Newspaper headlines about Parliament are often made in Select Committee evidence sessions. A simple admission of error or lack of confidence on the part of a witness can make the headlines in tomorrow’s papers with ease.
These moments, however, often come in the midst of an evidence session that can be hours in length. Although usually streamed live on parliament.tv, it is easy for the public to miss these sessions, which take place during the day, when most do not have the time to watch an entire session.
So, we set out to find ways to help people access these key moments, as they happen.
Helping the public watch tomorrow’s headlines
In order to bring key moments to a wider audience, we have embarked on a video clipping project. We have found that using a program called Camtasia, a screen recording and video editing software, we can produce the short clips we’re after.
The committee Media Officers help to direct which moments are most significant, and therefore what segments we should clip. This entails real-time collaboration between multiple teams, a process that is demanding but enables us to stay ahead of the news.
People watch, but most don’t listen
A staggering 85% of videos on social media are watched without sound turned on. In order to make the clips as accessible and shareable as possible, we’ve kept them short - usually under a minute in length - and subtitled with a font size and background optimized for mobile devices.
By drawing viewers into the substance of a session through text, the videos can go on to pique their interest and encourage them to watch the whole session.
Getting the videos out in real time
As often as we can, we produce video clips while an evidence session is still taking place. This is a great example of where collaboration with colleagues comes into its own for us. Finding the correct segment, ascertaining its impact, creating the clip and uploading it is a multi-person operation between several teams working in real time.
We rely on great communication between our colleagues both within the committee team and in the media office, and when we all pull together these clips in real time, it offers another tool to engage the public in the work of the committee.
Recently, we gathered video from a Liaison Committee session questioning the Prime Minister and posted these on Committee Twitter profiles and the House of Commons Facebook page while the session was still going on, giving people a good sense of what the Prime Minister was being questioned about. Another recent clip of Public Accounts Committee Chair Meg Hillier questioning the CEO of the NHS gained over 12,000 views, a new record for an evidence session video.
How have these been received?
These videos are well-suited to the current social media landscape, which is increasingly turning towards this medium. Videos often play automatically, and have a much higher audience uptake than video or text. Others, such as the BBC and Channel 4, are already using these type of clips.
We are still very much in the learning phase of these videos, figuring out which clips perform the best online. Often it surprises us which clips perform well, which is sometimes down to the great job our Media Officers do of spotting something newsworthy in the session that others may have missed.
There are examples of huge engagement, however, and many of these clips gain thousands of views, far more people than can fit into the room in parliament where the session is taking place.
We’ll keep on creating them, learning as we go, as part of our effort to make select committee work as accessible as possible.
To get notified when we publish a new blog post, click here.