Hall Talk – ANS Chicago 6/27

ANS Social Media Meet Up

By Dan Yurman

About 20 people interested in developing the capabilities of nuclear energy bloggers to use video and YouTube met June 26 at the American Nuclear Society (ANS) national meeting in Chicago.

In an early morning session that began at 7 AM, the group addressed topics including story boarding, integration of stock video as well as Powerpoint and still photos, sound quality, and the overall production process.

Barry Brook, who operates the Brave New Climate blog, told the group that effective story boarding ahead of time is the key to getting ideas on paper and boiling them down to core elements. Brook’s advice includes writing a formal script.

And size matters. Brooks says that a 10 minute video on YouTube on a complex topic like nuclear energy may be good for technical folks, but it is too long for everyone else. One minute is not long enough to tell a complete story. He recommends limiting yourself to five minutes for a YouTube video.

In terms of promoting videos, several bloggers said they have specific pages on their blogs for them, but that they do not get much traffic. Having a video in YouTube generates more traffic.

One source of content are the already-existing videos about nuclear energy on YouTube. For instance, a participant suggested checking the video channels of the major reactor vendors and nuclear professional groups.

On this last point, a suggestion that was discussed was how to set up a nuclear energy video library with clips of reactor facilities, equipment, and related information.

Production values matter

Getting back to production values, there was a good discussion about the need to shoot video in high quality and to not skip over the issue of sound quality.

How serious should you be in the presentation of the material? Nuclear energy proponents tend to produce fact based videos with talking heads. This is boring.

On the other hand, animation is expensive and can cost thousands of dollars a minute in production time. Humor works, but don’t go overboard, as in the case of this spoof about a boy scout who tried to make a nuclear reactor in his backyard.

And defying conventional wisdom about “stuffy engineers” is sometimes helpful, though ridicule of bizarre statements by anti-nuclear groups at public hearings is not always effective as a tactic. Showing up is important to get the pro-nuclear message out because if you don’t, the other points of view will dominate the coverage of the event.

Not every video gets 12 million hits on YouTube

Many videos benefit from viral promotion because they hit a public sweet spot. A good example is the video “United Breaks Guitars” about a musician whose expensive musical instrument was smashed by baggage handlers, and the airline’s bureaucratic response to his complaint.

Over 12 million people have seen the video so far. The impact of the video on United was far-reaching and the airline changed its tune about compensating its frequent flyer for the damages.

ANS workshop in San Diego this Fall

In terms of what’s next, Laura Hermann of Potomac Communications told the group she is working on organizing a session on video story-telling for the ANS national meeting in San Diego this Fall. Hermann talked about the equipment and skills needed to produce effective videos and said her project is tied in with the agenda of the ANS Public Information Committee.

Most importantly, Hermann said, nuclear bloggers need to move beyond other nuclear professionals as the intended audience. Videos need to show they are relevant to topics of public concern like safety, costs, and transparency.

“You need to identify your audiences and pro-nuclear messages together,” she said.

The ANS workshop will focus on visual story telling, documentary film making techniques, and using cell phone video tools.

Story telling is important

Meredith Angwin, who publishes the blog Yes Vermont Yankee, said that personalized story telling is important.

“Telling the human side of the story is key. For instance, you can talk about how you got into the nuclear energy field in the first place.”

That said, it was noted that many nuclear engineers, by nature, are not good public speakers, so training and practice with video equipment and coaches are essential steps before going on YouTube.

An added comment is that when access can be arranged, visual tours of nuclear reactor facilities are excellent opportunities to tell the story of nuclear energy.

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