Video is increasingly important for a variety of reasons. First, we’re just now getting a handle on how persuasive you can be when better engaging the visual cortex. There are some stories that play better with visual and emotional information. And lastly, Youtube is now the second-largest search engine, right behind its parent company, Google.
So I thought I would share an example of how to use Youtube in all the wrong ways.
(Listen to Ike read this post: How not to use YouTube)
90 Seconds with the TSA
The Transportation Safety Administration posted this video the other day, as a means to quell the unrest over its new backscatter machine and the updated pat-down procedures. It’s a direct message to the traveler from TSA Administrator John Pistole.
Please, watch the video, if you can.
Now, here are the problems I have with it.
John Pistole is a nice enough man, but he doesn’t fit the right template for a spokesperson who alleviates fear. He’s a rather tall gentleman with large hands. He’s not the type who would be cast as Santa Claus.
This message would be better delivered by a woman, and a slightly older one at that. We’re talking about a message designed to defuse an emotionally-charged environment.
Lack of Video
It’s a video, because it’s on YouTube, but it might as well have been an audio message with slides. Where are the clips showing the allowable and contraband items? Where is the clip showing the new pat-down procedure, and what it looks like? Where is the video showing us how professional the TSA agents are, and how you can expect to be treated?
If you want to replace one set of expectations with another, video is a great way to do it. This was a missed opportunity.
Pistole is an administrator, not a presenter. But someone should have been coaching him about his gestures. Many of them are empty waving, with his hands clasping and unclasping at seemingly random times.
“Hands together” needs to happen at a time of appeal to unity.
“Finger woven” needs to happen at the moment of strongest appeal to unity.
“Hands 1-2-3″ can emphasize the points you want people to remember, but Pistole does them left-to-right from his perspective, not the viewers’!
He does a lot of right-to-left gesturing as he moves through his sentences, and again they are empty gestures. Given the way we read in the United States, too much “right-to-left” can be a subliminal signal of reverse progress.
Lack of Narrative
Midway though, Pistole starts describing the decision-tree of what will happen, and your options if you’re one of the ones chosen for the AIT (backscatter) machine. However, there are so many if’s and then’s rolling through that paragraph, it’s easy to get lost.
Also lost in that is any sense of probability. Only three-percent of passengers are selected for the AIT/pat-down? That needs to be added into the message here.
Lack of Sincerity
Go back to the 1:09 mark of the video:
We very much appreciate your involvement, cooperation and assistance in assuring the safety of you, the traveling public.
This single sentence, and the delivery, is a powerful bundle of mixed messages.
It’s so far into the script, that you can tell Pistole is reading it directly off the prompter. Had there been video or charts or pictures covering up the edit, you could have come back to him for a more heartfelt delivery of a statement with real emotional connection! Let him ad lib the sincerity, at least!
But this wasn’t just a failure of editing. Look at the language on the page:
…the safety of you, the traveling public.
Rather impersonal, don’t you think, readers of my website?
Also… the last time I checked, it wasn’t just the ‘traveling public’ that was at risk from terrorists who take over planes. Most of the victims were on the ground in buildings, minding their own business.
Lack of Findability
I am doing my part as a patriotic American to share this video. It might be the only way you find it.
It was posted on Friday, November 19th by TSA HQ Public Affairs, and as of Tuesday morning was showing 26,000 views. It’s filed in the “Travel and Events” category, and there is not a single tag.
It was posted on the world’s second-largest search engine, and had no tags, and no description. Personally, I would have looked for “TSA” or “backscatter” or “pat down” or something along that line.
What TSA Did Right
They disabled the comments. Have you ever seen what goes on in a Youtube comment thread?
Overall, I am glad government is “getting it,” and being innovative about how they share information. But video is a funny animal, and when done wrong, does more harm than no video at all.