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8 reasons to film your own press conference (or why YouTube is a free kitten)

July 2, 2009


Lately I’ve been filming a lot of press conferences for local advocacy groups and a common response I get is “Will anyone really watch this stuff on YouTube?” They have a point… to a point. But I still think filming press conferences is an important exercise for creating and posting content online. Here are my reasons:

1. YouTube channels are free kittens (or cultivating an audience). Someone once said, open source software is “free as in free kittens.” The same is true of tools like YouTube and other video sites: They might be free but they need care and nurturing to thrive. The public judges your organization based on how active your channel is. If you only have a few videos from your annual dinner, most online audiences will think that you’re not serious about using this technology or, even worse, out of step and behind the times. Keeping your channel active is the means of building and cultivating your audience, especially for when you need them in the future for fundraising or urgent actions. In this case, something is better than nothing.

2. Reviewing your public speaking skills. Everyone is curious about the way they look on camera. Taping the presentations you or staff make gives you the opportunity to review them critically and improve. Did you read too much and not look at the audience? Did you speak too softly or too quickly? Colleagues might be able to tell you these things but why not judge for yourself?

3. Documenting your organization’s work. Nonprofits have always struggled with letting the public know what they’ve been up to with the money they’ve donated. Newsletters and e-mail blasts are two examples of this need. But why not record your organization’s work in action, literally? For now, maybe press conferences are often the best way to do this. Videos give your supporters a taster or sense of the events your events, even if they can’t participate. Staff are summarizing and making compelling cases to a corporate media audience, exactly what you try to capture in words for your newsletters. If you want to, include video links in your e-newsletters to further impress your supporters.

4. Fact checking the media. “Did I really say that?” These days anyone can report the news but questions of accuracy and truthfulness are still of utmost concern. Video helps you fact check what was said at a press conference. It also contextualizes the quotes or sound bites that corporate media gloms onto.

5. Controlling and magnifying your message. Advocacy groups are often frustrated by how corporate or Big Media sometimes doesn’t get the story right or even cover the story at all. By videotaping your press conference, you are able to control what your major points and concerns are without hoping and praying that intermediaries will convey it correctly. If you’re building an audience online, you can communicate directly with the public without relying on a third party that might not get it right… or even show up at the press conference.

6. Practice using technology. In the entire history of human communications technology, internet video is very very new. Just like email, social networking websites and digital photography, we’re all still learning how video works. As Clay Shirky has said, “Tools don’t get socially interesting until they get technologically boring.” If you and your organization get in the habit of shooting, editing, approving and uploading video, it won’t be as big a deal. Your staff will become accustomed to the process and be able to put aside technical concerns in moving a project forward. You can also argue that it will help you save money. If you build your organization’s internal capacity to make video, you’re less reliant on “professionals” for small amateur jobs (As a consultant, should I be writing that?)

7. Creatively thinking about distribution. If you’re creating content, you have to also work to get people to see it. Apparently over 80% of online video’s viewership comes through blog posts. In other words, what bloggers do you know that you can rely on to help with distributing your videos? Have you been participating in online discussions and commenting on posts? Are you an active member on Facebook and Twitter? If you’re done the work in creating “street cred” online, folks will be more willing to share the videos you make. The more often you do this, the better. Bloggers, social network addicts and tweeters are always looking for visual images to link with their stories. If you have cultivated relationships with them and they look to you for primary sources like video, you’ll be able to depend on them when you really need them, like when you make that urgent video you’ve really invested time and energy, that you’re super proud of and need help distributing.

8. Learning what makes good online videos and changing approach. As some of you may have been thinking, are press conferences still really the best way to get out your message? This brings me back to the initial skepticism of posting these types of videos. Addmittedly press conferences don’t make the most compelling video content. Check out any of the videos below and you’ll see that many rank only in the 100-200 views range if that. But, in this case, the final product is not really the point.

Above are seven other reasons that filming even seemingly boring stuff is good for you and your organization. But the biggest reason is that it stretches YOUR thinking about online video. Once the technology of creating and distributing becomes rote and the internal processes of your organization start viewing video like creating simple Word documents, you’ll be able to take a step back and think about strategies for engaging your audience more effectively and spurring them to action. Maybe you won’t do press conferences as much. Maybe they’ll die away completely. If you’ve invested the time in practicing, you’ll be able to create even better content that will be better suited to reach your advocacy goals.


Examples of recent press conference events that I’ve filmed (This is partially a ploy to get more viewers):

1. “Slice of life” or summary of an event: Short clips of different aspects of the event but not coverage of every minute.

2. Filming the entire event: Each speaker or event component is uploaded as separate videos and organized as a playlist. Everything is filmed except breaks and transitions between speakers.

3. Do you have other examples of video styles to cover press conferences and other organizational events?

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