‘Visual First’ Storytelling Is Up for Discussion at GV Expo

Col. Martin Downie, the commandant of the Defense Information School at Fort Meade in Maryland, will address Government Video Expo attendees on Thursday, Nov. 30, 12–1 p.m. He will open the session “Visual First: Smart Use of Video in Social Media and Beyond” beginning with his keynote address and then serve as moderator of the panel.

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Col. Downie’s keynote will focus on the need in government and military for new-generation multiplatform communicators with an emphasis on “visual first.” The panel will feature government and military professionals on how to engage viewers and communicate with them effectively through visual approaches to social media.

GOVERNMENT VIDEO: Please tell us about the Defense Information School and your role there as the 19th Commandant.

COL. MARTIN DOWNIE: The Defense Information School has been training the military’s storytellers and documentarians for the past 52 years. As the Commandant it’s my job to ensure the school continues to prepare men and women to tell the military story to our many publics at home and around the world. In order to do this well I’ve got to ensure that our instructors are up to speed on current best practices in industry and academia and I’ve got to keep our technology up to speed as well.

GV: What are some of the topics of videos produced by DINFOS students?

MD: Our students cover just about everything! We send them into the community and put their ingenuity to the test. We’ve certainly got more than our fair share of military events that get covered, but we’ve got just as many stories that feature interesting civilians in the surrounding area including bakers, glass blowers, brewers, you name it!

GV: What positions await DINFOS students upon course completion?

MD: Our students go forth into a wide variety of different positions. Some will go on ships and to units in the field and support the public affairs teams; some will deploy forward to support commanders with imagery that helps commanders make decisions in combat. There are dozens of different jobs throughout the military that require highly skilled photographers, videographers and writers to convey what’s happening in a clear and compelling way. DINFOS prepares them at the initial, intermediate and advanced levels to do just that.

GV: Can you describe the meaning of “Visual First” in your Government Video Expo session title?

MD: This is simply the way we teach our students to conceptualize a story that needs to be told. Some of the first questions we answer as we prepare for an assignment are: What are the visuals? How am I going to show my audience the most important parts of my story? What will grab their eyes and engage them? How will I take them from there into the world of my subject?

GV: How important is the use of video in social media when communicating with and engaging viewers?

MD: It’s central of course. Today’s information environment demands video. And it better be short and it better be good. By good I mean compelling — funny or sad or extraordinary enough to stop the thumb swipe and get the tap to enter the story. And once the viewer is in, it has to be interesting enough to keep them there long enough to get the point we’re trying to get across. Not easy today with so much competition for attention out there.

GV: After your opening keynote, you will moderate a GV Expo panel that includes both military and government experts who use videos in social media. Who should attend this session?

MD: Anyone who wants to be a better visual storyteller or who needs to train better visual storytellers in the DoD or the government should attend this panel. They’ll get tips and learn about resources that can help them.

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