iphone camera for PRThe recent “superstorm” that hit the East Coast reminded us that seasoned healthcare and hospital public relations professionals are a bit like professional journalists. With little or no warning, they may need to document unannounced or spontaneous events including capturing on-the-spot photos or videos.

Let’s hope it doesn’t happen often, (or as serious as a hurricane), but maybe it’s an unexpected encounter a VIP, or when something that happens after hours or away from the office, or even a minor disaster.

Fortunately, Smartphones are nearly ubiquitous and point-and-shoot pocket cameras are handy and inexpensive. But for those urgent occasions—when there’s no time to assemble a professional video crew and proper equipment—capturing some useful, on-the-spot video can mean the difference between a lost opportunity and communicating a powerful medical PR or marketing message.

Here are some video fundamentals that can help you make the best of a bad situation…when you’re abruptly thrown into a no-prep PR moment with only your iPhone to help you out.

1. If you carry a Smartphone, make it a good one. We think the Apple iPhone series is top of the line hardware, but there are many excellent brands on the market. In addition to being a telephone, standard features will record audio, take still photos and/or capture short video clips. If a Smartphone or pocket digital camera might suddenly be called into action as a professional tool of the trade, pick one that you’re comfortable with, has the right features and carry the best in your pocket all the time.

2. Practice. Know how to use your equipment. By definition, urgent situations and spot news events allow no time—zero, nada—for fumbling, testing or re-takes. Become familiar with all the capabilities (and limitations) of your make-do hardware. Practice regularly to the point of confidence.

3. Carry spare digital/memory/storage. If your equipment allows replacement memory (not all are), an extra micro disk or memory card is tiny, inexpensive, easy to tote and well worth having on hand. Extra capacity is often useful.

4. Steady now. Avoid hand-held exposures. Chances are, you will not have a tripod in your hip pocket, so steady the camera on or against a flat and stable surface for the best results whenever practical. Avoid moving the camera left/right (pan), or up/down (tilt).

5. Only use the landscape (horizontal) position, especially for video. Always. Horizontal framing is the worldwide, universal standard (aspect ratio) for video screens.

6. Remember your lighting and background. In an urgent environment you may not have much control. But do your best to put the main subject in a well-illuminated area, move outside, or have the light source overhead or at your back. And be aware of the background and avoid distracting surroundings.

7. Stay close to a person for an interview or conversation. A person talking on camera needs to be close enough to be recorded by the built in microphone (and above background noise). Plus, the viewer needs to recognize the person talking on camera.

8. Shoot some B-roll video for later editing. Although the “main event” might be brief and spontaneous, take the time to capture some additional or supplemental footage (of surroundings, secondary objects, close-up or details) that can be integrated with the primary video material and help tell the story.

Our premise here is to help with those urgent and unexpected healthcare public relations moments. If it’s anything more significant (and less spur-of-the-moment) than a “do-it-or-loose-it” PR opportunity, you’ll want to handle things with thoughtful planning and preparation, better equipment or call in a professional production team for assistance.For more about video production tips, watch this segment of our Healthcare Video Marketing Secrets series.

Lonnie Hirsch

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Stewart Gandolf

Stewart Gandolf

Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder at Healthcare Success Strategies
Stewart Gandolf, MBA, is CEO of Healthcare Success, a medical marketing and health care advertising agency. He is also a frequent writer and speaker. Most importantly, he is happily married and a "rock-n-roll daddy" to two wonderful girls.
Stewart Gandolf
Stewart Gandolf


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