20 Top Tips on Using Video for PR Pros

iphone on tripodWith ongoing advancements in technology, video capabilities continue to change and increase in importance for PR professionals.  I recently attended an excellent session on video organized by my fellow Atlantans, Mitch Leff and Brennan Robison, co-chairs of the PRSA Georgia Independent Counselors SIG. We had the opportunity to hear expert video tips and insights from Kaitlyn Pratt, reporter, Fox5 Atlanta; Jay Ariano, partner, Firstline Media; and Scott Hartman, multimedia group leader, Jackson Spalding.

Here are 20 top tips you can start using today:

Help the reporters do their job

1. As with anything PR, helping always-strapped news organizations do their jobs better is the best way to be successful. Pratt stated that they’re always looking for “anything interactive that can bring in viewers – people can get information anywhere these days. The visual is what sets us apart.”

2. Pratt also noted that PR pros can be especially useful in helping TV news create “memorable moments.” As an example, she told the story of a PR agency that – after seeing one of their reports on a low income patient in need of surgery – got their doctor client to donate the surgery, and then helped the reporter setup a Skype connection with the doctor in another town, so they could tell the patient the good news on air as a follow-up. She pointed out they never would have been able to make something like that happen without PR assistance.

High Tech equipment is not a requirement

3. Though many PR pros get bogged down in the technical requirements of video, the experts agree that high-quality video can be obtained using readily available devices like iPhones and iPads, and SLRs such as the Canon Rebel, as long as there is good quality lighting and sound. In fact, reporters at Fox5 news in Atlanta have been issued iPads for their use in capturing and filing stories.

4. Pratt shared a great tip that she’s learned herself as a result: “zoom with your feet” (using the device’s zoom feature can be awkward and results in a lower quality outcome).

5. The programs packaged with your Operating System — Windows Movie Maker or iMovie – are more powerful than you think, and often used by TV editors themselves.

6. Shoot in landscape mode, which looks better on TV and other screens.

7. Keep the shot steady with a tripod. Even an iPhone can be stabilized on an inexpensive a tripod, which can mean the difference between a shot that can be used on-air, and one that can’t.

8. Make sure your spokesperson or subject is well-lit by ensuring there’s a good light behind the camera.

9. Be sure you can sure you can hear your subject well. Hartman shared that if you’re recording just a one-person video using an iPhone, the phone’s included headphones work well as a lavaliere – just put the earbud pieces inside your shirt and position the mic on the outside.

Short and simple

10. The average news story is 1 minute and 20 seconds, so keep that in mind if you’re planning to pitch your video to TV. The experts agreed that even for Internet video, the goal should be no more than two minutes to tell your story.

11. When building your package to send to the media, the panel recommended offering a short-form edit of your footage first – so a media outlet can use it without having to edit – and then add extra bonus footage at the end of the file. However, the entire file shouldn’t be more than 3.5 minutes, or it will get too big to work with.

12. Don’t use your own graphics on the video, so the outlet can add their own. A common mistake is to put the title of the person speaking at the bottom of the screen – instead, use a title card (slates) before or after to provide that information.

13. Because you never know when an outlet will want to cut in or out, keep your camera static with no pans or zooms.

Move beyond the press conference

14. Hartman noted “we should retire the term press conference and replace it withpress events.’”

15. What can you do outside the announcement to make it interesting? Ariano said, “What can you show people they can’t see every day? Do an interesting interactive event.” As an example, a local tennis event “trotted out” a professional tennis player to hit balls with top reporters and other luminaries – much more visually interesting than just having someone talk about the event.

Spread it around

16. To share video with the media in real-time, provide them with access to a .mov file on an FTP site so they can download it and get it on air. Dropbox is a great FTP-like option – you can get the shareable file link and send it to your media contacts.

17. Pratt noted that links to your videos should be shared widely with a news organization, including the assignment desk, related reporters, producers and the news tip email address, to help get it on air.

18. All agreed that YouTube videos are not high enough quality to work for news broadcasts; however, once you have your higher quality video (and distribute it using FTP, as noted above) you should post it to video sharing sites like YouTube and Vimeo. This makes it easy for bloggers to use/embed, and allows it to spread further.

Budget

19. What can you expect to pay for a professional video? Ariano noted that $3,000 is at the low end, but is doable. He encouraged PR pros to tell vendors their budget and let them make recommendations (just as in our own businesses, don’t be afraid to talk price).

Use Video to Pitch

20. Leff noted that video can also be very useful when pitching. As part of your media outreach, provide a link to video of your spokesperson addressing the topic to encourage interviews and other coverage.

Do you find yourself creating more video yourself? Do you have any additional tips to share?

 

  • Joyce Boncal

    This is a great article. I’ve produced some book trailers. I tell the authors the video should be under 1 minute. Who wants to watch a 2 minute advertisement?

  • Thanks, Joyce – you’re ahead of the curve! Most people think their content is so fascinating, there’s no way they could share it in under a minute. But as you note, it’s definitely possible — especially when you think as if it’s a news piece.