How a Guy in Mandeville, Louisiana Became the Source of Breaking News

By, Gerard Braud

(Editor’s note: In 2013, CNN selected me as one of their top iReporters, out of more than 11,000 iReporters. This is part of a series of articles about how you can be a good iReporter and how to make CNN iReports a vital part of your crisis communication and media relations strategy.)

IMG_0470* copyAs you read this, please be so kind as to also click this link to vote for me as CNN’s iReporter of the Year…  I’m one of 36 finalists and your 30 seconds of support is greatly appreciated.

Over the next few days you will learn the background story of how I was selected by CNN.  If you come back to this blog daily, you will learn secrets about how and why you should also be crazy about iReports and using smart phones and tablets to broadcast to the world.

CNN is recognizing me for a series of reports I filed about Hurricane Isaac 2012.

With 7 feet of floodwater surrounding my home and no electricity for 5 days during Hurricane Isaac, I was able to broadcast live to CNN using only my iPhone, G3 and Skype. Amid the rain, heat, waves, snakes, alligators, debris and dead animal carcasses, I kept broadcasting.

Because of the reports I filed from August 26-September 2, 2012, CNN producers chose my reports out of all the reports filed by 11,000 iReporters in 2012, to be recognized for continuing coverage of breaking news. The reports were seen both on the CNN iReport website and they were broadcasted by CNN and HLN to viewers around the world.

These reports took viewers into places that even CNN news crews couldn’t reach with their million dollar satellite trucks and $60,000 HD cameras.

Wow. #crazyflattered #makesmymomproud #thisisfriggincool. It is so cool to be nominated by CNN.Isaac Ireport Gerard Braud

Hopefully the experiences you will read about here will help you understand why you should be a part of iReports. You will also learn step-by-step how to do what I do.

I have been a CNN iReport evangelist since the program began. During 4 major weather events my iReports have been broadcast on CNN and on multiple occasions have lead to live broadcasts.

The first time was when I witnessed a funnel cloud during Hurricane Gilbert. I simply uploaded a short iReport with no narration to CNN. CNN showed it, then my phone rang. A friend in California called to warn me there were tornadoes near me and he had just seen it on CNN.  Ha. Funny how that worked.

CNN Ireport gerard braud snowOn December 11, 2010 we had an unusual 5-inch snow fall in the town I live in, near New Orleans. I had not sent out Christmas cards yet, so with my point and shoot camera I made a short news video about the snow, then wished everyone Merry Christmas. I uploaded the video to iReports. Their producers vetted the report and confirmed it was real. They edited off my Christmas greeting, then used the rest of the video all day long to run before every weather report. That was really cool.

CNN asked me to do a live report via Skype, but that got canceled because of breaking news. That was the day the body of Caylee Anthony was found in the woods, leading to the murder trial of the child’s mother, Casey Anthony.

In August of 2011, Tropical Storm Lee came through New Orleans and my little town of Mandeville, LA. A week before, I had moved into a new house on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain. The storm surge filled my yard with 5 feet of water. Using my iPad and WiFi, I shot a 90 second news report, then uploaded it to iReports. Within minutes, producers were asking me to do live reports. With an iPad as my broadcast camera and WiFi as my broadcast channel, I was on the air for 2 days.

These 3 events set the stage for Hurricane Isaac in August 2012 and the series of reports for which I was nominated. You will learn more details in our next article.



Lesson 3: It’s About Me

By Gerard Braud

My wife often reminds me that it’s “not about me.” But she forgets that I come from a 15 year career as a journalist, where everything was about me.

Everyday it was my story; my interviews; my scoop.

Reporters have big egos. Accept it. You can’t change it so don’t even waste your time and energy.

To be successful in an interview, you have to know and understand the wants, needs and desires of a reporter. They include:

• I want a hot story.
• I want to be the lead story, which is the first story in the newscast or the first story on the front page.
• I want to build a positive reputation.
• I want to advance my career.
• I want to impress my boss.
• I want a raise.
• I want my TV station to have the best ratings.
• I want my newspaper to have a high readership.
• I want to be recognized as a good reporter by my peers.
• I want to win awards.

Do you see a trend here? I want, I want, I want…

Give reporters what they want, but give it to them on your terms. Take care of them and they’ll take care of you.

Help them tell a great story and they will treat you right.

The best single tip I have for you in this category is to talk in great quotes. A quote is one of the single most important things a reporter needs for a story. Sure, facts are important. But when it comes time for the reporter to write the story, your quote makes or breaks the story.

Most spokespeople concentrate too much on trying to convey facts.

The anatomy of a TV news story is this: the reporter writes 1 or 2 sentences to set up the premise or “lead” for the story. The next 2 sentences are a quote, followed by a 2 sentence transition that sets up a second quote. Then the reporter wraps up the story with a summary. A newspaper story is similar, but 3 to 4 times longer.

When you speak in quotes you are actually writing part of the reporter’s story. I’ll bet you didn’t realize that.

Here is one other weird thing that reporters do that no other professionional does. A reporter gives away a portion of their job each day to a complete amateur. Yep – A lawyer doesn’t let an amateur try their case or write a contract; an accountant doesn’t let an amateur do the math or balance the books; an engineer doesn’t let an amateur run the chemical plant; a doctor doesn’t let an amateur do surgery. But a reporter turns over a portion of their script – the quote – to you – an amateur. Doctors, lawyers, engineers, accountants, etc. are not professionally trained writers. Yet they are writing a portion of the reporter’s story when they start talking in an interview. Some part of that interview will be quoted and that means you are writing a portion of the final script.

Great quotes are seldom spontaneous for the spokesperson. That is why they are best written by a professional writer and public relations expert. It is the spokesperson’s responsibility to ask for help crafting quotes and then also their responsibility to go through media training and practice so the quotes are internalized, honest and sound unrehearsed.

In our next lesson we’ll examine those age old responses from spokespeople who say, “the media took me out of context and they left my best stuff on the cutting room floor.”