My client, an awesome citizen journalist

I’ve always been a big promoter of citizen journalism. I’ve trained many people on the fringes of media, and followed all the developments in digital, community-based media. But I never imagined I’d have an opportunity like this –to work with someone at the 2010 Olympics.

As we head into the last day of a social media enriched, much tweeted Olympics (1.1 million Facebook fans) I like to share what I’ve learned from working with what I call an ad-hoc embedded, citizen journalist.

Some background: A few months ago I was been privileged to be asked to put together and work with a social media team at Promontory Club, in Park City, Utah. These amazing communicators –venue and event managers turned content creators/content curators –have begun supporting their PR and marketing efforts via social media.

Sean Smith_VancouverOne team member, the manager of  the Outfitter’s Cabin, Sean Smith was invited to be in Vancouver. He happened to be a former member of the US Olympic ski team, but that didn’t automatically make him a social-media reporter. In a short time, however, he learned how vlogs, micro-blogging, photo-sharing sites and blogs work. We prepped him on how to file stories, knit together these daily reports and create a connection between this global event and Promontory members. No laptop involved!

When I briefed Sean I realized he had three things that would work:

  • Access — he would be in and out of the Olympic village, the venues, and has great rapport with the athletes.
  • Credibility – he had previously worked for a TV station
  • Passion – never to be under-rated, this is what makes social media communication so different

Using a Verizon Droid, Sean has been filing photos, tweeting and sending in content for the blog. Better still, he’s doing interviews with members of the US team, before and sometime immediately after an event.

Such as this report:

So what did I learn from this experience? Here are 6 lessons that would help anyone planning to do something like this with a citizen journalist.

1. Plan your angles and visual shots ahead –when it’s possible. Not all events let you anticipate the terrain. An event such as the Olympics is predictable –and not. You don’t know when and at what time you’ll get one-on-ones with the athletes –and medalists! But you do know where you might base your videos. (Check this sneak preview!) Low angle and long shots of steep inclines, close up of emotions etc. Look out for details that would intrigue.

2. Practice with different lighting conditions. Many events were held at night –not the best for video on a 5 mega pixel camera.

3. Have a backup plan for content uploads. We initially chose Flickr for the photo uploads, but when things didn’t work initially, we had Sean to switch to, from where we grabbed the photos and moved to Flickr.

4. Keep videos short. I originally wanted to have Sean file 2-minute videos. But we quickly learned that it would require jumping through lots of hoops to get them to YouTube or the blog. Phones do have limitations. So instead of fighting the bandwidth problem, especially when it involves an international mobile roaming, a steady stream of short videos worked well.

5. Cover what the mainstream media isn’t. Having access to the athletes –and not just US athletes– was great. This included the fun side of things —downtown Vancouver, night life, former Olympic stars, even the Queen Latifas of this world. Or this image (right) of that snow needing to be airlifted into a venue!

6. Let new media shake hands with mainstream media. It doesn’t hurt to distribute your story -or the story about your story– through traditional media. Since my client is based in Park City Utah, we localized the international story through several call-ins to an independent TV station, PCTV in Utah. After all Utah has instant Olympic appeal having played host to the Winter Olympics in 2002.

Here are where to find our citizen journalist.

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