By Gerard Braud
For three decades I’ve used the sarcastic mixed metaphor, “If a tree falls in the woods and it is not caught on video tape, is it news?”
Never has this been more true than in today’s camera phone and social media sharing world. In the world of news, print can tell any story, but television is a visual medium built around video, which conveys so much more than traditional news stories in print.
Being a television news reporter for 15 years made me very jaded. Stupid trends that I could not reverse from inside the newsroom lead to me resigning from my first career and beginning my second career in media training and crisis communications. If I were in the newsroom today, I would be fighting against elevating non-news worthy events to newscast status simply because a video was distributed on YouTube.
Disturbing news trend #5 answers my sarcastic question with a resounding “yes.”
If there is video available, the subject matter becomes news on television. If there is no video, the event gets no television news coverage.
What makes this trend especially disturbing is that many non-newsworthy events get elevated to news status and a place in the television news broadcast.
A case in point is an event on March 31, 2014, when a sailor in a yacht race fell off of his racing yacht in high seas. A rescue ensued, which really isn’t newsworthy. In a race in high seas, a sailor falling from a yacht might be almost expected. But because the humanity of the rescue in the fierce seas was all captured on video, the story received news coverage for nearly five days.
Clearly, without video, this story would not be reported by a single television news outlet.
So how does this affect you if you are in public relations and communications for a corporation, non-profit organization or government agency?
First, you are under more pressure than ever to make any event you want to publicize a visual event. If the media doesn’t cover your event, record your own quality video to send to the media. With fewer people watching television news, advertising revenues are falling. This results in tighter budgets and fewer reporters and photographers to potentially cover your event. Note: Your video has to be compelling for the media to use it.
Next, taking your own video can be an effective part of your crisis communications strategy. Send video to the media taken from a unique vantage point that the media might not be able to have. Video taken from a unique location or of events that occur before the media arrives can help you control the message and the accuracy of the media’s reporting.
But also in the realm of crisis communications and media relations, you must realize that if an employee or eyewitness captures a compromising video of one of your executives, employees, or a mishap, it could be featured on the news. Hence, you must be prepared with your crisis communications plan to know how to respond quickly to any emerging crisis. Your crisis communications plan must be able to move at the speed of social media and not at the slow pace of traditional corporate communications.
If a tree falls, and the tree belongs to your employer, and it is caught on videotape, it could very well become news.