Reporting a UFO or USO sighting is a big deal. We have to keep in mind that someone has experienced something that is far beyond their normal daily life and it can take a great deal of courage to come forward to say to someone “This was what I saw”. They could be in a fragile state of mind, so getting accurate information from them is important, but needs to be balanced to ensure they remain comfortable in what they are saying.
There are a number of reporting mechanisms online. They range from posting on social networking sites to incredibly long and complex report forms that try to get down to the smallest detail in one hit. It is important to provide a structure to the information people send you which is why I do not recommend using social networking pages & groups for reporting purposes.
Reporting: Keep it simple
If someone has decided they are going to take time to report a sighting you need to make it as easy as possible for them to do so. The long and complex forms seen on some websites take a long time to complete accurately. Seeing so many questions on-screen at the same time can simply put people off, as it appears to them as an on-screen interrogation.
I tend to view online reporting systems as being the first contact, an enquiry if you like. By making that first point of contact as quick and as easy to do, you can ask permission of the person making the report to go back to them to ask clarifying questions.
This is about building a level of trust and creating an ongoing relationship.
As an aside, it also sifts out the people who are intent on wasting your time with a hoax. There is little value in getting high numbers of reports if (a) you don’t have the resource to investigate them properly and (b) if people do not want to discuss this matter with over a period of time. You will get poor quality information which is of little value.
It asks permission to contact the person sending the report for further clarifying details and gets them to certify their report as being true. It is very straightforward and relatively quick to complete.
Depending on how much detail and effort is put into the report detail will give you an indication of the seriousness of the person entering the report. A one or two line report will be of little use and potentially shows a hoaxer. Reports with lots of details may present a more interesting prospect for you to spend your limited resources on.
Follow up on details
So you have received a basic report. Now what? Review the information you have received. Does it seem credible? Are there any red flags that would suggest it was a hoax? Have you been given permission to go back to the person who sent the report to ask clarifying questions? If so, now is the time to start making a list of those questions to fill in the blanks. If not, make a note of the date/time of the sighting and its location on a map. Print the report out and keep it in your file.
This is where a paper-based detailed report form can act as a good template. It will provide you with a guide to the questions you need to ask.
Face to Face
The best way to get further information is to sit down with someone, face-to-face. Ideally, you will want to video record the conversation you have with the person who sent the report, however, you need to be sensitive to the fact that many people will be extremely uncomfortable with this. Offer a compromise solution of making an audio recording only if they do not wish to be on video. It will help with your notes later on as well as provide a contemporaneous record.
There are many different styles of interviewing. From a casual conversation to the formal interrogations conducted by the Police. You want the person who reported the sighting to be as relaxed as possible, so you are looking to create a structured conversation. This is very different to a grilling which I have seen some people put through. That style of interviewing is counter-productive because, after a very short period of time, the interviewee simply shuts down.
Plan in advance
In order to achieve that structured conversation, you need to plan how you would like the conversation to go in advance. This is to get the most information in a period of time, whilst maintaining a relaxed atmosphere. Ensure you have your questions written out in order, but don’t be afraid to deviate from the list if the person you are interviewing is keen to talk.
Take a professional approach
A good place to start is to refresh the memory of the person who made the report by summarising what they said in that initial contact. Do not put words in their mouth. Simply tell them what they sent and ask if that is still valid.
Tell them the path you are going to take with the conversation.
- Say what you are going to do
- Do it
- Say what you have done
- Provide an opportunity for further details or clarifications
Remember all the job interviews you have attended where afterwards you thought, ‘If only I had said….’ Well, the same applies to this situation. Make sure you leave an email address and a contact telephone number “in case anything else comes to mind.”
Some people just want to get things off their chest. Others may take more of an interest in what you have done with the information they have provided. Don’t forget to provide updates to ensure the person who reported the sighting feels they remain involved if that is what they wish.
The Golden Rule
If anonymity has been requested, you must keep their identity confidential.