Thursday, March 22, 2012

From My Perspective: 2012 Red Cross Public Affairs Institute

By American Red Cross intern, Rex Anne Waggoner
Photos by American Red Cross volunteer, Ralph Navarro

From My Perspective is a blog series that tells stories about Red Cross events and happenings from the vision of a Red Cross worker. Our Public Affairs intern, Rex Anne Waggoner, attended our Public Affairs Institute in Dallas and is excited to share her thoughts on the experience with you on our blog!

I am an intern for the American Red Cross South Plains Regional Chapter and I was invited to partake in the Public Affairs Institute hosted by the North Texas Region on Feb. 18-19, 2012. I participated in three workshops on how the media and the Red Cross spokespersons communicate to have the Red Cross message delivered under duress (i.e. an apartment complex on fire or a National Disaster).

Frankly, I didn’t know what to expect, just that there would be Red Cross representatives from Texas, Alabama, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Arkansas. Our instructors were former journalists ranging from print to broadcast who have been in the field longer than I have been alive. I enjoyed listening to their accounts and experiences.

John Hoffmann and Robert Hinkle showed us how to be prepared when we are bombarded with questions by journalists which was an experience I needed to have. Concentrating between a pair of eyes and knowing there’s a camera always rolling was a reminder for me to not take a lax position in my Red Cross duties since we never know what does and doesn’t get edited out in the final cut.

Chris Yates, a former broadcast journalist who is also a social media entrepreneur, showed us how to make a video on the fly. I learned to always focus on audio when filming, otherwise the video is compromised and your message is tuned out.

Chris Osborne, a reporter, showed us how to make a Twitter account and use “Tweetspeak ,” to let the Red Cross chapters and the surrounding communities know about volunteer opportunities or vital messaging if there is a crisis. Chris informed us how much Twitter did help him during the Tornado disaster in his home town in Alabama last year.

My favorite class was “Talk to the Glass,” our on-camera course, since I thought it was good practice to not be unsettled with viewers watching me from their homes. I was nervous at first but I used my adrenaline to project my voice so I could be understood clearly. It was a good reminder that journalists are the conduit of my message but that I have to remain objective. At the end of the day my audience is everyone at home trying to obtain our vital messaging during disasters!

The shooting video and photography drill was fun since I got to be an “actress” while conveying the message of the Red Cross. I did find it challenging to answer the message in 15 to 90 seconds of my story pitch since I just didn’t know how to verbalize the Red Cross message effectively. That was a lesson for me!

Photography was an interesting viewpoint from Gene Dailey, a national Red Cross photographer. I learned about tackling different perspectives with the light always at my back to taking low-shots for the angle of the picture to convey a mood or a message and to apply the Rule of Thirds which was something I learned in my PR Graphics class here at Texas Tech.

Overall, I enjoyed my experience at the PA Institute and the opportunity to meet people from diverse backgrounds, and be in a place where effective communication was a real-life application.

The Red Cross engages professional communicators to help accomplish our mission. If you’re a trained photographer, videographer, social media influencer or spokesperson, there is a place for you. Just click on to find your local Red Cross chapter.

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