Last month, as we were working on an expert roundup related to the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, we came across several expert profiles that included video, and it got us thinking about the different ways PR pros are using video to promote their experts. So, we went right to the source and asked our members to share some examples of how they use video, as well as some tips and best practices for those of you inspired enough to give it a try. Here are their stories:
Max Pearlstein, Mount Holyoke College Office of Communications
We use video to promote experts in a number of different ways. The most obvious one is having faculty share their thoughts, on camera, about breaking news. This clip can then be quickly edited by myself or someone else on staff, and then emailed out to reporters and editors who will know will be covering the story. It serves as a great way for television producers to see how our faculty members present themselves on camera, which is important, and can help make our faculty stand out from the print press release crowd.
With the rise of Skype/Google video chat, anyone can do a remote interview with a faculty member who is conducting research abroad, or may be working in a region in the news, and record it for inclusion in a video. The image quality may not always be the greatest, but it lends an authenticity and immediacy to the interview that you wouldn't necessarily get through quotes for a print story. In this case, the video features an alumnus who discussed her time in Yemen during the beginning of the Arab Spring: www.mtholyoke.edu/news/channels/35/stori...
One of my colleagues also produces a "Video Bookshelf" series that features faculty authors discussing their new books: www.mtholyoke.edu/news/channels/36
Ryan McCormick, Goldman & McCormick Public Relations
In our experience, TV producers won’t even consider having you on their shows unless they see a prior video clip of you. If you don’t have a YouTube channel, you’re passing up the opportunity to be seen by millions of people.
For our clients, we bring them to our TV studio once per week and film 10, two-minute videos. The videos usually feature our client commenting on the top news headlines in their field of expertise. From there, the videos are uploaded to YouTube and their subscriber base grows (especially if the videos hit a nerve).
Ryan Yarosh, Binghamton University
Before working here at Binghamton, I spent several years in broadcast news and have made a real effort to incorporate video into our promotional efforts at the university. When promoting faculty or gathering information for a news release, I often consider what visual elements are available to help tell the story. When gathering information, I explore whether the story lends itself to video and, if so, will the faculty member be not only comfortable on-camera, but also able to break down their research in a timely manner.
We use video to enhance the storytelling process. In the past, we would often recording "talking head" interviews to accompany a news release or to make a Web page more dynamic. When attaching video to promotional efforts, the content should contain a similar message but offer something that is not told or seen in the print version of the story.
The following video was compiled to accompany a news release which ran extensively worldwide. In this case, reporters were able to better understand the research through the video, with the option to embed it in their online coverage of the story: “Researchers Jumpstart Ancient DNA”: youtu.be/jVVIDGQHpHk
Here are a few things I have learned through the years working with video and faculty:
- Explore visual elements and conduct pre-interviews before deciding on video.
- Can video cover the topic in less than three minutes?
- What’s the timeline? Shooting and editing is a real time investment.
- Manage expectations. Show the expert past work and let them know what you can and cannot do beforehand.
- Ask: Will video enhance or offer another element to the story not covered in the press release or print article?
- Ask: Will the expert agree to have their research broadcast though channels such as YouTube?
Laura Perry, UCLA School of Nursing
Here at the UCLA School of Nursing, I am using video in a variety of ways to reach a variety of audiences:
- General audience: To tell a story. Most people have an image of nurses based on what they see on TV. At the UCLA School of Nursing, we are working to educate the general public about who nurses are and what they do. On our website, we have posted videos of nursing faculty talking about their research and students talking about their activities, including a trip to Uganda and presentations at a conference.
- Potential students: Again, the videos of students going to Uganda and Ph.D. students talking about their research is to educate, excite and recruit individuals from around the world to come to the UCLA School of Nursing.
- Faculty Recruitment.
- Fundraising: By having our faculty researchers discussing their research, potential grantors can hear firsthand what is going on and why they might want to get involved.
- Something unique: We had one faculty member go to Haiti in January 2010, 30 days after the earthquake. On a moment’s notice, I gave her a flip camera and asked her to chronicle her experience. What she brought back was amazing and, together with some additional footage, we created a video, “Healing and Hope in Haiti.” The video has subsequently been shown in many places (including to the Haiti ambassador to the U.S.) and received several PR awards. The video is getting a second life, as the faculty member decided to start a foundation based on her Haiti experience: nursing.ucla.edu/body.cfm?id=312
We also have a School of Nursing YouTube channel.
Patrick Schwerdtfeger, Author and Speaker
The trick is to make 10, one-minute videos rather than one, 10-minute video. Better yet, make 100, one-minute videos, each optimized for a different keyword phrase. That way, you will get found by YouTube users searching a wide variety of different keyword phrases. While the number of views on individual videos may be low, the total exposure is huge.
The expert should then include his/her website address at the top of the video description, allowing viewers to click through to learn more. I did this myself, creating 80 videos for my new book, and YouTube now accounts for 30 percent of my website visitors.
Alison Cohen, Education Development Center
We have created what we call “Staff Spotlight,” which highlights individuals across our large nonprofit organization. In addition to a written Q&A, I shoot a video piece entitled, “One Minute With..” It is exactly a minute long and is an edited conversation with the staffer. It complements the written piece by including an anecdote, story, or little-known fact about the person speaking on camera. We use these Staff Spotlights on our external website and feature them in our online communications. Here are a couple of samples: Eric Gravel and Siobhan Bredin
We have found it a great (and low-cost!) way to recognize staff and provide some focus on their work and their skills and background.
Patricia Sinnott, Sinnott Productions
My company currently uses video to promote several expert bloggers. We do a once-a-month, in-studio video shoot with two expert bloggers. They each finish four short video scripts to allow once-a-week releases. One individual is a coffee expert (www.coffeecompanion.com) and the other is a wine expert (www.jenniferreviews.com).
Using a simple backdrop, we shoot them using a teleprompter so they can concentrate on their performance rather than their content. Video is a natural feedback system. It’s built into the process. They've already adjusted their character portrayal and are perfecting their individual styles. They are well on their way to become video media stars.
Our most unique project is Mission Coffee Can. It's the first ever reality Web series. It features a group of diverse college students who meet for the first time and travel Guatemala to discover a new coffee. They return to the U.S. and attempt to market the coffee as direct trade so the farmers receive the majority of the profit. They go on to compete in a business college competition. It’s sort of a “college Apprentice” meets “Jersey Shore.” The difference is that instead of kids behaving badly, it’s about kids behaving goodly. We think that video can make a difference in the world; it can both educate and entertain. Video combined with social media on the Web is certainly the future. We were recently honored to learn that this series is currently a finalist in the ConnectedWorld.TV Awards.
- Planning the marketing aspect of your project before it’s completed. Often, a producer becomes so wrapped up in the art of the project they forget to market. No matter how good your work is, if people don't know about it, it will die in obscurity. I've learned that, while shooting, one must plan for the promotion. Photos on the set with updates to social media need to happen during every production day. You must involve your audience as soon as possible, even while creating the project.
- To become a great videographer, you need to shoot a lot of video. You need to be quiet and low-key, especially if you're going capture reality. Your job is to look for those interesting spontaneous moments to unfold before your lens. The producer part of me gets excited as I see the story happening before my eyes.
- Always be prepared. Keep plenty of lens-cleaning packets. No matter how careful you are, the lens is going to get smudged. Lenses get dirty and that fingerprint is forever. Extra tape and batteries are a good idea, too.
- Remember, audio is probably 80 percent of good video. Unfortunately, the microphones built into most camcorders are fairly basic. I only use the camera mike for sync purposes. Invest in a great selection of external microphones to plug into the audio jack. This collection should including wireless lavaliere microphones. Lavs are designed to clip onto the clothing of the subject near their mouth, and are small enough that you can even hide one somewhere in a scene. Always use headphone, too. I've learned the hard way. There's nothing worse than realizing you got great footage and no audio.
- A good tripod is almost more important than the camera. Shaky shots make video unwatchable. Even if the camera has built-in image stabilization, it can only compensate for so much motion. Spend the extra money for a great fluid head for smooth steady shots.
- One of the most common video mistakes is making constant movements. You should only change a shot to tell more of the story. Only use the zoom when it’s necessary to grab close-up action. There's an old rule: If you want to zoom, zoom with your feet. When you decide on a shot, leave it on the scene for 10-20 seconds to allow the action to unfold before shifting to take another shot. This will stop you from shouting at the screen during the editing process when something awesome was starting to happen and you moved away from it. Always shoot with slow, smooth and deliberate motions.
- Good shot composition begins by using the “Rule of Thirds.” Think of the screen divided into a Tic-Tac-Toe pattern. When framing a person, their eyes should be on the top line and the center of their head on the left or right line, not dead center. You want a properly balanced shot.
- Lighting is key. At least three LED lights, to allow for three-point lighting, should always be part of your gear. If you're roaming, a small LED light that sits on your camera will do wonders. Remember not to shoot anyone with a window directly behind them; the person’s face will be lost in the mud. If possible, ask them to move. Anytime you’re outdoors is a good time to get some great shots using the sun as a light kit. Try to shoot in the morning or late afternoon, when the sun is lower. When it's directly overhead, it casts unflattering shadows on people’s faces and everyone will look harsh; but if it's a cloudy day, you may be in luck!
- If you're interviewing people, be sure to ask for permission before you start shooting. It's always good manners and can be used in place of written models release. Stand as close as possible and ask the person to look directly into the camera. You may need to gently remind them to do this, as they will tend to try to look at you while you are asking them questions. Try to make the interview conversational. Since lavaliere microphones are cumbersome to clip on and off, it might be a good idea to use a wired handheld microphone. No one minds if the microphone is in the shot and they usually pick up sound better, both from the person and anyone nearby who chimes in, which can add to the fun of an interview.
- Visit the venue or location before shooting. You need to know where you can store your gear. Your need to see where you will set up your shots and what the lighting conditions with be. We had one client that wanted an exercise video shot in a health club. The room had lots of mirrors and windows. It was a shooting nightmare. It took a while, but we finally found the one spot in the room where we could get a decent shot. That pre-site visit saved the video.
- Be sure to shoot plenty of B-roll. These shots can cover a multitude of sins when the tape is being edited. B-roll is anything that is interesting at the site. Oh and don't forget to get establishment shots, both outside and inside. People want to see where you are taking them. If the action includes something like a box being opened, be sure get a close-up of what's inside. Inquiring minds what to know.
Jared Wadley, University of Michigan News Service
Promoting experts through multimedia is an important component at the University of Michigan News Service. What I like to do with my experts who are interviewed for the first time on video is ask them to summarize and recite their key points as if they are teaching a class. Oftentimes, this means the person is walking back and forth at the front of the class (or in this case, a room) and using their natural hand movements. I will also tell them to be conversational, as if they are talking to their friends and/or significant other. When they appear comfortable, I'll ask them to maintain that relaxed feeling while sitting for the interview. This tactic has been successful.
When I do expert videos without B-roll, I want the faculty member to speak for 90 seconds to two minutes without interruptions (stopping or stumbles, i.e., "ahh" or "umm"). Since we don't use teleprompters, what I've found successful is preparing a script with key points written in large type that I hold behind the camera. Not only does this allow them to remember everything they want to say, but they know how long they have to complete the interview. I have found the expert can do the entire interview in one take.
Kenneth C. Wisnefski, WebiMax
I use video heavily both to promote myself as an entrepreneur and expert in our industry, and to promote WebiMax. The significant advantage/purpose of using video is that it delivers the message and speaks to your credibility. Speaking into a camera provides so much more information by your body language. If you can speak comfortably, you’re obviously well educated about your topic. If you speak clearly and deliver your message for the audience to easily receive, you reinforce that you’re an expert.
We use YouTube heavily, and I also am interviewed on major news networks (FOX Business, CNN, MSNBC) almost monthly. The use of video has definitely helped us and has further promoted me as an expert in my industry.
Maureen Bennett, Summit Medical Group
Summit Medical Group launched its "Medical Monday" video series in May 2011. The two- to four-minute videos feature one of our physicians discussing an illness/condition or test/procedure. When making the videos, I choose the physician with the most expertise in that area. It gives the physician an opportunity to share their expertise and educate our patients, as well. Medical Monday-Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: youtu.be/qlBvfNyL9Fw
Another way we have begun to use video for our experts is in response to breaking news. Perhaps you read about the triathletes who died during a recent NYC triathlon event. We have many doctors who are athletes here, and one of our physicians has also participated in triathlons. Using a Flip camera, we interviewed that physician, as well as one of our cardiologists, on how endurance athletes can better prepare themselves for safer participation. I pitched the clip to a local news station, and while they didn't run it (we were preempted by severe thunderstorms/floods!), we are going to work on a story about doctors as athletes! Triathlon Safety Awareness: youtu.be/oOlb2hXTJxY
Of course, all our video work is posted to our website home page, our YouTube channel and shared via social media. I also send links to my local broadcast stations whenever we post a new video, to keep our health/medical experts top-of-mind.
Ross Perich, Trainer Communications
The most widely watched videos are not only succinct, but also entertaining, so one advanced technique is to blend engaging video and cartoon-style animation to create an “edutainment” piece.
Trainer recently won the 2011 Videographer Award of Excellence for producing a Modern IT thought leadership video/animation for Nimsoft. Trainer’s approach was to combine the credibility generated by IT executives interviewed in the video with a humor-based animation designed to entertain the viewer.
You can also see some of our other videos here.
Rob Frankel, Branding Strategist, RobFrankel.com
I use video a lot. It's on my home page, my site and on several expert sites. However, even promotional video and all the clips at www.robfrankel.com/video.html don’t get clients to call. Video tends to tip them into my bucket, though, because it does tend to "legitimize" my claims when FOX, CNBC, NBC, MSNBC, CTV and the like feature my opinions.
David Spark, Spark Media Solutions
My company's motto is "content is the currency of social media and search." Organizations want to be traded in social media and visible in search. Creating some kind of media allows that to happen. At Spark Media Solutions, we have found our clients just love video.
The biggest cost suck in any content production is actually getting the subjects you need to create the content, whether it's materials or a person to interview. We have found that live events are a great way to reduce those costs while also connecting with industry influencers. We essentially flip the standard PR relationship of "Will you pay attention to my client?" and say "We want to pay attention to you." It's a great way to start a relationship and, as a result, I have hundreds of relationships with media that love the content we create for our clients and happily republish it.
For more on what we do at Spark Media Solutions (tons of samples and testimonials), and what you can do check out these links:
Do you have any stories or tips of your own? Please share in the comments below.