It’s both a challenging and auspicious time for the media industry right now. Our nation’s newsrooms are telling the story of the coronavirus pandemic around the world, relaying important health and safety information, while also covering a Presidential election cycle. And they’re doing it in front of a bigger, captive audience that’s anxious for news (and any content at all) and engaged as ever. Media companies are being forced to adapt on the fly during this time of isolation and quarantine, and with some or all of their staff working remotely, making great stories harder to tell when studios and production crews may not be available.
Media companies have an opportunity to thrive during this time. The proliferation of mobile and digital content production and distribution the past few years has prepared many for this moment. The forced adaptation to remote, distributed collaboration and production isn’t without challenges and special considerations. However, there are ways to make working through a global pandemic and quarantine easier and more successful.
How do you keep working efficiently with your team and create and share content when they’re working remotely? Traditional collaboration tools don’t manage media very well - you can exchange multiple files or galleries, and it’s almost impossible to find a day later.
Reporters are accustomed to either working with a professional videographer, whether in a studio or on a remote shoot. But when they’re a one-person show 100% of the time for the foreseeable future, you may need to provide feedback on their audio, video, and even their story ideas. Systems like Slack, text messaging, or Whatsapp can help for quick communication, but they are lacking for exchanging media back and forth with your team.
If your group is using a content transfer platform, producers can operate efficiently and at scale by collecting video asynchronously to review it when their time permits. Then, and this is key, producers can communicate in context, delivering specific tips and info to help their team produce the content and quality your team wants to deliver. This can also include providing the specific facts or research bullets that take the place of a cue card, to ensure a reporter has these while speaking into his/her camera phone.
Media companies have put varying degrees of thought into producing in a mobile world, and now is the time to use best practices and analyze each report that can affect the quality of a remotely produced video and find a way to optimize it.
The remote content production is ready for action, but after the video is produced, how does it get in the right hands to prep and post? Or even more challenging, how can 10 or 100 contributors or reporters send media back to the production team in any organized fashion?
Collaborating when everyone is in the same room is pretty straightforward. When you’re all in the same office, it’s easy to attach files to email, or use a cloud storage system. But sharing media with people who don’t have access (or want access) to your file system poses a challenge. Emailing or texting or WhatsApp’ing a Dropbox link to the right group of people is not efficient, and if the media needs to be posted on a mobile-first platform like Instagram, it typically involves multiple more steps to get content onto the right person’s phone to post.
Technology has caught up to this problem — just as workplace collaboration platforms like Slack have revolutionized workday communication for almost every business, content sharing and delivery platforms like Greenfly have changed the game for organizations in news, media, and sports.
With remote teams working from home, it’s essential to make content sharing simple, easy and organized, whether it’s being created remotely and collected centrally, or being distributed from a central location to remote workers. Executive producers should be mindful of the heightened importance of organized communication around content exchange, and use a mix of technologies to help their teams thrive during this difficult time.
Guest Reporters and Subject Matter Experts
How do you get high-quality video from experts to support the story without using video that looks homemade? Producers should strive for as much quality as possible for these remote segments during these challenging times, something between the pristine look of a full production crew on-site and the excessively amateur look of a recorded Zoom call.
Producers need to be able to utilize their rolodex full of subject matter experts and other resources to provide unique insights and perspectives on a story without sacrificing video quality. Because even if these experts can’t come to a studio or work with a production team, it doesn’t mean they still can’t be tapped for their insight. Thanks to the high-quality cameras on mobile phones, you can capture great video clips by asking experts to answer questions ahead of time. Luckily, cell and Internet service hasn’t been susceptible during the COVID-19 crisis; if a guest has a connected mobile device, they have everything they need to be part of the production. And as with reporters, producers can get ahead of things by sharing tips on lighting, audio, and camera settings before filming.
These collaborative relationships are ripe to become even stronger right now, and requests for video or photos don’t need to involve a series of emails, text, messages and Dropbox links. The industry needs to be thoughtful about streamlining and optimizing the process of communicating around content and exchanging it with their guests and experts. Especially during this stressful, pressing time, it’s vital to minimize the number of steps, clicks and links to create and move content.
Compelling Alternative Content
Compelling video content can be created even without traditional film crews. This is a time when a voice-over from anyone, anywhere can be combined with b-roll, charts, and other visuals to create a cohesive video story. This type of multimedia production is sure to pick up right now, whether it’s voice-overs for a specific story, or turning podcast segments and interviews into videos to publish on your website, YouTube, or distribute in clips on other social media.
This is also a time when user-generated content can be a feature element of media coverage and provide more grit and authenticity to a story. Viewers (and social media followers) equipped with mobile phones can offer on-the-ground videos of a scene, and more importantly, experiences, stories, and perspectives of real people.
Reporters and crews can’t get on the ground quite as easily to get first-person accounts, but it’s easier than ever to activate individuals to contribute their own responses to questions. That could be done through a clunky process of social media submission, which requires curating and a bit of hacking to integrate that content into a report. Or, it could be done efficiently by using a technology platform built for UGC collection (like Greenfly) that some of the leaders in media use. The bottom line: authenticity can significantly enhance content right now on every platform.
With so many heavy and serious stories, it’s good to integrate some lighthearted video, too. Producers can collaborate with colleagues scanning their social media, or use a tool like CrowdTangle to discover popular feel-good content. To ensure originality, producers can crowdsource great content, and ask their viewers or readers for help with either finding great content, or creating it themselves. As everyone faces COVID-19 and the major change in our lifestyles, audiences can emotionally benefit from watching penguins give themselves a tour of the aquarium.
Some media companies will rise as innovators during the coronavirus pandemic, and use technologies and remote working methodologies that enable them to adapt to their circumstances as they change over time. News organizations that deliver authentic, informative, engaging content to their audiences will thrive. They will be out front in telling the story of one of the most important global events in history.