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Tips and Tricks from Agricultural Communications Services

Drone flying 101

With a small investment and a little practice you too can “slip the surly bonds of earth” (Magee, 1941.)

Small unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as SUAS or Drones, are fast becoming ubiquitous in our modern existence and they are a valuable tool throughout agriculture. You can remotely check on crops or cattle, inspect the roof of a barn, get a birds-eye view of a landscape design or even take a virtual tour of a prospective parcel of land. With all of this, the utilization is really still in its infancy and in the future you will probably be using them to monitor plant nutrition, irrigation, do remote seeding and many other tasks that haven’t even been thought of yet. But with this new tool comes guidelines for proper use and even strict laws governing who, what, when, where and why you can use it.

First off, as soon as you leave the ground in any vehicle, you are in airspace that is controlled by the Federal Aviation Administration and any vehicle in that airspace has to be registered with the FAA.  The registration costs $5 and is available online at: https://www.faa.gov/uas/getting_started/registration/ . When registering your “Drone” you answer a few questions about the drone. You will receive a number that must be displayed on the drone itself for identification purposes.

The next requirement is probably the one that many folks wanting to get started using a drone aren’t going to want to hear. You have to get a remote pilot certificate. The rules are contained within Part 107 of the Federal Aviation Regulations and state that if you are 16 years old or older and using the SUAS for anything other than a hobby, you must have a remote pilot certificate to legally fly the SUAS, even if it is over your own property. The FAA defines “hobby” as doing it for recreation within eyesite at an altitude of less than 400 feet. So any time you use it while on the clock, for anything that is related to commerce, or associated with any agricultural endeavor you must have a remote pilot certificate with a SUAS rating.

If you already have a Part 61 certificate, you can take a free online exam to receive SUAS certification. If you are not already a pilot, you can get a remote pilot certificate by successfully passing a FAA aeronautical knowledge test and undergoing a background check. The knowledge test is available at approved testing centers (including on OSU-Stillwater campus) and costs $150 (Important note: if you take the test and fail, it is another $150 to retest.) The FAA has a great deal of information online to provide answers to questions about the rules for sUAVs, study guides for taking the test, practice tests and additional help on the aeronautical test as well as information on safe flight operations. https://www.faa.gov/uas/getting_started/part_107/remote_pilot_cert/

Links to Oklahoma testing centers: http://candidate.catstest.com/searchresults.php?testCode=UAG&state=OK

Below are the general rules regarding operating SUAS (drones) as outlined in Part 107.

  • Unmanned aircraft must weigh less than 55 pounds, at takeoff including payload
  • Fly in Class G airspace*
  • Keep the unmanned aircraft within visual line-of-sight*
  • Fly at or below 400 feet*
  • Fly during daylight or civil twilight*
  • Fly at or under 100 mph*
  • Yield right-of-way to manned aircraft*
  • Do not fly directly over people*
  • Do not fly from a moving vehicle, unless in a sparsely populated area*

It is illegal to fly anywhere that you might interfere with law enforcement or other emergency personnel or vehicles, specifically including in or around a wildfire firefighting operation.

There are waivers to most of the rules governing SUAS operations that you can apply for through the FAA Drone Zone website: https://faadronezone.faa.gov

Additional helpful resources for getting your certification:

  • I found several helpful YouTube clips on specific areas of the FAA test. They can really help explain various concepts.
  • When I prepared to take the test, I purchased an app for my phone that provided practice tests (including every question on my exam.)
  • The FAA B4UFly app for android or iOS is a helpful pre-flight tool that includes weather info, airspace, interactive flight planner and up-to-the-minute information on airspace restrictions : https://www.faa.gov/uas/where_to_fly/b4ufly/


Drones seem like they are a toy, and often are sold with other electronic toys in the store, but they operate in a way that has to be regulated in order to maintain public safety. If you violate the rules governing their use, specifically not obtaining a proper certificate, you are violating federal law. If something happens while you are illegally operating a drone it puts you in a precarious place legally.

Tips on operating a drone.

  • Use it like a tool and not like a toy.
  • Know your drone and how it operates. Practice with your controller without flying until you know all of the controls without having to think about them; when something goes wrong you probably won’t have much time to think about the controls.
  • Remember Newton’s Laws, especially the one about objects in motion staying in motion. These things DON’T stop on a dime. Be sure and leave plenty of room to stop and maneuver.
  • Your aircraft looks cute and unassuming, but it is potentially dangerous. It is often flying at high speeds (remember Newton’s F=ma) and the blades rpm can be as high as a gas weed eater. Drones can cause damage to structures and people, so safe operation must be maintained at all times.
  • Go low, go slow. As the drone gets closer to the ground, reduce the speed to maintain safety, control and better video. Some drones, including most DJI models, have a slow speed mode that will allow for more precise movements.
  • Whenever possible, have a second set of eyes helping you keep track of the drone or any potential hazards.
  • Moving air bounces and causes blowback and turbulence. Air kicking up from the ground or nearby objects can greatly effect a drones flight and can cause loss of momentary control and even crash if the aircraft is in a tight spot.
  • Trees, buildings and other structures will block, redirect or concentrate winds and create unexpected conditions that will throw the drone off course. Fly with caution and check out such an area before trying to do a video recording run or other precision maneuver. An example of this is at The Botanic Garden at OSU where two perpendicular lines of trees have a break where they come together. These trees can provide nice smooth air when in their wind shadow, but even light winds from certain angles can be funneled to that open break at such a speed that will stop a drone in its tracks.
  • Don’t blindly trust the GPS and positioning cameras on the drone; it will drift from where it is hovering.
  • If you crash, and odds are you will at some point, replace your blades. Blades will often crack and are far less expensive than replacing a drone. A crack can cause the blade to shatter when it starts spinning at 12,000 rpm which, in turn, caused your drone to come crashing to the ground from 300 feet in the air.
  • If someone complains about your flight, try to allay their concerns. If you cannot, no flight, video or photo is worth upsetting someone. Fly politely and unobtrusively.
  • When shooting video, think of the aircraft as moving a mobile camera platform and not flying. The perspective shift makes for much smoother and more usable video.
  • Smooth motions work the best for video. Don’t try and fight the drone to do exactly what you want. Jerky flight due to trying to stay exactly on course looks unprofessional and  is unpleasant to watch.
  • Sometimes all you need for a great video shot from a drone is a great angle. It doesn’t always have to be moving.
  • Sometimes a cool moving shot from a drone is up or down and doesn’t have to move forward.
  • An inexpensive neutral density filter (ND filter) that you can purchase online reduces the amount of light through the lens of the drone’s camera and will lower the shutter speed on camera and keep it from flickering.
  • If your drone has a focusing camera be sure and select where you want to focus.
  • Turn on the histogram, if available, and be ready to adjust the brightness of the image manually.
  • Don’t forget to take still images. They are higher quality than grabbing a frame of moving video.
  • Programming waypoints is a great way to automate your flight so you can concentrate on the camera angle.
  • Have fun with it and don’t be afraid of experimenting with your shots.


If you have any questions about certification, drones, or aerial photography or video feel free to contact me at mr.gragg@okstate.edu or 405-744-4075.

Kevin Gragg
Senior TV Producer/Director - Oklahoma Gardening
Agricultural Communications Services

Dec 20, 2017 12:00 AM

What makes a good segment for SUNUP or Oklahoma Gardening

What makes a good SUNUP segment

You’re sitting around on a Saturday morning, drinking coffee and watching your two favorite OETA shows, SUNUP and Oklahoma Gardening. After the credits roll, you think you might have a good idea for a SUNUP story or an Oklahoma Gardening segment, but you aren’t sure whether the idea is good.

Well, you’re in luck. I’m going to draw the curtains back a tiny bit so you can get a peek at what goes into producing these segments. Before we wander off into the weeds, I want to briefly explain the work flow for the shows.

Deadlines: SUNUP airs weekly and our deadline for the broadcast is Thursday. Ideally, if you want to get a segment on the show for that week’s broadcast or if it’s time sensitive, we want to have everything recorded on Monday or Tuesday. Again, this is not always possible, so Wednesdays are an option, but we’d like to have it complete before then.

Planning: It always helps our team out when we know a week or two in advance about what story or segment we are going to produce. Obviously, in the world of Extension, this isn’t always possible.

Events: We’re always happy to promote various events going on in DASNR. If there’s an event someone wishes to promote, airing a segment or story the week before is the best way to go. What helps in the promotion is finding an interesting way to convey the importance of the event, such as doing a feature about someone who has worked this event for 30 years or highlighting an educational element that’s not directly related to the activity, but allows us to mention the event as part of the segment.

Features: These are the stories I routinely produce. What makes a good feature is something in that story that can draw out an emotion. Anything that can make the viewer feel something. Thankfully, with all the great work Extension is involved in, there’s never a shortage of these stories. Do you know a 4-H’er who started a Veteran’s Day program at a school? Has your Extension educator had a positive impact on you or people you know? Is there someone who has benefited from some of the scientific research Extension has done? Here is an example of the types of features we put on the air: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cB0_gjxQ3tw

Segments: SUNUP is an agricultural educational news program. A good segment checks off those three boxes. Is it agricultural (related)? Is it educational? Is it new? Granted, not every story will check those boxes, and if it doesn’t, that doesn’t mean the segment won’t be good, but if you want to pitch a story, thinking about that checklist will impact the quality of the segment. Why should producers care? What is the impact? Here’s an example of a good segment: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2R6abCbrsA&t=1s

Video/B-Roll: Whether it’s a regular segment or a feature, video enhances the story. If we’re doing a segment over a microscopic wheat disease and getting video of that is near impossible, shooting a researcher looking through a microscope may be better than 3 minutes of video of the researcher talking to the camera about it.

Length: SUNUP’s full broadcast is 27 minutes and 45 seconds, so length of the segments is important.

SUNUP links

For segment ideas: sunup@okstate.edu


Social media linksFacebookTwitterYouTube


Kurtis Hair
Video Editor - SUNUP
Agricultural Communications Services

Working with Oklahoma Gardening

Planning for the OKG season takes place over the winter months but throughout the year we make adjustments due to plants, locations or weather, and to be responsive to specific horticultural needs that arise in Oklahoma. The county offices are vital to keeping us informed on what is happening throughout the state.

Ways that county educators and state specialists can help:

  • Let us know if there is a spike in questions regarding a particular topic area like diseases or pests.
  • Communicate any interesting horticultural projects that are happening in your area or that Master Gardener groups are involved with.
  • Forward any events that you would like to promote to our social media student worker at sociallyokg@okstate.edu

Connect with us on social media.

We always try to make contact if we are going to be in your area. When we are in your area for a shoot we love for you to join us if you have the time, and if you want to contact any local media we will work to accommodate any needs that they might have.

The normal procedure for our shoots is to meet the subject(s) and visit briefly, then take a tour of what we are there to see as we continue to visit and find out more about what they are doing, their background, etc. After the tour, host Casey and director Kevin will get together and come up with a plan on how and where to shoot the actual interview(s). It’s usually only then the equipment is brought out and the actual video shoot begins. After the interview additional shooting is needed to capture all of the footage that illustrates what is discussed in the interview; this can sometimes take two hours or more. We understand that you may not have the time to stick around and do not mind if you need to take off.

Another way we can use your help is when we are in your area for one of our regional tours. When we select a region to cover we will usually contact several educators in that area for help locating interesting places to visit. We love to cover a mix of unique or beautiful home landscapes, horticultural businesses, community projects and especially 4-H and Master Gardener projects.

A question that we get every time we shoot is, “when will it air?” We don’t always know exactly; if we do, we will let you know then but if we don’t then we will send you an email when we do. We will also try our best to let you know if your segment is postponed for some reason.

After a segment in your area airs it will be available on our YouTube channel and we hope you will share through all of your social media outlets.

Oklahoma Gardening contact information and links

For segment ideas and other horticultural issues: casey.hentges@okstate.edu

For event promotion and other social mediasociallyokg@okstate.edu

Social media linksFacebookTwitterInstagramYouTube

Kevin Gragg
Senior TV Producer/Director - Oklahoma Gardening
Agricultural Communications Services






Oct 01, 2017 12:00 AM

CASNR Communications

Since our creation in 2014, the focus of the CASNR Communications team has been to shape the CASNR brand and share the CASNR story with our audience. We develop materials and messages that market the college to future, current and past students as well as educate those on campus and around the state about what it means to be part of the #CASNRFamily. As part of the Agricultural Communications Services unit, we do this through a variety of channels including website, social media, print materials, email communications and more.

During the past four years, we’ve worked with the Academic Programs office on projects for prospective student recruitment, career development and current student programming to name a few. We’ve also been able to create award-winning campaigns for the Cowboy Stampede Rodeo. In addition to our college-wide efforts, we’ve been able to work with departments and groups on projects and events both large and small. Our involvement varies from consultation and revision support to development and implementation of strategies and promotional plans from scratch.

We strive to continually identify new and creative ways to share our message and know that collaboration at all levels is key to our success. We have developed a variety of ways we can assist departments and student groups in the college communicate their message with our shared audience. Learn more about our CASNR digital advertising opportunities.

Melissa Mourer
Marketing and Communications Manager - CASNR
Agricultural Communications Services

Sep 01, 2017 12:00 AM

Communicating the DASNR brand

Have you seen the most recent television ad for Oklahoma State University? If you haven’t, it’s worth a watch.

I think the ad is a great case study for the concept of branding. For some, the OSU brand is conveyed through the opening clip of Bullet riding through an open field. Perhaps, for them, it evokes images of sporting events or the university’s agricultural roots. For others, the soaring drone footage of campus’ landmark buildings may be a reminder of their time as a student, walking many of the paths shown from a birds-eye view in the ad. Still others may relate to the powerful script that describes the can-do, progressive nature of OSU researchers, faculty, staff and students. For me, the final shot of Edmon Low Library transitioning slowly to orange gives me goosebumps.

Your emotional response when you watch the video – whether good or bad – that is a brand.

A brand is a feeling. A brand is a promise of a consistent experience. As representatives of the OSU Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, DASNR employees have a responsibility to ensure messages from our entities and programs underscore our brand.

Recently, Agricultural Communications Services developed a style guide to help do just that. The easiest and first step in this effort is to identify ourselves in a consistent way with approved, standardized logos. I've prepared a short video to explain and supplement the Logo Guidelines section of our style guide. I hope it helps.

The style guide also provides explanations for legal disclosures that must be included on DASNR materials, as well as an explanation of editorial style to support uniformity in our written materials.

If you have a question about the style guide or any of the materials available on our toolbox of resources, please don’t be a stranger. Send me a personal note or send general questions to agcommservices@oktate.edu. We’re here to help!

Ruth Inman
Communications Specialist - Marketing
Agricultural Communications Services

Aug 01, 2017 12:00 AM

A word about copyright

Copyright can be a complicated topic. As educators, we have the right to use some copyrighted materials in our Extension efforts. However, those rights can be difficult to understand. This blog post will try to explain copyright laws, public domain, fair use and creative commons, as well as answer some of the most common question educators have.

Please be aware, this post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Although most copyright holders do not seek the maximum reparations for an incidental infraction, copyright violations carry steep penalties. Please be careful.

What is copyright?

Copyright is the right to own and control the tangible expression of an idea. Painters, authors, photographers and other creators can keep others from selling or sharing their creative works.

In order to be protected by copyright, a work must be:

  • Original: A work must be created independently and not copied.
  • Creative: There must be some minimal degree of creativity involved in making the work.
  • A work of authorship: This includes literary, musical, dramatic, choreographic, pictorial, graphic, sculptural, audiovisual and architectural works.
  • Fixed: The work must be "fixed in a tangible medium of expression" - written on a piece of paper, saved on a computer hard drive, or recorded on an audio or video tape.

Some things are not protected by copyright. These include:

  • Facts and ideas
  • Processes, methods, systems and procedures
  • Titles
  • All works prepared by the United States Government Constitutions and laws of stat governments
  • Materials that have passed into the public domain

Please note – while these may not be covered by copyright, they may be protected under other laws such as trademarks or patents.

Copyright protection starts as soon as the work is created and does not require a © to be copyrighted. Because of this, it's best to assume all materials to be copyrighted unless you find information to the contrary, particularly if they were downloaded from the internet.

Public domain

The original notion of copyright was to protect the creator for a set period of time. After that, the work becomes public domain and no longer has a copyright. Modern works also can be designated as public domain.

While the original copyright lasted only seven years, current laws last from the moment a work is created until 70 years after the death of the author, except for works produced by a company/employer􀀟in which case the copyright lasts 95 years from the date of publication.

Realistically, most public domain works come from around the turn of the 20th century.

Just because the original work is public domain does not mean later works are. The song "Mary Had a Little Lamb" is in the public domain, but a modern recording of it would be copyrighted by the author.

Fair use

The law does allow the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in certain circumstances, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship and research. These uses are considered to be "fair use."

With the use of copyrighted material, fair use is based on four factors:

  1. Purpose and character of the use, including whether the use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes.
    Courts look at how the party claiming fair use is using the copyrighted work/and are more likely to find nonprofit educational and noncommercial uses are fair. This does not mean, however, all nonprofit education and noncommercial uses are fair and all commercial uses are not fair; instead, courts will balance the purpose and character of the use against the other factors below. Additionally, "transformative" uses are more likely to be considered fair. Transformative uses are those that add something new, with a further purpose or different character, and do not substitute for the original use of the work.
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work.
    This factor analyzes the degree to which the work used relates to copyright's purpose of encouraging creative expression. Thus, using a more creative or imaginative work (such as a novel, movie or song) is less likely to support a claim of a fair use than using a factual work (such as a technical article or news item). In addition, use of an unpublished work is less likely to be considered fair.
  3. Amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole:
    Under this factor, courts look at both the quantity and quality of the copyrighted material used. If the use includes a large portion of the copyrighted work, fair use is less likely to be found; if the use employs only a small amount of copyrighted material, fair use is more likely. That said, some courts have found use of an entire work to be fair under certain circumstances. And in other contexts, using even a small amount of a copyrighted work was determined not to be fair because the selection was an important part of the work.
  4. Effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work.
    Here, courts review whether, and to what extent, the unlicensed􀀎use harms the existing or future market for the copyright owner's original work. In assessing this factor, courts consider whether the use is hurting the current market for the original work (for example, by displacing sales of the original) and/or whether the use could cause substantial harm if it were to become widespread.


Fair use is determined by the courts on a case-by-case basis. Please be aware that even though you might feel that your use of copyrighted materials falls under fair use, you can still be sued.

Creative Commons

Creative Commons is a method of legally sharing copyrighted works outside of the copyrighted system. The Creative Commons organization offers several levels of licenses allowing you to use a creative work. Search engines such as Google allow you to search for Creative Commons works. All the licenses require attribution, or tell who created the original work, and most have limitation on selling or sharing your work, so check what level of license is being used.


I bought a song from iTunes. Why can't I play music at a public event or in a slideshow or video?

When you buy a CD or song off the internet, you are purchasing the rights to listen to it for your personal pleasure. Generally, you do not have the right to play the song at a public event. Play some music in the background at a private party or using it for a family slide will probably not get you in trouble. You can find free or low-cost music, particularly for nonprofit projects, on these sites:


Not all music on these sites is free, and many come with restrictions on attribution, selling and occasionally sharing your projects. Please look at the rights and restrictions before using.

Where can I learn about resources for free or low-cost images?

This blog post from ACS photographer Todd Johnson has additional information and links.

How does YouTube handle copyright?

Immediately upon upload, YouTube will check the audio of your video against a music database. If yours is found with copyrighted music, the copyright owner will be notified. Usually, the video will be monetized with ads, with the income going to the copyright owner, and a link to purchase the music may be included on the web page. They also can decide to block the video, block the video on certain platforms or mute the video. However, copyright owners do have the right to sue.

After three copyright "strikes,” your account will be terminated, all the videos uploaded to your account will be removed and you won't be able to create new accounts. YouTube does have a method of asking the copyright holder for a retraction or filing a counter notification.

If someone plays a song at an event, is that copyright infringement?

Yes. Even though you aren't using the original artist's version, you still need a "mechanical license" to use the music and lyrics in a public space.

Can I use a video clip in a class to illustrate a point?

Yes (probably), as long as you meet the four requirements. This is exactly why fair use was made.

Can I post a video of me using the clip on YouTube?

The short answer is yes. Fair use extends to YouTube and the internet. However, YouTube might flag the video as a copyright violation though, requiring you to justify it being fair use.

Where can I learn more?


Happy fair using,

Craig Woods
Senior Producer/Director
Agricultural Communications Services


Jul 01, 2017 12:00 AM

Let's get social

Social media has changed the game when it comes to connecting with consumers. We now have access to constant two-way communication at our fingertips thanks to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and numerous other platforms. If you do not have the correct tools in place, social media can be intimidating; I get it. You need a road map.

Before we embark on this epic road trip, let's fuel up with some background knowledge. Less than five years ago, to be successful, all you needed was a Facebook Fan Page. Since then, organic reach has plummeted thanks to one word: algorithm. The Facebook algorithm determines the number of fans to whom your post is served. You might have noticed your personal Facebook timeline reflects this. Most of the posts are not in chronological order; the most popular posts are showing up first. Facebook also owns Instagram, and over the past year, we have watched Instagram slowly morph into a mini Facebook.

Unfortunately, social media has turned into a pay-to-play platform. The good news? By adopting my recommended best practices, you can create engaging content  more people will see, thus increasing your overall score and manipulating the algorithm.

Best practices:

  • A strong headline or message is key to grabbing people’s attention. How? Think about each social media post as a mini press release.
  • When sharing the same piece of content across multiple networks, optimize it for each one. How? Utilize free tools such as Canva and Sprout Social Landscape to help.
  • Vary your content regularly (videos, link previews, photos/graphics, text only posts). Why? Because you do not want your users to get bored with your content and it will also help boost you your algorithm score.
  • Do not post too many updates at once. Why? You will overwhelm your followers. Instead, try to split the content into different posts scheduled throughout the day or week.
  • End your posts with a clear call to action. Why? As consumers, we are constantly bombarded with advertisements. We need to tell our fans what they need to do. Do they need to call to register for a canning workshop? Click for a speech contest application? Press play to watch the latest Cow-Calf Corner video? You will be amazed at the uptick in engagement this simple trick provides.


Now that you know my best practices, let's get to the good part! Creating content can be both fun and exciting. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you are filling out your content calendar.

Know your audience:

  • Stakeholders
    • Community leaders, state officials, donors
    • Current and prospective volunteers
    • 4-H parents
    • Current and prospective 4-H members
    • Current and prospective students
    • News outlets
    • Agricultural and natural resource producers


What to post:

  • Meeting reminders
  • Deadlines
  • Contest results
  • Events
  • Community involvement
  • Photos


Highlight your:

  • Staff
  • Faculty
  • Volunteers
  • Members
  • Officers
  • Awards/achievements
  • Press releases
  • Journal articles
  • TV interviews/segments


Last month, I hosted a webinar covering the topics discussed above. You can watch the live recording of it here. If you have any questions or need more in-depth information, please feel free to email me. I hope you have found this information helpful.


Lindsey Davidson
Social Media Marketing Coordinator
Agricultural Communications Services


Jun 01, 2017 12:05 PM

Crisis communications

Like a fire extinguisher and the airbags in your vehicle, a crisis communications plan is crucial for organizations large and small. It also is something we sincerely hope you never need. Consider it a safety net that is especially important in world of instant global communication and social media. Reputation and credibility can be damaged (sometimes irreparably) in a matter of seconds.

For years, DASNR has had a specific crisis communications plan that outlines protocol in the event of an emergency, tragedy, natural disaster or scandal. It includes the two state agencies, as well as CASNR. It all fits within an overall university strategy. The team in Ag Communications Services updates the plan regularly. We recommend that you take a look at it, share the information with your own team and ask questions if you have them.

Finally, should you be faced with a crisis or potential crisis, our crisis checklist is a good place to start. And please don’t hesitate to reach out to our unit. We are here to support our colleagues statewide and can rally together to create a specific strategy to support your specific situation. That includes social media support, media relations, content development, news advisories and releases, web, video and marketing. And speaking of media relations, want to know the two words never say to a news reporter? No comment. Instead, consider referring them to your friends in Ag Comm. We’re here to help.


Lyndall Stout
Agricultural Communications Services

Check out the DASNR Crisis Communications resources.


May 01, 2017 04:25 PM

One picture is worth a thousand words

Why use images in your materials?

Images can help tell a story, they can educate, elicit emotion and promote attention. Images also increase engagement. As this article explains:

  • Facebook posts with images see 2.3 times more engagement than those without images.
  • Tweets with images receive 150 percent more retweets than tweets without images.

We’ve all heard the old adage, “One Picture is Worth a Thousand Words,” which may or may not be true, but it certainly doesn’t have to cost a thousand dollars. No one wants to pay too much for images either by fees, licenses, or the really undesirable cost of fines and penalties from using copyrighted photos.

The good news is there are several sites available that offer free images for use both commercially and personally.

Understanding copyright law

However, “royalty free” and “free download” do not mean there is no cost. Often, sites advertise with these catch words but most often take you to a site where you’re required to pay.

Additionallly, even if you find a site that allows you to download an image at no cost, be extremely careful to read the use information. Copyrights are complicated and lawyers make lifetime careers explaining, creating and defending them. So be very careful using images that you do not know the source and creator. You don’t want to finance the copyright lawyers next European vacation.

Your best bet is to use a trusted source, and I’ve outlined a few below. You may also read this blog post from senior producer/director Craig Woods with more information about copyright for photos, video and audio.

Where to get images?

1. DANSR’s Kitchensink site

Agricultural Communications Services has created a repository of images pertaining to OSU, DASNR, CASNR, OAES or OCES, including 4-H, FCS, OHCE, Rural Development, and our ever-growing special programs and partnerships. We call this site the Kitchensink because it has everything but the kitchen sink. We have proper releases for people in the images and are free for you to use for DASNR-related activities as long as they are not used to endorse or disparage any person, product or service.

While the site has existed for many years, we’ve recently moved it to an outside resource provider to increas uptimes, reduce costs and improve search results.

To download images from the site, you can create a free user account. Creating an account on the site allows us to give you more download options but you must let us know that you have created an account as that information is not automatically transferred to us.

You can search for images using keywords, but the search function on Photoshelter is not as sophisticated as Google or other search engines. For best results, use simple keywords each separated by a comma. For example, search for cattle, wheat rather than brown cow on green wheat.

The Sink grows every day, so check back often!

2. The public domain

The public domain refers to copyright-free works that anyone can use in any way for any purpose. Copyright.gov explains the public domain as follows: "A work of authorship is in the “public domain” if it is no longer under copyright protection or if it failed to meet the requirements for copyright protection. Works in the public domain may be used freely without the permission of the former copyright owner."

Wikipedia has a great list of collections of images in the public domain. However, as always, read the use info carefully before you download or use an image.

3. Creative Commons

A Creative Commons license enables free distribution of otherwise copyrighted work. Authors can license their work through Creative Commons to give others the legal right to share, use and build upon their work. The Creative Commons organization works with groups like Flickr, 500px, Vimeo, YouTube and more. Learn more about types of CC licenses.

Other photo resources

Below is a list of other sites I have found useful.

  • The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Digital Library is a collection of selected images, historical artifacts, audio clips, publications and video, most of which are in the public domain.
  • The NRCS Photo Gallery contains natural resource and conservation related photos. If you use any of these photos please use one of the following credit lines; Photo by (photographer's name), USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service; Photo courtesy of USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service; or Photo courtesy of USDA NRCS. There are several regulations in place, for more information visit the NRCS website.

  • Free content from photographer/artist/designer here.
  • Snappy Goat provides 14 million free public domain images, photos and clipart.
  • Pixabay is a website where you may find and share images that can be used for commercial purposes.

Thanks to Ursula O’Hara, manager of communication services in the College of Human Sciences, for sharing the following sites.

  • The digital images found in the SNAP-Ed Photo Gallery provide a complimentary resource by the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program (SNAP). Photographs are to be used for communicating nutrition education and outreach messages. However, these pictures can only be used for promotional, informational and educational purposes.
  • Stock Snap is another option for free photos and images.
  • For those with interest in fun and historical photos, the OSU library archives has many black and white options.


For information about copyright and video/audio projects, refer to this blog post from ACS video editor/producer Craig Woods.


Todd Johnson
Communications Specialist


Apr 01, 2017 04:25 PM

Three things to know about ACS news and media relations

The News and Media Relations team at OSU Agricultural Communications Services has gone through a facelift over the past year. The group still offers many of the same services as it has historically, but there are some new features you may not know about. Below are the Top 3 services provided by OSU Ag Comm News and Media Relations that might be flying under the radar.

1. Premier Content

Every week a new feature article will be posted in the Premier Content portion of the website. These stories are not like the average press release, rather they go into more personal and detailed information. Also, Premier Content is posted exclusively online, but can still be used for any communications needs you may have.

2. DASNR Resource Centers

Considered “evergreen” content, our DASNR Resource Centers are full of information that can be used throughout the year. Inside each center you will find press releases, fact sheets, photos and videos relative to timely information applicable on the state level. When it’s winter, come check out the winter preparedness Resource Center. When it’s tornado season, come check out the tornado preparedness and recovery center. Any guesses where you should go if you have bed bugs? We have a center for that.

3. Division News

Every press release, feature story and/or media advisory we produce can be found in the Division News section of the website. These items have been released to media outlets and are free and open for the taking. There is a six-month shelf life on these items, so you have some time to track down information.

Every word on the ACS News and Media Relations page has been approved by the appropriate people and is available for any communications needs you have. If you write a column for your local paper and need some content, want some information for your newsletter, or literally any other reason, please take what you need. You can remove and/or replace bylines, or change attribution of quoted material if you need.

Please let us know how you use this content and if we’re missing anything. Thanks!

Sean Hubbard
Communications Specialist
News and Media Relations Workgroup


Mar 01, 2017 04:25 PM

Welcome to ACS: Your friendly neighborhood communications professionals

Hello, everyone! Thanks for checking out the Ag Comm blog. The goal of this post is to provide an overview of the creative services available through our unit to help support DASNR's communications and marketing efforts.

Agricultural Communications Services - or ACS - or Ag Comm - is a non-academic service unit comprised of professional communicators. The experienced staff covers the gamut: writing, editing, videography, television production, graphic design, illustrations, photography, website design, marketing and social media. From fact sheets to logos, press releases, videos, portraits and Twitter tips (to name only a few) - we serve as the official news and information unit for the division, as well as its marketing firm and television production studio. And we thoroughly enjoy every aspect!

We work closely with our Extension, research and teaching colleagues on campus and statewide to gather and disseminate information. Our number one goal is to support the university's land-grant mission by getting credible, unbiased information into the hands of people who can use it. In today's increasingly competitive communications environment, we routinely develop strategies and create materials designed to underscore the DASNR and OSU brand - while also engaging and informing existing and new audiences.

If you have a project in mind, want to ramp up your program's social media efforts, or have an interesting story to suggest - we would love to hear from you. The best place to get started is our website, where you can learn more about our services, meet our team and check out our project request form. You may also email us anytime at agcommservices@okstate.edu or chat on the phone at 405-744-4065. We look forward to hearing from you!


Lyndall Stout
ACS Director & SUNUP Host

Feb 01, 2017 04:25 PM