A doctor, who is one of our clients, asked her co-worker to shoot video of her performing a procedure on a patient and explaining a medical device. The doctor asked us to post the video on her social media channels. However, the process of deciding how to move forward wasn’t so simple. Here are questions we considered:
- Did the patient sign all necessary waivers to allow the doctor to post the video publicly? The video did not reveal the patient’s name or show her face. However, we could hear the patient’s voice. Had the patient considered her voice alone might reveal her identity? In different situations, tattoos or particular pieces of jewelry can sometimes disclose a person’s identity. The doctor asked us about editing out the video’s audio. But the doctor’s narration and her bedside manner, the empathy she showed the patient in the video, were valuable for viewers to hear.
- Will the video posted on social media include a simple, written explanation about what viewers are watching? The doctor described the medical procedure in the video, but what if people are distracted and don’t listen closely? What if their computer or device’s volume is down? What if someone is hearing impaired? What information should you include? What is the procedure? Where did you perform the procedure? When did you perform the procedure? Why did you perform the procedure? How long did the procedure take? How can you articulate the value of sharing this video?
- What if someone wants additional information? More often, videos are similar to headlines, not all-encompassing, in-depth magazine articles. Will the video include a link to a website with additional information?
- Should the social media post include a warning that some people might find the video graphic? The video showed the doctor removing a medical device from a woman’s breast and the footage included blood. Would her audience object to seeing this? We live in Arizona, but this doctor works in another state. Her community’s perception of such a video might differ from people we interact with locally. It’s interesting that the doctor’s health care colleagues raised concerns about the video. However, friends outside health care gave her the green light.
- Will you get cold feet? About an hour before we posted the video on social media, the doctor texted us, indicating she was getting cold feet about the post. A friend had watched the video and literally became sick.
After considering the above questions, we posted the video. It received positive feedback and numerous people shared it with others. The video remains one of her Facebook page’s most popular posts. This experience reinforces our belief of people’s interest in seeing behind-the-scene videos, processes they normally don’t get the opportunity to watch. Sometimes, as with a previous medical video we shot, the answer is as simple as showing a wide instead of a tight view of something viewers might find too graphic. However, this most recent situation is a reminder that even a short medical video requires lengthy planning and conversation.
For a video, we sometimes need an extra shot we just don’t have. And occasionally that shot should show something outside. We attempt to take each step to shoot ourselves any video we need to tell a story. But if purchasing stock video is our last resort answer, we try to choose well. Here’s why:
Most of the country does not look like our home state, Arizona. Most homes in the United States do not look like the homes here. Most stock video depicting exterior scenes would appear out-of-place in a sequence of shots of the Grand Canyon State. However, finding the right shot under these circumstances simply takes patience, common sense and perhaps a second opinion.
Now media outlets across America are reporting a shot supposedly portraying America in an ad for presidential candidate Marco Rubio actually shows the Vancouver skyline. And we’re not referring to the city named Vancouver in the State of Washington. In fact, when viewers see the skyline shot, a narrator states, “It’s morning again in America.” This CBC News story in British Columbia quotes a Vancouver-based videographer who said he shot the video and posted it on a website sharing stock video.
Presidential candidate Ted Cruz’s campaign said it didn’t know a woman in one of its video ads had previously appeared in erotic films. We imagine much of the public can understand how that situation slipped through the cracks, although we earlier in a post pointed out the lessons organizations can learn from that case. However, how can a video ad reach the public without someone vetting the shots (In this case, the opening shot!) and asking, “What city is that?”
Or asking, “Is that the United States?”
Or did the narrator intend to relay, “It’s morning again in North America.”?
We strongly support including real customers and employees in business videos. However, others sometimes question the prudence of this approach. They ask, “What if the employee included in a video leaves the company? What if the business fires someone in the video?” The people asking these questions wonder if including actors in company videos is a safer bet. The people asking these questions fear the necessity of re-shooting videos that include employees who are no longer with the company.
The above scenario is a possibility. However, not one of our video production clients has ever informed us that such a risk turned into a reality. Real customers and employees help genuinely relay your message. If your target audience, for example, on social media feels a connection with the personalities in your videos, is your company going to explain those personalities are actors with few, sincere links to your business other than a paycheck?
We also have offered another counter argument. Most actors are always looking for work. What if an actor appearing in your video has also appeared in ads for controversial products or services? What if the actor shows up in a commercial within the next year or two for a business your company wants no connection with?
Someone told presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz that an actress who had appeared in erotic films also showed up in one of his ads. The ad is called “Conservatives Anonymous.” Cruz’s campaign said it was unaware of the actress’ past. His campaign pulled the ad. Read this story from BuzzFeed. Listen to the actress yourself by clicking on the video at the bottom of the screen.
If a presidential campaign can find itself in such an awkward position, imagine the difficulties of a business ensuring that actors representing their company values haven’t represented different ideals at another time. And that’s simply addressing the past. Can you block an actor from appearing in a future video not aligned with your views?
To slightly alter rocker Stephen Stills’ phrase, love the ones you work with. In this situation, that means your employees and your clients.
The answer is yes, according to these Google statistics:
- Searches related to “how to” on YouTube are growing 70% year over year. Source: Google Data, Q1 2014–Q1 2015, U.S
- 67% of millennials agree that they can find a YouTube video on anything they want to learn. Source: Google Consumer Survey, April 2015, U.S. Online population aged 18-34 n=385.
- Nearly one in three millennials say they’ve purchased a product as a result of watching a how-to video. Source: Google Consumer Survey, April 2015. n=1128.
To learn more, click here.
When you go on camera to chat,
be careful with a hat.
On your face a shadow may splat,
and your words may fall flat.
Saw recent video that went scat,
under the shadow, who was that?
An expert, a bureaucrat?
Yes, some people must wear a hat.
It’s a key part of where they work at.
Just tilt it back like an acrobat.
That way, shadows you can help combat.
A number of science fiction films have portrayed a future when a government or private enterprise has instilled the shackles of group think on society. And in this world where nearly everyone wears gray, a hero or small band of revolutionaries take the first steps to breaking the stranglehold. The script is one of Hollywood’s most recycled.
The reality of this occurring seems somewhat ludicrous especially in democratic societies emphasizing individualism and free speech. Yet I often wonder, if in a subtler way, we already reached that place depicted on screen.
In nearly all aspects of life where friends and strangers congregate, we see groups of people staring down at smartphone screens. In restaurants. In waiting rooms. In movie theater lines. People risk safely walking through parking lots to stare down at their phones. After people park their cars, they must check their email, texts, alerts and notifications as if they were CEOs who may have missed the beginning of a blockbuster deal within the last 15 minutes. If society actually worked as hard and efficiently as our interaction with smartphones suggests, the global economy would likely be far less volatile.
Frequently, the makers and marketers of these devices tell us these phones are for our own good, a gateway to greater communication and organization. (Sound like a familiar rationalization?) And yet I feel probably less connected with friends than ever before. Those who once called on birthdays now text or post on Facebook. Generally, people set up barriers to real conversation by hiding behind carefully written emails protecting them from genuine interaction. This in particular leads us to adopt silly phrases such as, “Thank you for reaching out.”
To the horror of those on the other end of the line, I’ve tried to break the cycle by taking my own small step: more often picking up the phone to place a call. I hear the uneasiness of those accepting my calls, knowing they must now respond in real time without the luxury of having 30 minutes to construct an email as if it were a thesis. The awkwardness is compounded when someone has repeatedly ignored my emails and must, again in real time, explain how their busy lives prevented them from taking less than 30 seconds to acknowledge one of my messages.
But my one-man revolution extends beyond the rudimentary concept of picking up a phone and using it to actually make a call. The second phase is resisting the allure of these devices after regular business hours and during weekends. Place your smartphone on the opposite side of the house during these times and the temptation is surreal. What if a client is reaching out? What if we’re falling behind by not reading the latest industry news? What if that notification is not another ESPN alert reminding us about the next College Game Day or the status of a controversial player?
I imagine the possibility of a day when one more app maker, one more over-the-top smartphone ad pushes us to the tipping point and people revolt, returning to days of more frequent face-to-face verbal communication. Let’s keep it real: We’re not all swamped CEOs. Half the time, we’re checking our phones not for important information but for something to pass the time. And disappointment too often stares back. No one is retweeting our play on words. Only your mom Liked the picture you posted. The person you really want to hear from didn’t write you back.
You are not alone in a world of grey and silver smartphones. Look up at the world passing you by. Use your words. Talk to someone whose voice you haven’t recently heard. If you’re going to follow Hollywood’s script, be the one who breaks the pattern not the mental zombie who follows it. Take your first steps. Your phone is not your best friend.
We pitch a story idea to a reporter. He says he might be interested and requests to further discuss the idea about a week later on the phone.
On the phone, we discuss the story idea in detail. The reporter indicates he will call our client the following week to learn more.
The reporter does not call the client. We follow up. The reporter explains he is buried in work but is still interested.
A month passes and we don’t hear from the reporter. We follow up and receive an automatic reply. The email states the reporter left the media outlet and took a job as an editor out-of-state.
We contact a different reporter at the same media outlet. He forwards our idea to another reporter, who tells us to call him. During the phone call, the reporter requests we email him a summary of the several angles we discussed for the story idea.
The reporter doesn’t contact us back. We follow up about a week later. The reporter says he didn’t read the summaries we emailed. He tells us he’ll review our information and discuss it with other reporters to decide who might be best to cover the story.
We don’t hear back from any of the reporters. We prepare to follow up again. However, during a Google search, we read a story the media outlet posts from a college journalist. The story is on the same story idea we first pitched 92 days earlier.
Many journalists, despite their ability to ask tough questions, don’t like to utter the words “no” or “I’m not interested” to a PR pro pitching a story. Reporters often prefer to ignore emails and rationalize they are too busy to answer them anyway. (This rationalization is frequently made prior to ducking into a back room to spend time to complain about management.) However, if you press a journalist to provide you with a straight up yes or no (One reporter took 58 days to give me such an answer.), don’t be surprised to hear one of the following responses that isn’t entirely true. The real story is in italics.
- I’m too focused on another project to cover your story but circle back with me later. (But if you actually remember to follow up, don’t expect a response.)
- I’ve been swamped, which is why I haven’t covered the story you pitched (even though I work in a small, slow news market which covers stories about stolen bicycles).
- The shoot went great. (I’m uncomfortable telling you this face to face, but I’ll tell the producer this sucked.)
- Email me a summary of your pitch (and when you call back in a week, I still won’t have read it).
- I’m definitely interested in the story but I can’t cover it for a while (and by that time, I will have accepted a new job elsewhere).
- I will pass your idea on to the producer of a more suitable newscast (which means I will fulfill my responsibility by shooting off a quick, bland email without walking a few feet to the other producer’s desk or providing a passionate argument on why to cover the idea).
- I will pass this idea on to the assignment desk for consideration (which means hell no!).
- Your idea sounds like too much of a commercial (although you could likely find 10 recent examples on our newscasts that resemble commercials).
- I like the idea but the producers didn’t (which means I didn’t love the idea enough myself and didn’t fight for it during the editorial meeting, but pitching it fulfilled my quota of bringing daily ideas to the table).
- If you find a local example, we’ll cover the story (and if you actually shock me by finding someone local for me to interview, I’ll dodge your emails).
We’re not talking about butts you want to see. We’re talking about investing significant time in setting up a shot and then sacrificing soundbites because someone’s grandma strolled so slowly through the background, her butt became the star attraction. Butts are just one of several things to consider when choosing a good interview location. Here are six tips on choosing interview locations:
- Pick a visual background. Offices with bookcases or conference rooms with plants are not visual backgrounds.
- Select a visual background related to the topic. A ferris wheel is visual, but it doesn’t relate to an interview about a company creating cool corn dogs.
- Choose a big area to shoot the interview. You need to fit in the space camera equipment, the interviewee, the interviewer, micromanaging executives, their support staff and nosey co-workers who want to make distracting faces behind the camera. And people providing interviews while pressed up against walls is often unattractive.
- Pick a quiet place with little to no background traffic. Too often, a person’s awesome answer to an interview question doesn’t work because an oblivious co-worker slowly strolled into the background, making their butt the star attraction.
- When shooting indoors, avoid locations with lots of outside light streaming indoors. Mixing indoor and outdoor lights can create havoc and harsh shadows.
- Select an indoor location where you can turn off overhead lights. In some office complexes, you can’t easily shut off overhead lighting without also shutting down half the city’s power grid. Overhead lights can create unflattering shadows or hinder attempts at artistic lighting. Several times, we asked people to unscrew light bulbs with no obvious, corresponding light switches. Yes, someone may need to climb a ladder. We’ve also covered unwanted light with heat-absorbent material.
As people who try to help businesses appear in the news, we’d like to portray ourselves as experts whose clients come away glowing from every media experience. Well, let’s destroy that image right now.
A multimedia journalist showed up at a client’s business, appeared to enjoy a great experience and indicated when the story would air. But the story didn’t air as far as we knew.
I texted the journalist to learn if we missed the story or if it would air at a later date. I received no response. The business owner also texted him and received no response. I tried to call. No answer. I texted again the following day. I still received no response. I later emailed the producer who initially received the story idea. I received no response. Five days passed since when we assumed the story would air and I tried emailing the producer again.
Give the producer credit. This time she responded and the news was negative. Give her credit because many journalists, like many humans on this planet, would rather ignore you and pretend you don’t exist than tell you the truth.
The producer explained the story did not meet the station’s expectations. The story wasn’t as impressive as assumed. The story didn’t even convey one of the key messages.
Oh crap! What the heck happened? Had I transformed into one of those horrible PR people who trick the media into coverage and then don’t deliver? I called the business owner and shared the feedback. I heard the disappointment in her voice. She blamed herself. First, she asked one of her employees to instead provide the interview. Second, she focused on something else while the multimedia journalist shot the story.
However, I had only myself to truly blame. As a reporter, I wasn’t a fan of PR people breathing heavily down my neck while I interviewed their clients. Unless there are extenuating circumstances or someone makes a specific request, I often don’t attend the media interviews themselves. And it certainly didn’t seem necessary in this case. I had spoken previously with the journalist and we discussed his approach to the story. The business owner, a bubbly woman full of personality, had appeared on TV news before and had skillfully handled her key messages on live television. This latest story was simple. The key messages were simple. However, I didn’t anticipate the store owner would pass the interview to an employee. And I assumed she would play an active role in the shoot itself. I never imagined the scenarios that actually played out.
Now I needed to fix things. I apologized to the producer. I shared the information I gathered, explained the mistakes, called myself an idiot and relayed I was pissed. I texted the multimedia journalist twice, explaining I would look into what happened and then provided an apology. The business owner told me she apologized, too.
Next, I called the client. Some PR people spend much of the time kissing clients’ asses. Those PR folks aren’t consultants. They are yes-men and yes-women. Their top priority is ensuring the checks keep arriving. I’m not that person. I picked up the phone, knowing the words I was about to share could get us fired. I shared the latest details and explained I needed to follow-up with the producer even though the store owner didn’t want me to make a big deal of it. I explained I couldn’t burn a bridge for her benefit only. I have other clients to pitch. I went on. She and only she needed to provide interviews. And I would be present for any future media opportunities. Then after mulling over our mistakes, I asked her a yes or no question that provided little wiggle room. Does she want to continue to move forward?
There’s another factor here I can’t quite figure out. The store owner told me the multimedia journalist didn’t appear interested in the same approach to the story as he shared with me on the phone. And if the story wasn’t delivering as anticipated, why didn’t he ask questions? During the interview, why didn’t he ask about the key messages the store had promised to deliver? Why didn’t he probe? That’s what I would have done. I would have said, “Where’s that part we discussed on the phone?” The store owner told me the journalist appeared very young. Did he not ask the right questions? Did he give up too soon? Should he have spoken up and said, “This is not what you promised.” I don’t know the answers to those questions. As a reporter, I saw plenty of instances when a producer saw possibilities and a videographer arrived on scene and saw garbage. In this case, the producer candidly told me the journalist probably wasn’t comfortable raising his concerns on site.
However, in this case, I never once considered implying to the producer that the videographer’s feedback was inaccurate. I have little faith a producer, unless the producer is one I know extremely well, would take my word over a co-worker’s word on the worthiness of a story. That’s not a discussion worth starting.
In the end, the client stayed with us. We agreed to learn from our mistakes. The producer … well, I won’t know her genuine opinion until I try to pitch her a story again. And the multimedia journalist … I’m still waiting for a response.