6. Producing communications materials

 Checklist: Key communications materials in an emergency

  • Prepare and circulate human interest stories, blogs, photos and video to CI.
  • Provide regular Twitter and social media updates.
  • If time permits, prepare op-eds, audio files, photo galleries and other creative material.

The human interest story connects the public to an emergency on a personal level. The reader sees the emergency through the eyes of an individual who is actually experiencing the emergency. Once the connection is made, the story can expand to a broader picture of the emergency. Human interest stories involve five elements:

  • a compelling individual who attaches a human face to the larger issue
  •  a challenge faced by the individual, which also represents the challenge faced by the population as a whole
  •  a brief, simple description of the larger situation
  •  quotes from an expert and facts that prove the story
  •  What does CARE plan to do about the situation?

A useful way to prepare for human interest stories is to have field staff gather information from people they talk to in the field, which can be developed into stories. Please refer to Annex 13.11 CARE Storytelling Guide and Templates.

Well-written op-eds (a column written by a CARE staff or partner placed in the opinion-editorial section of a media outlet) are a useful way to raise awareness of CARE’s work, our advocacy positions, and our analysis of the situation, particularly for emergencies that don’t attract much media attention. An op-ed can be placed in traditional media outlets or on social media/blogging sites, and then posted on CI websites.

CI websites are a significant news source for journalists and donors. Remember that a news story, web update or press release that is posted on a CARE website may be picked up by a news editor in another country. To be usable by editors, media materials on CI websites must have a dateline. Photographs are particularly important.

A blog is the internet version of a personal letter. It provides an opportunity to tell anecdotes that give an intimate picture of what it is like to deal with the emergency and what it is like to be on the country team. Blogs and daily journals by CARE staff involved in emergencies are a popular way of connecting the public with emergency work. This is extremely useful for member websites, news outlets such as the Huffington Post and CNN iReport, and blogging sites. Blogs should be accompanied by photographs.

Checklist: Photography and video in emergencies

  • Focus on women and girls and what CARE is doing to help.
  • Show the scope of the disaster: large crowds, people at distribution centres, tents in camps.
  • Get images of CARE staff with CARE clothing engaging with communities.
  • Remember to get headshots of key spokespeople.
  • Be respectful: photos should reflect the dignity of the people being photographed
  • Survivors, not helpless victims. Always obtain permission before taking photos.

Photos are necessary to support media, communications and fundraising work. A picture is worth a thousand words. Any news release or news story with a photograph is far more likely to get attention. Photos are required for fundraising appeals. When taking photographs, remember that you are talking about people, not things. A photograph that has no people in it is useless for media/fundraising purposes.
See the CARE Brand Standards – Standards for the Use of Images for guidance on ethics and photo credits; Annex 13.12 Photo training tips for advice on how to take good photos; Annex 13.13 Emergency Photography TOR for more detail about the style of photos needed in emergencies; and the sample Photographer contract. Please ensure to read the CI photo consent policy before taking pictures (Annex 13.19)
Video is extremely useful in raising media awareness. Many news outlets can no longer afford to send reporters to the scene of a disaster, and so rely on aid agencies like CARE for ‘b-roll’, or raw footage of the situation to use in their news coverage. Staff or the Emergency Communications Officer can take video images with their smart phone, flipcam or camcorder and share it with COMWG for use with traditional media; to create short videos for CARE websites; or for fundraising purposes. Useful for media:

  • Several 20-second clips of the situation to set the scene, i.e. people digging through rubble; a food distribution; people wading through floodwaters.
    • Quotes or an interview from a CARE staff member about the situation (30-60 seconds)

See Annex 13.14 Video Tips for more advice and tips on how to use video.