketing strategy,” says Chad Blankenship, SVP of Brand and Digital Marketing for PBR. “Action photos delivered to fans moments after they occur on the dirt, as well as behind-the-scenes shots, are huge pillars of engagement.”

The team’s speedy image delivery workflow has helped PBR become the top sport for fan engagement across social platforms.

“There’s no question that visually compelling storytelling has helped PBR rapidly grow our social media following and become one of the top global sports in fan engagement,” says Blankenship. “In fact, in 2016, across major sports properties, PBR was #1 in fan engagement on Facebook, had the highest engagement rate on Twitter, and the highest growth rate on Instagram, according to CrowdTangle.”

We asked the Watsons to share how speedy visual storytelling can increase audience engagement and fuel excitement online. Check out their three tips below.

1. Shoot it right the first time

During events, especially ones that are fast paced and high energy, there’s little to no time for image editing. With digital photography, it may be easy to shoot something now and fix it later, but you’ll benefit if you can find a photographer who can take photos that are ready to go right from the camera.

Here’s an example of a photo Andy took that was sent directly to his social media team and put up on Instagram moments later. It got over 11,500 likes.

Bull riding photography
Credit: Andy Watson / Bull Stock Media

If you have to stop and fix your image, that’s valuable time. And time spent editing a photo could result in missed opportunities for your marketing team down the line.

2. Anticipate big moments

During events there can be momentous occasions that make for important shots. Those are the shots that lead to high engagement on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Encourage your photographer and social media team to anticipate those moments and have a plan in place when they happen. Here’s an example of when Guilherme Marchi made his 600th ride at PBR, an incredible feat.

bull riding
Credit: Andy Watson / Bull Stock Media

From shooting the actual bull ride to being ready for the celebration — the PBR team was prepared to tell Guilherme’s story that day. So ask yourself: What story may unfold at your event and how can you be ready to quickly capture and share?

Also, if celebrities or “big names” are present, have a plan and a backup plan to get shots of them. Always keep your eye out for influential attendees and have a team ready to work with your photographer so there no missed opportunities.

3. Provide teams proper access to event images

Your social media, marketing, PR and communications teams will likely all need images from your events. Andy and Jacey have nearly 150 people who need access to the PBR photos on a daily basis and about 400 people who float in and out of their visual media library when they need a particular asset.

“Of those people who need photos, we need to make sure that everyone has the right image permissions,” says Jacey. “Some departments within PBR need access to the entire archive, while others don’t.

Andy and Jacey use Libris, a cloud-based digital asset management platform, to control who can see and download visual assets, and at what size.

“Proper permission settings ensures you’re not allowing access to old images or old logos, for example. It’s important for PBR that the photos being pulled are always being used in the right context.”

This workflow makes meeting PBR’s massive demand for imagery easier for everyone. Today, the team is averaging 7,500 asset downloads every 90 days, and all of the organization’s stakeholders are able to get exactly what they need quickly, so they can push it out to PBR’s fans.

“The evidence is strong when you also look at the huge following that PBR has on their social media platforms,” says Jacey. “Fans are being driven to consume PBR news and content solely on the PBR properties online, rather than seeking it out elsewhere. And we are an integral part of providing that content for those channels.”

Thanks to Andy and Jacey’s workflow, people across PBR can get the photos they need, whether they’re posting shots on Instagram seconds after a great ride or digging deep into the archive for a celebration of the brand’s 25th anniversary.

Here’s a look at how Andy and his team publish high-quality images online images in lightning speed:

  1.     Andy takes photos inside and around the PBR arena
  2.     He uses a wireless transmitter to send them straight to a laptop at the edge of the arena
  3.     Jacey is logged into that laptop remotely from where she lives in Montana
  4.     Jacey crops and edits the photos, then pushes them out to the social media team using WhatsApp, and to others members of the team using Libris
  5.     Team members then immediately distribute those photos across social media platforms and PBR’s website

As the team uses these images across platforms, they have a powerful ripple effect on this fast-paced, fast-growing sport.

For more tips on how to maximize the impact of your events, read The Guide to Sharing Event Visuals on Social Media in Real Time.

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