One morning we shot a series of interviews for a video, but two people scheduled to appear on camera unexpectedly couldn’t show up. The next day, someone who helped conduct the interviews explained a studio was available and we could talk with the people who didn’t make the initial shoot. She asked us if we should conduct the additional interviews. She explained the studio could call me and set up a background to our liking.
Lesson 1: Do you shoot additional interviews simply because they are available? In this case, we believe we did not need to shoot more interviews. The people we already interviewed were strong. Do you shoot additional interviews because people might feel left out? We don’t recommend shooting interviews just to make people feel included or to score points with a boss or strategic partner. Shooting more interviews for such reasons will likely weaken your video and make it less interesting.
Lesson 2: Will an additional shoot impact the budget? Is shooting the additional interviews worth the extra time and money you might need to invest?
Lesson 3: Will an additional shoot look out-of-place? We shot all of the initial interviews in the same location. Shooting new interviews in a studio might look strange. If we shot more interviews, we would recommend shooting them in the original location.
Outcome: In this situation, the client did not feel strongly about shooting additional interviews, so we didn’t.
Our latest video production voyage to San Diego makes me feel a little dirty.
We stop at an airport cafe because we are interested in overpaying for food. While a woman behind the counter asks me whether I want bacon with that, she appears to briefly place her glove in the tip of her mouth.
Now what? Do I suddenly pretend I’m no longer hungry even though I’m very much so? Do I confront her so, in her frustration with me, she does something worse when I turn my back? Option 3: Buy the breakfast and then conveniently drop it on the floor and wait for the plane’s peanuts.
During these crucial moments of split second decisions, I try to reason with myself. She is heating up the food, so that process should rid my meal of any potential cooties. I take a closer look and she seems clean. And she offers a friendly smile.
During these debates, the ludicrous also competes for attention with the logical. While I await for this controversial breakfast, I realize my hands are resting on a leather cushioned seat and I’m probably not the first to enjoy its comfort. Where’s my hand sanitizer? It’s not in my purse because I don’t carry one. Why worry about a young woman’s possibly tainted glove when my seat allows me the opportunity to practically shake hands with the general public?
I convince myself heat and my hunger outweigh the ridiculous and I attempt to eat the sandwich. Full disclosure: I attempt to eat it with a napkin, which didn’t work when the grease soaks through and makes the experience even more delightfully disgusting. Due to this sight, I decide not to finish my breakfast, instead feeding it to the nearest trash bin.
To be fair, the cafe impresses me by diligently creating a perfectly square egg for my breakfast sandwich. I don’t call it scrambled. I better describe it as congealed.
I wonder what’s on the menu for lunch. What would you have done?
An op-ed contributor writing in The New York Times argued that marketing the Olympics as an event that automatically creates economic growth for cities is misleading. The author also writes, “Every two years, Olympic boosters channel their inner Al Gore, claiming the mantle of ‘the greenest Games ever.’ Sadly, the reality has not matched the P.R.”
We don’t know if the writer is correct, but he reminds us about a key point regarding public relations that is worth repeating. PR should center on better sharing a company’s story not subduing a truth. PR is about finding opportunities and positioning a business as a leader within an industry. Public relations is about sharing substance, giving solutions and offering new ideas.
Good PR is not skillfully trying to convince people a product is awesome when experience and conventional wisdom is saying it sucks or is so much less. If people don’t smell the B.S. initially, they or the media eventually see what you’re shoveling. Don’t play games.
During media training, we asked a company’s president about customers who called reporters and complained about the business’ service. The company president began his answer by delivering a figure he believes shows most customers are happy with their service. But then he, as if slamming the brakes on a car in a high-speed race, asked a crucial question.
“Can you give me a little more information?” he asked.
Instead of speculating about complaints he wasn’t aware of, he requested further information to look into the specific cases. You can offer a sentence or two about the company as a whole, but don’t start spewing generic sound bites when reporters ask about incidents you don’t know about. Get extra information and look into the situation. This helps prevent you from providing wrong information and shows you care enough to take the time to learn specific details and come up with a solution if necessary. Just because a reporter is racing for answers doesn’t mean you can’t slow things down to get it right. When you later get the details, make sure you follow up with the reporter.
Video production companies sometimes have limited, direct access to a business executive or manager requesting a project. Instead, subordinates, playing the role of middlemen, attempt to accurately relay the vision of the video to the production company.
This is bad policy and is detrimental to a business’ bottom line. Too often, an employee overseeing the video has a dim understanding of what the boss truly wants. Ultimately, this can lead to what seems like a never-ending stretch of revisions to the video. Everyone invests considerably more time into the project, which is costly.
There is a better way. From the very beginning, a video production company should share a seat at the table to explore and discuss the company’s initial approach to a video. And the executive or manager who asked for the video should stay directly engaged with the plan on how to shoot and edit that video, especially as circumstances change along the way.
Because video can mean negotiating the personal preferences of several people who see things through a different lens, true collaboration from the start helps prevent unexpected costs and additional investments in time.
During media training, a department director walked through the doors of a conference room. I turned on a bright light, stuck the camera in her face and began asking a series of tough questions. During this mock ambush interview, I moved the camera around a lot and sometimes pushed it awkwardly close to her face.
- In theory, reporters conduct ambush interviews because all previous efforts to get those crucial interviews were unsuccessful.
- In reality, some media conduct unnecessary ambush interviews because they make for dramatic “good TV.”
- If reporters you don’t know ambush you, stop and politely ask them to identify themselves and the stories they are working on. This creates a less tense atmosphere and gives you a moment to pause, catch your breath and gather your thoughts.
- If reporters ambush you in an awkward or uncomfortable location, don’t be afraid to tell them you are happy to answer their questions but prefer to move to a different area.
- If you are not allowed to answer reporters’ questions, explain why.
- If you ignore reporters who ambush you or act angry and disgusted, they will most likely show this to viewers or describe your actions to readers.
I’m talking about breathing life into [yawn], run-of-the-mill emails, meetings or newsletter articles. I’m not satisfied with status quo. I have a lot of creative energy to burn and it’s refreshing to work with a client who encourages innovative internal communications. A recent change management communications project provided the perfect opportunity to give mouth to mouth to traditional channels – without blowing smoke.
One approach I took was to use an avatar (or cartoon character) as a champion or change agent along the journey. In this case, the avatar represented the target audience undergoing the change. We gave him a name, his own email address and phone extension with an outgoing voicemail message. The email address and phone extension were outlets to send emails and voicemails and capture feedback and questions.
I couldn’t stop there. I had life-size cutouts created for placing in high-traffic areas. But these weren’t ordinary cutouts. They included dry erase talk bubbles for quick weekly updates written in a conversational tone. The talk bubbles included key messages about the business case for the change, reminders about required actions, things that would take getting used to and things that would ultimately be better.
Wait, there’s more. The avatar had its own voice. Literally and figuratively. Its written messages were in conversational tones. Its speaking voice was an anonymous employee who recorded sound bites, many of which narrated a presentation giving an overview of the change journey.
Why use an avatar? This approach won’t work for every company culture, but here are some things to consider about avatars. They can:
- inject life – and a little fun – in your campaign
- deliver tough news in a non-threatening way
- mitigate employees’ potential fear or resistance
- serve as a neutral voice of realism, especially when it comes to upcoming challenges
- boost message credibility – particularly when the avatar represents the target audience and is positioned as a peer going through the change along with everyone else
The results and reactions to the avatar were positive. Messages cut through clutter and sparked many conversations. Have you tried anything similar?
During media training for a business trying to improve its public relations, I asked one of the company’s leaders, as part of a mock interview, to confirm something about his fees. His answer focused on how someone determines those fees, but he didn’t answer my question. I asked my question a second time. His answer focused on why fees vary, but he didn’t answer my question. I asked my question a third time. He explained the information I asked about is possibly true. I asked if I understood correctly that he, as one of his company’s leaders, did not have the definitive information I sought. His answer returned to how someone determines those fees. At this point, I let him off the hook. Some reporters will quickly let you off the hook if you dodge their questions. Other reporters will not give in. Businesses often enter interviews knowing they will not divulge certain information, but continuously dodging questions and hoping reporters show mercy is a PR strategy set to backfire. Plan ahead and either answer the question or explain why you can’t answer it. The third option is my least favorite: Don’t do the interview. Have you seen this awkward type of scenario play out? How would you handle it?