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Posted on October 25th 2012
The media is no longer the sole recorder of news. For some time this responsibility has fallen to competent communications professionals with an eye for stories. The continuing adoption of social media allows more publicists to join these ranks and offer breaking news directly from their organizations.
As the newsroom staff culling continues there are even less members of the media to help you tell your story. If you are in public relations, marketing and communications, or just trying to share your organization’s story you must create your own content.
The following list will provide you with the bare necessities if you are an in-house communications professional. For those who happen to be on the agency side, these items should be at your side whenever you have a site visit with your clients. These items are crucial to create content for sharing with the press or your online community.
Let’s start old school. As a former journalist I carry a notepad with me whenever I am working. This means that I have one on me around the office, at events, visiting clients, interviewing with the press, in my car, on the train, and if I think I might see something work related in my “off time.” Do you see a pattern here? Your memory is never as sharp as what you wrote down and every press release starts with a nugget of news. As an aside, some may prefer to take notes on their smartphone however I find that I write quicker than I type and it conserves battery life.
Let’s get even more rudimentary. Always carry a pen or pencil. If you carry a pen, carry two – they always die at the worst moments. If you plan to be somewhere damp or cold, get used to writing with a pencil and bring a small sharpener. Pencils were a tremendous help when I was attending necropsies for potential animal cruelty cases.
I know that these first two items seem ridiculous however how many times have you been flat out, away from the office, on your smartphone all day, and didn’t have time to charge it as you find yourself in need of some note taking? A few scraps of paper and a pen or pencil have saved me more times than I can count.
Even with the above items you need your smartphone. It should be glued to your hand so that you never miss an opportunity when you are walking the halls, in a meeting, or getting lunch. The press is short staffed and you can help save them time by taking their calls and responding to their emails on the go. At events you may need to tweet quotes from speakers or share short videos and relevant images in real time as well.
A professional grade digital camera with video recording capabilities is a must. When I worked at an animal hospital that treated more than 50,000 animals annually, I never knew what I would see when I walked by surgical suites, the ER, or the recovery rooms. I never wanted to miss a moment and photographed dozens of animals receiving treatment each day. Whether you record an entire event or take a few snapshots, quality matters. Smartphones may cut it some of the time but to be shared online or picked up by stringers you better have a crystal clear image. Is it really worth risking that on your smartphone’s capabilities?
Especially for in-house communications professionals, always carry several photo release forms. If you record someone’s image it is best to have him or her sign a release immediately rather than run to your office or send out forms to be signed later. Get the release signed and send that photo to the press or share it online. By having several with you at all times you can move on to the next project quickly and without any loose-ends hanging over you.
What do you carry when you are out and about?