Be a Storyteller Through Video

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By: Kate O’Dell

In a world of instant access and ‘live’ updates, PR professionals cannot ignore the obvious; video is quickly becoming one of the main sources of information for the public.

Pete Soby, director of photography and owner of sobyVision, does not identify himself as a photojournalist, but as a story teller. While writers tell a story with pen and paper, he does it with a video camera and an editing room, he said.  Soby, a former videographer for KETV and the Omaha World-Herald, has years of experience shooting, producing and editing video.

Kurt Goetzinger, owner of Omaha Television, started his business producing high-quality videos for companies.  He spoke to the group about the growing business of video communications. “It is an exciting time to be in communications,” he says. In 2010, 60 percent of people got their news from TV. Three years ago, 43 percent of people got their news from mobile devices. Since then, with phones getting ‘smarter’ those numbers are continuing to grow.

Equipment has gotten cheaper and producing videos is now within reach. “Online viewership has exceeded television,” says Andrew Rogers, producer at Omaha Television.

“As the saying goes, a picture can say a thousand words, but for most of us PR professionals, our strength lies in words,” says Kellie Wostrel , PRSA Nebraska presiden.  “So how do we corporate video into our PR tool kit when we may not be the best photographers?”

Some advice from Soby:

  • Shoot video the same as you look at life. Meaning, do not shoot video of only one perspective, static video. While shooting, do not be afraid to scan a room, ‘look’ at different things.
  • Keep it steady. While shooting video, you are your tripod. Control your breathing. Find a way to brace yourself. Soby has wrapped himself around a tree in order to ensure he is stable. “You make look goofy, but your shot will look sweet,” he said.
  • Pay attention to details when shooting CEOs and spokespersons. Hide the microphone. Basic, but important. CEOs are the face of your company. “Make them feel like a god, make them look like a god,” Soby says.
  • Always look for something very visual. Worst video, BOPSA, Bunch of People Standing Around. It doesn’t make impactful video.

“We get to see everything as it happens, it is a front row ticket to life,” Soby says. “Have fun, it is meant to be fun.”

Managing the Crisis: Steve Wolf and Bev Carlson Talk About Crisis Communication

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By Linyu Huang

Crisis Communication has long been a popular topic in the PR field, and it’s never been more important than in today’s fast developing information age.

“We now know particularly with social media, you have seconds to be ready. The old rules used to be that if you can respond something within an hour then you are on top of the game,” says Steve Wolf, vice president of Issues Management Services. “That’s not true anymore.”

Wolf and Bev Carlson, the director of public relations for Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska and immediate past president of PRSA Nebraska, shared their experience in managing the crisis at the April 2 PRSA Nebraska luncheon.

What is Crisis?
Wolf began his presentation with a Chinese word: “weiji”, which refers to crisis. In Chinese character, crisis is a word consisting of two symbols.   One stands for danger, the other stands for opportunity. Wolf interpreted it as something people anticipate could go wrong, but can probably turn into opportunities.

Crises can take many forms from natural disasters such as tornados and floods to emergency issues such as an Internet outage, shooting or terrorist attack. Carlson depicted crisis as “things keep you up at night.” Among her examples:

  • A tornado destroys office building.
  • A gunman takes an office hostage.
  • A hacker’s virus releases sensitive client information.
  • The sudden death of a CEO.
  • A massive social media attack.
  • An incidence of workplace violence.


Be prepared
Being prepared is a vital way to lead the information curve in a crisis instead of following it. Both Wolf and Carlson stress the importance of being prepared in a crisis. Wolf explains the public’s information needs for crisis are usually simple questions: What happened? What remains at risk? What are you doing about it? PR practitioners should always be prepared to answer these questions and build an operation plan for crisis ahead of time. Says Wolf: “96% of the types of questions you could be asked in a crisis situation, you can anticipate in advance.”

Being prepared also means promptly reacting to the incident. Don’t hesitate in responding to the media and the public. “Even if you don’t have all the answers, the fact you acknowledge you have an issue that you are contending with is the way to go,” Wolf says. Another wrong reaction would be ignoring rumors and blatant misinformation. Hesitation often leads to rumors. Failure to respond to rumors immediately might turn rumors into reality.

From an internal communication perspective, Carlson sees being prepared as recognizing, realizing, and relationship-building. Recognize what crisis really is and defuse potential issues before they blow up; realize that you may be the only one who sees the problem at first; build a relationship and gain trust from staffs at all levels of the organization.

“The most important thing that ever served me is the fact that my CEO all the way down to the person that mops the floors know they can come [to] talk to me and they can trust me,” Carlson says. “If you have an open door and people feel comfortable coming in…If you are the one they want to tell, that will immediately put you on the front line of knowing what’s going on within the organization.”

Risk Communication
Risk communication is one of the best tools Wolf encouraged PR practitioners to look into when dealing with crisis management. Wolf interpreted risk communication as a science-based approach that helps people communicate effectively in emotionally charged situations and emergencies. Risk communication encourages PR practitioners to be sensitive to how the public perceive the organization in crisis situations. The credibility that the organization built in ordinary circumstances may disappear in crisis circumstance.


Risk communication also advocates purposeful exchange of information about risk perceptions. Purposeful exchange means not only being out there spreading key messages, but also receiving information from the public and purposefully responding back to the audience.

A failed purposeful exchange is to hold the “we know best” attitude, which is trying to control the incident excluding the public. “This is why people get upset when you sit there and say we are in charge; we got everything under control there, and you don’t give them means to help them deal with your emergency response situation alone with you, “Wolf says. “That’s the probability of losing something.”

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