Recording video for social media

Last week I wrote about how “facts tell, but stories sell“; how stories can promote your organisation. And how one of the quickest ways to show authenticity and get a story “out there” is through video.

This week, I’m going to share some of the basic media training techniques I’ve found useful for the people I work with (usually individuals or small organisations working in the areas of health and wellbeing). These are tips and tricks for videoing someone’s story on your phone.

(By the way: I’d always recommend writing a story to go with a video or audio clip. Whilst video gives us a way to share a story immediately and quickly, there is always going to be a need for context and further detail… and that’s where well-written blog posts and strategic content plans come in. Do let me know if you’d like any help with that!)

Recording someone’s story on your phone

1. Setting up
2. Recording
3. Examples of questions
4. What to do next

1. Setting up

Prepare your interviewee

Explain to the person you’re working with how their story could help other people. If they imagine they’re telling their story to someone who’s in the same position they’ve been in, they’re more likely to agree to go on camera, and they’ll come across more naturally.

Sit somewhere comfortable, or even go for a walk and record along the way. Go through some of the things you want them to talk about before you start filming, and assure them there are no wrong answers.

Once you are sure your interviewee fully understands why you’re recording them, you must get formal consent to use the recording. (Privacy is a separate issue. For now, I’m assuming your organisation already has a good handle on safeguarding and confidentiality!)

Check your phone

Have you got enough storage and battery to record a video? Is vibrate turned off?

Audio is really important

Make sure your phone microphone is working and that you’re not covering it with your finger when you record. Remember to speak quietly when you’re videoing – you’re nearer the phone so your voice will be much louder. (If possible, attach an external mic instead, and put it near the person you’re filming.)

Get the light right

Make sure a light source – a window, room light, or the sun – is shining on the person. If it’s behind them they will be silhouetted. (See picture)

No vertical video!

Hold the phone sideways, not straight up.

Check the background

Think about what’s in the background.

  • Don’t film in front of anything distracting (wall posters, dirty laundry, etc)
  • Don’t include other people in shot (not only is it distracting, but you probably won’t have their consent)

2. Recording

Use open questions

To get someone talking, use open questions, then give them time to speak.

A closed question leads to a one-word answer, but an open question is a conversation starter. It starts with “tell me about…” or “explain how…” and has lots of possible answers. The best questions are the ones you don’t already know the answer to!

Start with the easy stuff (“tell me about yourself”), and your interviewee should start to relax as they get used to talking on camera.

Closed Open
“How old are you?”
“Can you tell me a bit about yourself?”
“Yeah, my name’s Sue, I’m fifty-nine, um… I’m from Sutton originally…”
“Who referred you?”
“My doctor.”
“What led to you coming here today?”
“Well I was talking with my doctor about getting out a bit more, and she said I might be interested in the cafe you run here on a Tuesday…”


Don’t forget to react to what they’re saying, instead of staring at the phone screen. Try and keep it feeling as much like a conversation as possible, rather than an interview. Smile and nod encouragingly.

…But don’t jump in

Try not to talk at all while your interviewee is talking.

When they stop speaking, it’s natural to reply, or to try and move the conversation on. Don’t! Instead, let the silence sit for a few seconds (this can feel quite awkward at first). When it goes quiet, nodding and smiling can encourage them to expand on what they’ve already said.

This is a classic journalist technique – it’s natural to want to fill a silence, so if you don’t, they will. We can always cut out any awkward silences or “I dunno what else to say”s later.

3. Examples of questions

  • Tell us a bit about yourself.
  • What have you been doing here today? (specifying “today” can be useful to get them to reflect on the little details)
  • Why do you like [organisation]?
  • What were you doing before you got involved with [organisation]?
  • What were you like before?
  • Tell us about the time when… (use a specific example of a time they were helped by your organisation)
  • You’ve made some big changes since we first met. What are you most proud of?
  • What would you say to someone who’s going through what you went through?

4. What to do next

For the people I work with, the next step is usually to upload the video somewhere – often YouTube, as a “private” video – so I can access it. From there, I will download the video, edit it (if necessary), and turn it into a short clip that can be used in blog posts and on social media. As part of the edit process, it’s useful to add your organisation’s logo somewhere, especially if you think it will end up being shared a lot. I would always recommend adding captions (subtitles) to videos too – not everyone turns the sound on while they’re scrolling through social media or browsing blog posts.

If you’d like to find out more about creating and sharing stories as part of your organisation’s marketing or promotional activities, do get in touch. I love helping people tell stories about their work!

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