Pitching with Video: How to Shoot and Other Tips

As visual storytelling quickly makes gains online, a growing number of brands are using video to pitch the media. As newsrooms are squeezed to produce additional content with fewer reporters and editors, pitching the media using video can help fill the void since the video pitch also can be repurposed as content.

But what’s the best way to do it? In many ways, pitching the media with video is similar to pitching with text. Make sure the pitch is thoughtful, appropriate to the media outlet and not a waste of reporters’ time. Make doubly sure the video is not a commercial in disguise. Reporters are even more sensitive to promotional content in video, compared with other media pitches, said Heather Whaling, CEO of Geben Communication. In addition, “Think of the media as a distribution partner” for the video, she added. “With media companies having so many different digital channels, you might expand the reach of the video beyond the pitch” per se. Portions of the video pitch you send to a media outlet might be used on that company’s site, for example. In addition, you can adapt your video to use for influencing the public, as the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) did [see below].

Shooting for more coverage

Before you pitch the media using video, sharpen your video skills. Tod Plotkin, who runs Green Buzz Agency, recommended the following:

  • The interview subject should avoid wearing logos, stark white, solid black, and especially small patterns. In addition, he/she should also refrain from wearing flashy or noisy jewelry.
  • Always use a tripod, or a tripod replacement. Do not shoot handheld. Ever.
  • Never put a subject in front of a source of light. Always have the source of light hitting the front of a subject.
  • If you have an option on frame rate, go with 29.97 or 24 frames per second (fpc). Avoid 30 or 60 fps if possible.
  • Have the subject look slightly off camera, not into the camera.
  • Remember to white balance and focus your shot before filming. Your focus will change as the subject moves closer or farther away from the camera.

While editing is a critical part of video production, it need not be overly expensive. Plotkin recommended the following free editing software:

iMovie

  • Integrates with iPhoto and iTunes for adding music and pictures to your video
  • Storyboard-workflow only, is not meant for professional editors
  • Mac-only

Windows Movie Maker

  • Offers themes to add color and tone to your video clips
  • Storyboard-workflow interface with transitions and effects added with a single click
  • Windows-only

HRC, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights organization, used video earlier this year to express its opposition to Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which, the group said, would discriminate against gays, lesbians and transgender people. Eventually the bill was amended so sexual orientation and gender identity are explicitly protected.

HRC compiled a two-minute video of Indiana Governor Mike Pence appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” in which he refused to answer questions about whether the law would allow businesses to discriminate against LGBT individuals. The video ends with a text message emblazoned on the screen: “Let Governor Pence know discrimination is not a Hoosier value.”

HRC distributed the video widely to the media, influencers and thought leaders focusing on human rights. “Video was so important to our PR effort,” said Jason Rahlan, communications director at HRC. “We doused the media firestorm (against the original bill) with rocket fuel and tried to get people and the media interested in an accessible fashion.” HRC continues to ramp up the number of media pitches using video, he added. “There’s a tremendous opportunity for using video to drive your message,” Rahlan said. “But if it isn’t compelling it’s not going to work.”

Media should be receptive to a video pitch. Nearly 75 percent of journalists create original video content to accompany their stories, according to the 2015 Edelman Media Forecast, which surveyed more than 250 journalists. Very few journalists (13 percent) rely on sourcing consumer-generated video, however.

“We’ve been very consistent” with the video pitch, said Steve Curtis, VP of corporate communications for Toyota Motor North America Inc. “It can have a positive effect driving traffic, for both our sites and media sites”(see sidebar).


Reeling in the Media

Brands and organizations increasingly are using video to pitch the media and extend their reach. Here are a few examples.

  • When Toyota Motor Corp. rolled out the latest version of its Tacoma pickup earlier this year, the carmaker called a press conference to spread the word. The presser featured a live video stream for reporters, media reps and partners who couldn’t attend the event. Toyota went further, repackaging it into a video that was posted on the company’s newsroom site and pitched to media covering the automotive industry. “In a world where budgets and resources are limited—and you want a mechanism to tell your story—video is king,” said Steve Curtis, VP of corporate communications.
  • Cable operator Bright House Networks used video to tout its Bright Ideas STEM From Today’s Youth competition, where Orlando, Fla., high school students recently competed on local TV to present a bright idea that could help change the world. “Video of the competition was helpful to gain local market media coverage. It helped tell the stories of the local winners as they went on to compete for the grand prize,” said Kimberly Maki, corporate VP, communications and PR at Bright House Networks.
  • Goodwill Industries International used video to boost the number of media interviews with spokesperson Evette Rios, who has appeared as a correspondent on television shows such as Rachael Ray. “My team was able to secure a piece called ‘Thrifty Celebrities’ on Parade.com as a result of sending one of our reporter contacts links to Evette’s video clips,” said Beth Perell, VP, communications and information management. “These clips generated further interest in covering her and writing the piece.”

CONTACT: Steve Curtis, steven_curtis@toyota.com; Kimberly Maki, kimbertly.maki@brighthousenow.com; Beth Perell, beth.perell@goodwill.org; Jason Rahlan, jason.rahlan@hrc.org; Heather Whaling, heather@gebencommunication.com

This article originally appeared in the June 15, 2015 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.