Monday, February 9, 2015

Think visually...

Have you ever heard the old expression, "You have a face for radio?"  I have heard it applied to me for years.

Yup, that's me in the green shirt... on an audio podcast
While there are certain things we don't want to see on your computer or television, when it comes to pitching your story to the media, getting the visuals is critical.

Think for a minute about the plane crash of TransAsia Flight 235 that happened last week in Taiwan. Yes, it was a tragic event, which led to the death of at 40 and injured 17, including two people on the ground. But, there have been plane crashes elsewhere that have garnered less coverage.

What made that event so well covered?

The dramatic photo of the plane crashing
Could it be that a car caught the entire event on a dashboard camera?

The dramatic video which showed the plane as it entered its final dive, clipped the bridge over the Keelung River in Taipei, smashed the front end of a taxi and plunged into the water was played over and over again, and still images adorned the front pages of newspapers across the world.

While part of what drove this might be the morbid curiosity on the part of viewers, it shows that time and again visuals make the story.  Think of how well covered the Chelybinsk meteor event was because there were so many cameras in that central Russian city.

The Chelyabinsk meteor
Heck, one of the things we managed to do was to shoot video on my cell phone during last September's sewer main break and get it uploaded to our YouTube page to show the exact moment when the split pipe was bypassed and the flow of wastewater was stopped.

Does the event have to be dramatic to require visuals to garner coverage? Heck no. Many times, the folks who we report to think the 'grip and grin' type of photos of check or award presentations are going to get coverage, when, in reality, most reporters roll their eyes at those events and seek better ones. So, why not help them? Some suggestions include:
  • Set up an opportunity for employees (firefighters, police officers, public safety experts) to demonstrate new equipment or techniques. 
  • Bring a camera with you when you show up on scene. Most cameras allow you to update your social media feeds from the field, adding an immediacy to the coverage.
  • Arrange for the people who may be helped by your new program to be available for interviews. 
And, to get back to my original point about radio, you have to dispense with the old way of thinking. All news radio stations have an associated website and social media feeds where - you guessed it - they can display video and photos, helping to tell the story.

Tom Iovino, Public Information Specialist
Pinellas County, Florida

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