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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Video in your News Release? Why Bother?

As the use of embedded video in news releases has risen in recent years, we wanted to initiate a discussion and keep our finger on the pulse of how it’s working for our colleagues in media relations, particularly for higher-ed institutions. There has been an interesting discussion about this topic going on over at the PIOnet group on LinkedIn.

The comments we will discuss hit on three major points that make a clear case in favor of using video in your news releases whenever possible.

  1. Video can draw more attention to your news
  2. Experts should be coached to give good soundbites
  3. Even raw, imperfect video can enhance your news

Examples of Good Video on Newswise
Before we get into the discussion from PIOnet, take a look at some good examples of video posted on Newswise that illustrate the first two points:

In this story form the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the embedded video gets to the hard-hitting news quickly, and effectively. The video illustrates how larger teams of firefighters participating in the research study were able to perform at significantly higher levels than teams with fewer firefighters.

All three experts in this video from University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, exemplify good media training for experts and researchers. They speak directly to their main points without using a lot of technical jargon, and they provide simple explanations that most lay people would understand.

Both of these news releases have video that, we think, are good examples of why video is a valuable tool, and we would encourage any media relations professional to learn from and emulate these examples.

As a fun experiment for us, we recorded the following short video where Newswise colleauges Thom Canalichio and Zakira Beasley discuss using video in news releases. (Keep in mind we did this video in about 30 minutes, with minimal technical resources.)

Hope you enjoyed seeing us discuss these points! Keep in mind, again, we did this in one take, with minimal processing and editing. Learning from this experience, we want to encourage others to throw caution to the wind and give video a try.

Video Feedback from our PIOnet Colleagues
In order to have a good understanding of how video is working for our media relations colleagues, Newswise President and PIOnet group administrator, Roger Johnson, posed the question for discussion on the PIOnet group’s LinkedIn page: Has your office made much effort to incorporate video with news releases? Are you doing it? How is it working for you? We will discuss some of the most poignant comments, after the jump.

An immediate, positive response by one group member reinforced what we’ve already found; video tends to raise the profile of otherwise ordinary news releases. He writes:

We've had some pretty good luck using video in our advocacy efforts... We've produced some, students have produced others...Interestingly, the videos have been by far the most popular links in our electronic newsletters. We use video on our blog and Facebook now as well.
We can see two interesting factors in these comments. First, they have used video in news releases about advocacy efforts, primarily announcements about student financial aid programs. These are, to be frank, not normally the kind of news release to get an extraordinary amount of attention. The correlation of video to increased exposure for their news is a good sign, at least for this institution.

Second, they have been willing to de-centralize the production of the news videos, giving access to students to create the content themselves. Relinquishing total control may seem daring to some colleagues, but it does speak to a common problem of limited resources; who is the right, capable person to capture and produce video to accompany a news release? The conclusion is that the advanced technology and easy-access of video sites such as YouTube are leveling factors. Even amateur users, with a little training and guidance, can produce something worthy of distribution.

Another colleague commented about a more subtle challenge in news release video: getting good sound bites from your experts.

One of the biggest challenges is getting the researchers to speak in soundbites without using jargon. This is particularly difficult [for], but in no way limited to, non-native English speakers. YouTube allows you to upload a transcript, which becomes a caption, and that helps a lot. It's also time consuming to record video and edit it into something that looks decent, especially in this new "do more with less" world that many of us find ourselves in. Heck, I'm having trouble doing the same with less.
Reminding your experts and researchers to speak in clear, brief soundbites is one crucial ingredient in the successful use of video in your news releases. It may be enough to just keep that in mind and give a constructive suggestion or two. There is also the option of professional “media training,” but that may be too costly to be practical. As an alternative, if your institution has communications experts, they may be a good resource to coach your expert before and during a video interview. It is also worth noting the suggestion to upload a transcript when an expert’s comments are difficult to follow.

Because of the technical barriers involved, some of our colleagues are reluctant to do video because it is too costly or time-consuming to produce a good, professional-looking finished product. The last comment we wanted to highlight here turns that caution on its head:

We've had some good results/luck incorporating pretty raw "in the field/in the lab" video into our news releases. Remember, good video isn't always polished, edited and/or have great soundbites: an image or scene that's compelling in its own right can stand out and get noticed…I'm finding more and more researchers have this stuff - they often just don't think of it off the top of their heads, and/or think raw video won't cut the mustard.
In a nutshell: just try it! Even if it is imperfect, video is just another way to convey information and enhance the overall value of your news. The video referred to in these comments included raw footage of in-the-field research, animations, and voice-over narration giving detailed description of the process involved. The news was picked up by a nationally distributed radio program and posted on the show’s website, among other successful pickup.

Video Services with Newswise
Newswise members may already know about Newswise services including video embedding. If you are not a Newswise member, or if you do not currently have video as part of your Newswise membership package, you may be interested to know that we are coming up with creative, flexible ways for you to try it out. If you are curious, or would just like some information, please contact us at and we can discuss some of your options to join and add video to your services.

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