Call-outs in live streamings: learnings and practices

Mobil-Eyes Us is a project of WITNESS and the WITNESS Media Lab to explore potential new approaches to livestream storytelling for action. We look at technologies, tactics and storytelling strategies to use live video to connect viewers to frontline experiences of human rights issues they care about, so they become ‘distant witnesses’ who will take meaningful actions to support frontline activists.  We have developed a series of storytelling experiments, in collaboration with favela-based human rights activists in Rio de Janeiro, which has lead to an app. This app, Mobil-Eyes Us (which is in its alpha stages), enables an activist group to curate a series of eyewitness Facebook live-streams and push these to the relevant people in their network to watch and take individual or collective action. They would be able to rapidly share a stream so more people are present and witness an incident,  help translate, provide guidance or give context.

In the following series, our Project Lead in Rio, Clara Medeiros, will share the practices learned from the live videos of 18 activists from Rio de Janeiro and collectives from favelas who have had an impact on their communities, both by denouncing  human rights violations and by giving support to initiatives to and from the favelas. From the analysis of live streamings categorized as solidarity marches, planned actions, broadcasts with rights violations, call-outs and long-duration video streamings, we will understand the strategies and techniques used successfully by front-line activists. These blogs are part of our exploration of effective new approaches to live streaming storytelling, the technologies that can support this and how both can be linked to effective ‘distant witness’ action around live streamings as part of the Mobil-Eyes Us Project at WITNESS and the WITNESS Media Lab. This was originally published on WITNESS Português.

By Clara Medeiros

During the two completed phases of the Mobil-Eyes Us pilot, we have learned that favela activists in Rio de Janeiro make regular use of live broadcasts by calling on residents and activists to attend demonstrations for rights and community events. A great deal of this is due to the fact that live-streaming videos have more views than any other type of Facebook publications, and generate 6 to 10 times more comments than a text or photo post. As a result, call-out broadcasts are excellent online engagement tools, since they are usually produced in advance of the event and can be publicized and shared as a recorded video even after it’s not live anymore.

In this post, we will share the practices learned on how to create an effective call-out broadcast with two distinct examples from prominent communicators in their communities. We lead off with Raul Santiago, from Coletivo Papo Reto at Complexo do Alemão, with exemplary storytelling within a successful campaign (link to article in Portuguese). This was included in our curation of live streamings within the Mobil-Eyes Us platform, providing a complete narrative arc of the video streamings created during the campaign, each with context and live translation into English.

Example of one of the campaign live-streamings within Mobil-Eyes Us’ previous platform with its accompanying English translation.

Call-out – example #1 – Raul Santiago from Coletivo Papo Reto

One of the main highlights of this particular call-out, which kicked off the campaign, is the chosen livestream image that shows the members of Coletivo Papo Reto with their full protective suits and photography equipment. The framing emphasizes their credibility and the seriousness of their work while incorporating the favela landscape, with the iconic cable car, as a poignant backdrop.


Raul Santiago:


We at Coletivo Papo Reto are here to call-out residents, activists, independent communicators, media in general and lawyers to be with us in a walkthrough around the most critical area of this war, the Alvorada area, which is located here in Complexo do Alemão.

We will be starting at 4PM at the entrance of Grota, which is on Itararé road on the corner of Joaquim de Queiroz street.

Come and help us talk to residents and think together ways to ease this chaotic situation here in the favela.









This impactful image conjoined with the publication’s concise and compelling text description (translated to English in the box above) summarizes the situation efficiently, thus boosting the engagement and publicity strategy. It’s a way to guarantee that even those who watch the broadcast when it’s no longer live will be able to share the short 5-minute recorded video – short duration is another important feature for an impactful call-out live stream. And because the main facts, as well as time and location, are included and highlighted in the publication, people can still follow along asynchronously. In this particular case, the publication language also helps guarantee that the key practical information given in the broadcast will be fully communicated to the public even for those with a poor connection that may cause challenges to watch or hear the audio and/or video. A call-out, in general, does not have the same urgency as other types of live broadcasting. Under those circumstances,  it’s even more important to ensure good internet service as well as choosing in advance a location that is visually appealing. This way, the streamed video can also be used as a high-quality video without great production costs, where the information given will not only be understandable but shareable even when it’s not live anymore.

We confirmed, during the pilot process, the importance of contextualization to get greater engagement in the fight against rights violations. In the specific case of this live streaming, Raul gives full context of all the violations that were happening. It is an effective tactic to highlight the importance of distant witness support since it helps explain why their participation matters even from far away since there are actions that can be taken from distant supporters that can move frontline activists further ahead in their struggle. This call-out was the first in a series of 12 live broadcasts produced by the Coletivo Papo Reto, in a campaign that brought together independent journalists, journalists from major news organizations, public prosecutors, public defenders and human rights advocates to denounce the numerous violations taking place at Alemão.

Public hearing on house invasions in Complexo do Alemão, which was part of the campaign started with Raul’s call-out added to the Mobil-Eyes Us. Our platform featured live Portuguese to English translation and contextualization in both languages as well as all other streamings from the campaign.

You can get a hint of the context of the situation and the level of organization of the campaign in this broadcast from Raul’s personal profile made on February 4, 2017. Raul, alongside other activists, public defender’s officers and residents go on a walk-through where they document the violations that took place in the Largo do Samba area in Complexo do Alemão.  

Two screen grabs from Raull’s streaming denouncing human rights violations. On the right, he streams a picture taken by Bento Fabio, a photojournalist from Coletivo Papo Reto, so viewers can actually see the police officer in the invaded house.

 Eleven days after that, the campaign was still gathering pressure and documenting the violations happening in the Largo do Samba area, and we had the chance to be present with Coletivo Papo Reto while they met with residents to work on denouncement and defense strategies. At the same time, Thainã de Medeiros, also from Coletivo Papo Reto as well as a streamer for DefeZap back then, collected complaints from the residents. WITNESS’s Mobil-Eyes Us initiative added the live broadcasts produced by Coletivo Papo Reto and DefeZap to its curation and offered live collaborative translation to English to increase the reach of the campaign and the complaints.

We support, through our workshops and trainings, a culture of direct exchange with the audience not only as an engagement and audience reach booster, but more importantly as a collaboration and co-presence tool. We also encourage, for example, the practice of streamers asking their audience to write down contextual information mentioned live in the comment box so users that watch the recorded version can have a more comprehensive experience. This not only helps the streaming have more reach within Facebook – since videos that have been interacted with more through comments and reactions are more likely to appear on users’ News feeds – it also gets participants away from being passive audiences by motivating them to use their various abilities and capacities and thus understand their value as collaborative resources.

Call-out – example #2 – Mc Martina and Mc Al Neg from Poetas Favelados for Voz das Comunidades

In this call-out example, we look into the main strategies used by two poets from Complexo do Alemão, MC Martina and MC Al-Neg, who were invited to broadcast on Voz das Comunidades’ channel (a community-focused newspaper from Complexo do Alemão created in 2005 by Rene Silva, then 11 years old, to report on social issues in the favelas from Complexo do Alemão)  to invite residents for a poetry and cultural resistance event at Complexo do Alemão. Early on in their captivating opening remarks, the two poets disclose that they aren’t familiarized with the mobile device used in this specific livestream, freeing themselves from any pressure to create a professional broadcast. At the same time, laying out their vulnerability and being casual about it also brings them closer to the audience that often enjoys artists using other platforms to connect with their fans in a candid manner. Martina makes this connection with the audience in a dexterous, charming and natural manner.

Soon after introducing herself, while waiting for Facebook to generate an audience for the broadcast, she already starts saying hi directly, citing the full name to people already present in the livestream. This audience engagement tactic works great for call-out video streamings, just like it does in the beginning of any streaming category or any moment of little action and/or information to provide to your audience, as we will see later in our series of publications when we go over the specific tactics for  long-duration broadcasts. One of the advantages of this tactic is that it also encourages those of the public who get mentioned to comment, which spreads the video streaming more easily through Facebook’s NewsFeed.

The approach is more dynamic in this case, nonetheless it still follows the logic of creating impact with what people see while also fostering a bond with residents from the area. Even though they are in a location with low bandwidth issues, both MCs show adaptability as they grab the audience’s attention. They give background information about the collective they are a part of; explain the origin of Slam Laje; contextualize not only the event but also the participating poets; and they improvise rhymes and dance while doing so. Connectivity issues don’t impede the streaming and, instead, it becomes a great opportunity to repeat key information. It is noteworthy how repetition of key information is essential to communicate urgency in live broadcasts, especially if such information builds a narrative listing key impactful facts.

Since nobody from the audience collaborated to include links to mentioned pages in the comment box, as requested in the live-streaming while the content was given, an hour after the broadcast was over, MC Martina herself commented tagging her Facebook Page, Poetas Favelados’ Page, Slam Laje’s page as well as a link to the mentioned event. The advantage of giving such feedback after the broadcast is that these comments are more likely to appear in Facebook’s comments selection after the end of the live streaming and therefore be readable to anyone who watches the video later.

During the test phases of Mobil-Eyes Us, we learned that it is ideal to have a support person for base commenting on these key information while live so that it’s done in real-time, thus making it easier for users to access the information. This also allows the streamer to keep their focus on general content and manage interactions throughout the broadcasting.

With the  Mobil-Eyes Us app, this can be done with distant collaborators who receive a notification with specific requests for help and exchange. A previously registered user can receive specific asks according to their registered abilities. So if a series of streamings is in need of international attention, for leverage and pressure for instance, users registered as translators can help get the message across borders faster and more effectively while users registered as contextualizers can add articles and information in real-time all according to the collaborators’ availability in responding to the app’s notification.

Collaborators managing translation of a broadcast added to the Mobil-Eyes Us platform that featured Portuguese to English translation and live contextualization in April 2017.

So, to summarize…

Whatever platform is used, we have observed that people are generally willing to participate more actively in live broadcasts, either by helping filling out a post and enriching it with relevant information and links, or by helping to share and spread a situation quickly. The scope of possibilities for exchange and collaboration is vast and is further extended when the people realize that their skills are useful and more diverse than previously thought.

We have observed that call outs live streamings can help create a wider buzz for planned events and a more complex narrative around subjects. They are a fast, inexpensive and practical tool to engage an audience deeper into a subject.

So, let’s review some of our tips. First, in your call-our streaming, try to have an impactful starting image, as well as a text referencing the main information of the event we’re going to promote. If you have doubts about it, just try to answer these simple questions in text and repeat it in the streamings: What will happen and why should your audience care about it? Where is it gonna happen or what is the physical or virtual address they should know about? When does it start? Who’s promoting it?

Second, film vertically and keep the focus of your frame in the upper half of the video as comments and reactions are superimposed on the bottom of the video in Facebook and can clutter the image.

Finally, make sure your streaming is concise. Try to keep its length to about 4-6 minutes. Provide further contextualization in the comments so it will make your post visible for more people – or, even better, ask your audience to do so. Always try to highlight the importance of distant witness support and repeat the main information of your call-out enough times during the broadcast. When people are reminded that their personal abilities can help others, even through social media, they are inclined to participate more regularly as active distant  witnesses.

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