The pros and cons of video statements

Over the last few weeks there seems to have a been a flurry of “recorded statements” in response to major crises. To be clear, rather than put someone forward to be interviewed by the press, the boss records a statement and it’s posted on the website or via social channels.

Honestly, with my ex journo hat on. I think pre-recording statements is a cop out. To me it smacks of:

  1. not having an adequately trained spokesperson
  2. not having answers to legitimate questions
  3. being too scared to put your person in front of a hack

But with my comms hat on, I totally understand this approach.

  1. you don’t have to worry about your spokesperson being ripped apart
  2. you have control over what is said and when it’s said (though it can and will of course still be edited)
  3. you can talk directly to your audience

And yet each of the 3 examples below have their own problems.

Boeing 737

Boeing’s CEO, Denis Muilenburg (Duration: nearly 5 mins)

5 minutes is a very, very long time. But, the 737 Max story is significant. So many of the major US and UK TV news networks ran a 7-10 second clip of the response. Mr Muilenburg read from a script which was structured in the classic crisis response style – showing empathy, dealing with the facts and talking about what the company is doing. But on a crisis of this scale I think Boeing failed on empathy. And that’s my problem with these sorts of filmed statements. They have a tendency, performance wise to seem jilted, static, slow and far too formal.

Soldiers firing at photo of Jeremy Corbyn

Head of the Army, General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith (Duration: nearly 3 ½ mins)

General Sir Carleton-Smith stood hands on hips in what appeared to be a mocked up TV News studio (why?), lecturing viewers about the Army’s response to footage emerging of soldiers firing at a photograph of Jeremy Corbyn. Surely a man of Carleton-Smith’s experience should be able to handle a few tough questions from a journo? Surely, he’s had some media training? Ironically, I first read the statement in the paper, where I felt it was clear, focussed and strong on key messages. This did not come across in his slightly melodramatic yet emotionally unconvincing pre-recorded version.

Theresa May on Brexit

Theresa May (Duration: just over 2 mins)

I felt this was the best of a bad bunch. The apparent empathy for people’s frustration felt more authentic and heart felt. Once again this was too long but on this occasion I felt there were clear soundbites which resonated with the viewer.

So what’s the take away?

If you decide your ONLY option is to record a statement on camera:

  • Make sure the spokesperson is trained and the production overseen by someone with broadcast experience.
  • Keep it short. 30 secs, max. Even then it’s going to be edited.
  • Direct people (by that I mean consumers, journalists etc) to a location where their questions will be answered quickly and honestly.