”Live in Springfield, Jenifer Abreu, KOLR 10 News.¨
Being a reporter like Jenifer, for a local television station or national network or even a digital news outlet isn´t easy. It takes a lot of preparation to get right, what is more often than not 15 to 30 seconds of face time. As the most visible member of a news team, for on-camera journalists – image is everything.
As a talent coach with the NWT Group, I work with Jenifer and other clients on all aspects of storytelling, including presentation and managing personal brand.
Here are 3 areas of emphasis every on-camera professional should pay close attention to:
Dress For Success
“Damn, you married a handsome man”, I narcissistically told my wife as I admired myself in the mirror while modeling a new suit. She paused for a moment from getting herself ready to go to a wedding in order to affirm or deny my self assessment. “No, I didn’t, if you plan on sticking with that tie”, she deflated my ego.
The “look” you think works for you, might not necessarily be what works best overall…especially on camera. Choosing the right color suit, shirt and accessory can be challenging for men and more so for women who have many more style options. Wardrobe selection is key to pre-production planning. A striped suit or patterned blouse for example, might look good in person, but too busy on camera.
When the eye and ear compete, the eye always wins. As a communicator, a reporter wants to ensure audiences are paying attention to the information they are sharing and not fixated to what they’re wearing. Stick to warm, solid colors and away from busy accessories like long earrings and intricate necklaces.
Ok, so you look good. You’re wearing the right color and no distracting accessories. Now, it’s time to make sure your stand-ups are framed correctly. And no, I don’t mean a medium closeup of you or white balance.
The purpose of viewers seeing you on camera isn’t just to put a face with a voice. Whenever you are on camera, be it live on location or as part of your video, it must be with the intention of furthering the story. Regardless of the platform, time is precious…so, make the most of it.
The most common action by reporters is inaction. For example, a reporter standing in front of the charred remains of a house fire or government building, without referencing what’s behind them is useless. A simple head tilt accompanied by a mention to what’s behind you, at times is good enough. Sometimes it’s coordinating with the camera person in order to step out of the way and give the audience a better look. The best stand-ups incorporate walking and talking, show and tells and include props. It’s important to remember that as a reporter, you are transporting people to a time and place they cannot be present. Use your senses in describing the situation you’re in. Describe what you’re seeing, hearing, feeling and at times smelling and tasting.
And finally, try not to be too clever. Some creative stand-ups can be as distracting as a wardrobe malfunction. I once saw a reporter shrink herself to the size of an insect to show an area of a house damaged by termites. Really.
Stay In Focus
While it is absolutely key that your image stay in focus while on camera; for the purposes of this exercise, I mean personal brand focus. Fair or not, as an on-camera journalist, you’re always “on”.
The camera amplifies everything and everyone. The daily routines people do, seem extraordinarily special when you do them because you’re on TV (or video). As the most recognizable member of the news team, you will be asked to attend social events, many which include alcohol. I’ve seen some of the most respected journalists lose all credibility because of the poor choices made during a cocktail hour.
The same applies to how you use social media. Do not share any material that doesn’t reinforce the image you project as a journalist. Sure, it’s ok to let your hair down and show your personal side, but be measured with those selfies at the bar and gym. And it’s not just about the pictures or videos you share, but also articles and the comments you make.
Many employers checkout the social media footprints of prospective candidates in order to see if they would be a liability to their well guarded company brand. You don’t want to be competing with two or three other finalists for a plum job; all with the same credentials and not get the job because of a lack of judgment on a 280 character post.