By Chanda Temple
I live in Birmingham, Ala., where tornadoes rumble across the region every spring. On a recent spring night, I huddled in my hallway closet, put on a bicycle helmet and rode out severe weather until the storms passed. I used my BlackBerry to tweet about the experience. Luckily, there was no damage in my area.
A reporter from Mobile, Ala. saw my tweets and tweeted me the next day, saying he wanted to talk to me about how I wore my helmet during the storm. (It’s pretty common that people wear some type of helmet during a tornado as a precaution against possible head injuries.) He wanted to use my comments for a story.
Since Mobile is about four hours from Birmingham, I figured we’d do a telephone interview. He had something else in mind.
When I called him, he said, “How tech savvy are you?’’ I was feeling good about what I knew about social media and felt confident I could handle anything he requested. He then hit me with something that stopped me cold: he wanted me to record my comments on video, upload them to “my” YouTube channel and he’d pull the video from there.
I stammered for a minute. I didn’t have a YouTube channel nor did I have a phone with a good video recorder. He asked me to do the best that I could. Never to say no to a media challenge, I went for it.
I had a friend shoot a video of me with her phone. I then asked her to upload it to her YouTube account. However, it didn’t work. She couldn’t remember her YouTube password. She then tried emailing the video to me. That didn’t work either. After several attempts, I had to tell the reporter it wouldn’t work. He was on a deadline and I just couldn’t help him.
I was disappointed. But I didn’t wallow in the defeat. Within two weeks, I got an iPhone 5s and set up a YouTube account. I promised myself that I would never be caught out in the cold like that again. About a month later, my You Tube account came in handy for me.
A crew had planned to install air conditioner coils at my workplace, which had been without air conditioning for weeks. This was going to be a huge event since a crane was going to be used to individually hoist 600-pound coils up four stories so that men could pull each coil through an opening in the building. I contacted the media in advance. Two television crews covered the event.
A reporter with the local newspaper was interested, too. However, he couldn’t make it in time to get the footage. He saw my live coverage on Twitter and asked if I would send him photos for a story. I told him I took videos, too. He was interested and told me to send everything I had.
Right there on the sidewalk, I used my iPhone to email him photos and upload the video to my YouTube account. I also emailed him updates about the air conditioner repairs. The reporter used everything I sent him. I received a credit for the photos and video that were used in his story. He had everything he needed in about 15 minutes.
I later did a press release on the installation and included a link to the video.
I say all this to stress this: PR professionals are like reporters. They have to be ready at all times to churn out an update with photos and video. For those working in PR, you definitely need a YouTube channel and a good quality smartphone and/or camera that doubles as a video camera to shoot whatever is happening around you. Most times you only get one chance to make a good impression, make the first one a good one.
Chanda Temple worked as a reporter for 20 years before becoming a public relations professional. She blogs about being better in business, building buzz and more at http://www.chandatemplewrites.com. Follow her on Twitter at @chandatemple.