NPR Training
Storytelling tips and best practices

NPR's guide to Facebook Live


Note: What you see below is a work-in-progress on how to use Facebook Live. We will update as we learn more about the tool and what works and doesn’t. If you work at NPR and you want to find specific workflow instructions, head over to this Google Doc

This document is a way for you to familiarize yourself with Facebook Live, get to know the NPR workflow and learn best practices.

What is Facebook Live?

Facebook Live is a feature that allows people to broadcast live videos on Facebook, at varying degrees of production quality — from iPhone selfies to HD camera and high-quality audio. It’s available to all Facebook users with the iOS or Android Facebook app. Videos can be broadcast from personal profiles and branded pages (such as the NPR Facebook page or the NPR Politics page). The videos are recorded, so users can view them after the live broadcast, on a Facebook page’s video section.

What are NPR’s goals for Facebook Live?

NPR will use Facebook Live to grow our audience across our many branded Facebook pages and to develop audiences for many of our journalists on their own Facebook pages and profiles. Facebook Live allows us to engage with the audience directly in new ways.

Live, interactive video is an opportunity to connect our audience more deeply with our journalists, our approach to journalism and the stories we want to tell. We will learn from our audience and hear from them. In this way, we think the live experience fits with our public media mission.

Through Facebook Live, we will expand our storytelling skills in new ways while learning how best to produce social video across NPR’s many different shows, desks and verticals. These learnings will better position NPR to adapt to the quick-moving world of social video, regardless of the platform. Working together, we’ll develop new skills across NPR’s staff.

What are the steps to making a Facebook Live video?

tap-liveIt’s pretty easy. You’ll need a mobile device with the Facebook app. You can test it out using your personal Facebook profile.

  1. Open the Facebook app and tap (Status) at the top of your timeline, news feed or page.
  2. Tap the Facebook Live button
  3. Give it a catchy title and hit “Go Live.” You can film in selfie mode or direct the camera outward by hitting the arrows at the top right of the screen. The title should be short, sweet and very descriptive of what you’re doing.
  4. Read and reply to comments as you’re filming.
  5. When you’re done, the video will be archived on the page you posted to. You can also save a copy of the video to your phone.

What are some ways NPR journalists can use Facebook Live?

Facebook Live is still new, so there’s a lot to learn about the types of videos journalists should broadcast. The best ideas will emerge as more people try it.

But to get you thinking, here are some scenarios:

From-the-field dispatches: A reporter in the field provides an update.

  • Tip: Ideally, someone else should hold the camera and field questions and comments from the viewers. If reporters are alone, it’s helpful to use a selfie stick to avoid camera shake (and arm fatigue). There’s also a basic dongle for XLR to iPhone, which we highly recommend using as a basic audio upgrade. (See below for more info about equipment and getting started.)
  • See it in action: Sarah McCammon at a Trump rally (watch the video); Rachel Martin white water rafting (watch the video)

2way in the field: A journalist interviews another journalist in the field.

  • Tip: Test your connection before going live to be sure the broadcast does not cut out.
  • See it in action: Eyder Peralta interviews Nina Totenberg outside the Supreme Court (watch the video)

2way from NPR: A journalist interviews another journalist or guest at NPR.

  • See it in action: Sam Sanders at NPR during primary night (watch the video)

Breaking/developing news: Reporter talks to people at a news event.

  • See it in action: Eyder Peralta interviews protesters on the steps of the Supreme Court (watch the video)

A studio broadcast: A host broadcasts from inside a studio.

  • Tip: Find someone else to field comments from viewers so that you can focus on the interview.
  • See it in action: Scott Simon interviews Ron Fournier (watch the video)

Live series and segments: A journalist (or group) regularly broadcasts on the same topic – potentially from one of our soon-to-be designated HD camera stations.

  • Tip: We want to avoid talking heads and old-fashioned broadcasts. Our audience on Facebook needs to feel involved in the production, and we should interact them.
  • See it in action: The Two-Way’s midday “Cereal” news update (watch the video)

Can I test it out on my own?

Facebook Live is available on your personal profile, too. That’s a great way to learn the basics and understand the mechanics. And you don’t need to contact NPR’s Facebook Live team if you’re going to broadcast from your personal profile broadcast (it’s your profile!), though if you let the team know, we can provide feedback.

What are tips for making good Facebook Live videos?

Flying solo: You can shoot a Facebook Live video by yourself. Though, when at all possible, it’s preferable to have someone else holding the camera for you – and ideally another person fielding questions and providing context and links in the comments. If you’re on your own, we highly recommend using a selfie stick for better stabilization. You should also get a dongle XLR → iPhone adapter for your mic.

Comments! Respond to comments. An essential feature of Facebook Live is that viewers can leave comments in real-time. You can read and curate comments during a broadcast — and really ought to.  

Surprise, suspense, serendipity: In a live broadcast, anything can happen. This is why people will watch, so use it to your advantage, or try to imagine ways to create that element of surprise.

Connectivity: Connectivity is key. Please test your connection before going live to be sure your broadcast does not cut out. (We are working on developing a mobile kit that will improve connectivity issues in the field.)

Mobile vs. HD Cams: Mobile phones are best for run-and-gun/in-the-field moments. At NPR HQ (and soon at the NYC bureau and NPR West), we are developing a workflow for the use of HD cameras. So while it’s good to be thinking about live moments in the field, we should also be thinking about high quality, recurring series and segments that have a shelf life and could eventually be redistributed elsewhere.

This is not TV. We want to avoid talking heads and old-fashioned broadcasts. The Facebook audience needs to feel involved in the production, and we should interact with them.

Best practices for radio still apply. While you’re thinking through the production of a video, don’t forget about audio. The listening experience of a Facebook Live video should match NPR’s standards for audio storytelling. Among the practices to keep in mind:

  • Hold the mic close to the subject
  • Choose the right mic for the environment you’re in
  • Select the shot based on how it looks and how it sounds
  • Use a windscreen

Where can I learn more?

Keep watching this page, we’ll continue to update it. Here are a few other Facebook Live reads:

This post was written by NPR’s Lori Todd, Claire O’Neill, Mito Habe-Evans, Sara Goo, Gerry Holmes, Rob Byers and Eric Athas.