Preparing Your Staff for Camera Crews

In the September 2014 issue of School Nutrition, “Let’s Go to the Videotape!” by Kelsey Casselbury, detailed how to prepare your cafeteria for a visit from camera crews from local news media or for special projects and promotions. But don’t limit your preparations to the physical setting. Before the cameras arrive, you should do a little coaching of your staff, too, so they portray your operation in the best light possible.

Naturally, not everyone on your staff will feel comfortable in front of a camera and they may have some anxieties. If you had a hand in the selection decision, reassure them that you chose their cafeteria to be in the spotlight for many good reasons, and you are counting on them to be the best representatives of the entire department! “Talk it up to your team that their school has been selected,” says Jean Ronnei, SNS, chief operations officer, St. Paul (Minn.) Public Schools.

Whether or not you determined the site selection, you want to encourage your team members to be ready for the camera—even if they aren’t being interviewed but will be in the background footage. Tell them “’Make sure you wear your finest gear and come with smiles on,’” advises Ronnei.

That means ensuring that uniforms, including aprons, are recently laundered and, if necessary, ironed. Hair should be pulled back appropriately, and gloves donned whenever required. For those staffers who don’t wear a uniform but still might appear on camera, Ronnei recommends avoiding prints or patterns, which often can look unflattering or distracting when on camera. One thing you probably have not considered: You or a member of the team might be asked to clip on a microphone pack during an interview. For this reason, slacks tend to work better than dresses or skirts.

Well before the cameras arrive, a director should touch base with the site manager—“a key person,” says School Nutrition Director Peggy Lawrence, SNS, of Rockdale School District, Conyers, Ga. “I can’t overstate how important this person is.” Ensure this manager is well-informed about what’s being served that day, and check in the morning of the interview to determine if they have everything they need, including serving staff. “If three people called in sick, you might need to pull someone in from another school,” Lawrence notes.

Even if you are the point person making arrangements with the reporter, it’s not unusual that he or she may want to interview someone else, such as the manager or a server or cashier, at the site. Be prepared and reflect on the person who will be the best spokesperson under these conditions . “It’s often entry-level staff that’s serving, and we want to make them as comfortable as possible,” explains Jodi Risse, MS, supervisor of food & nutrition services, Anne Arundel County (Md.) Public Schools. So, select someone who is likely to feel as comfortable and natural on camera as possible.

For everyone else, smiling is the name of the game. “I tell my staff right before [the cameras] come in that [I know this is a] very stressful [activity]. It’s unnerving, but the thing you need to do is paste that smile on the whole time that you’re there,” Ronnei says. “We don’t want them panning [the cameras] and seeing stoic. I want them to see the warm and fuzzy people who are here every day.”

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