Tutorial #9: Smartphone Videos for Crisis Communications Start by Saying the Right Thing

Tutorial #9 by Gerard Braud

This tutorial is part of a series of articles posted in the month of June that explain how to be a good iReporter and how to make CNN iReports, or smartphone videos a vital part of your crisis communication and media relations strategy. The tutorials are more relevant than ever in the month of June due to hurricane season. Make sure to plan and practice what to say in your videos on a clear sunny day, in order to be prepared on your darkest day. In this particular tutorial, I walk you through the steps of what to say on video and directly to the media in regards to your crisis.

Click image to watch video

Click image to watch video

Talking is easy, but saying the right thing is hard. Media training classes often expose who talks too much and says the wrong things and who knows how to practice and choose their words carefully.

Unlike a normal media interview, in which you might be asked hard questions or face the wrath of someone who edits your statements, when you file an iReport you, your mouth and your video are your first line of editing. You are shooting a short video and do-overs are allowed if you say the wrong thing or mess up — that’s the good news. The bad news is, if you are not careful you will be too critical of what you say and keep doing do-overs.

What to say? My first day in Journalism School at Louisiana Tech, we were taught that reporters always want to know the same 6 questions:

1) Who?

2) What?

3) When?

4) Where?

5) Why?

6) How? or How Much?

You can watch my iReports and analyze what I say. During my Hurricane Isaac videos in 2013, most of the time I start by saying, “This is Gerard Braud in Mandeville, Louisiana. Today is (give date) and the time is (give time). Hurricane Isaac is coming ashore. Winds are (give details). So far we’ve had xx inches of rain.” I then narrate what is most news worthy at that moment.

If you break down my first :15 seconds, it goes like this:

1) Who? – Gerard Braud

2) What? – Hurricane Isaac

3) When? – Date and time given

4) Where? – Mandeville, LA

5) Why? – Explain what is news worthy

6) How? or How Much? – Rain and wind updates

My narration of what is most news worthy begins with a major statement that is designed to serve as a headline or summation of what I am about to share. In journalism, we call this the inverted pyramid. You begin broad and you built to the details. Think of a traditional newspaper, which has a headline at the top, then a summary statement, then more details.

With that in mind, my report may go on to say, “At his time, flood waters have overtopped the sea wall and there are now white caps rolling down my driveway. The waves are beginning to cause damage to my storage area and tool shed. There is a good chance my tool shed will wash away.”

A dissection of that statement would go like this:

1) Headline: Flooding

2) Broad detail: White caps

3) More details: Tool shed washing away

I like to call my style of iReporting a 1-2-3 A-B-C approach. In

other words, if “A” happens, then “B” will be the next thing to happen, then “C” happens. Hence:

A) Flooding

B) White caps

3) Damage from waves


The biggest mistake you can make is to give too many details, followed by talking too long. Look at it this way: When you read a story in the newspaper, do you read the entire article and value the details at the end of the story, or do you generally read the headline and the summation sentence, then move on? Most people never read the entire story. Here is another test: When you watch an online or YouTube video, how long do you watch before you get tired of it? When you watch video online, do you watch for deep information or do you primarily watch for entertainment?

This entire process is easy and intuitive for me because I started learning all of this in 1976. I did it everyday as a television reporter for 15 years, through a career with an enormous number of live reports.

But if you haven’t done this a lot and if this does not come natural to you, then you must practice, practice, practice.

You cannot and will not be instantly successful on your first try. You’ll be even worse if you are trying to do this for the first time in a middle of a crisis.

In many respects, your training needs to combine some media training skills and a significant amount of video production skills. In some cases you may have someone shooting the video for you with a video camera or smart device. In my iReports, I am the videographer using an iPhone or iPad.

This means I have to consider how the shot is framed, manage audio issues, manage lighting, and manage movement. We’ll look at all of these issues in upcoming articles.

If you need help with your training or if you would like to have this content shared as part of a workshop or conference presentation, please contact me at gerard@braudcommunications.com

This PDF gives you more information about the available programs.


0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.