Fred Thompson prepared to launched his 2008 Republican presidential primary campaign yesterday with a 30-second television spot. In its most prominent placement, the ad ran immediately before the FOX News-sponsored Republican Candidate Debate from New Hampshire.
The spot is a great example of what happens when an actor doesn't have a good director. Watch the last 15 seconds (use the "30-second television spot" link above). Thompson tries to get all his inflection and emphasis from bouncing his head. Everything below the neck is frozen.
Lesson: Some head movement and varied facial expressions are vital to looking good on television. But there should be some body movement as well. Not a lot, not big, but enough so we know the body is more than a bobbing-doll base.
The last sentence of the lead paragraph of the Broadcasting and Cable release was clear to me. Viewers want more diversity of sound bites. (And, I would add, in video clips as well.)
I am not a patient viewer. When watching news, I click among the 24-hour cable news stations, and if it's a major breaking story, among NBC, ABC, and CBS as well. During evening news programs, the stations generally are covering the same stories, often in the same order. And the coverage is remarkably--and boringly--the same. Same sound bites. Same video clips. If the story takes longer to report than the video clip lasts, the clip replays...and replays...and replays....
So I was pleased to see that in the recently released 91-page study "The Local TV News Experience: How To Win Viewers by Focusing on Engagement" conducted by the Medill/Media Management Center at Northwestern University, viewers identified the same problem I saw. Except,
Little did I know when I was writing yesterday's post on "Logistics Matter" that "across the pond" the staff of would-be British prime minister Gordon Brown was demonstrating (unintentionally I presume) how poor logistics can sabotage the message.
It seems that Mr. Brown's staff told the broadcast technicians to change the angle of the teleprompter (autocue to the Brits) screens. The result is best seen by clicking here. Mr. Gordon can't be seen by the press! A good clue that your message isn't being heard loud and clear is when the first question is "I can't see you. Can you see me?" (BBC reporter)
Unless you really know what you're doing, don't override the technicians on matters of prompter placement or lighting. If you think something is not right, mention your concerns to them and let them explain why things are the way they are.*
Always check the audience sight line, by sitting in various spots around the room.
*Broadcast technicians at the major networks and stations are professionals. They will do the right thing. This is not always true of a/v technicians you may encounter at a hotel or conference venue. I have found they frequently do a set up that is convenient for them, not necessarily one that is best for the speaker.
Lots of elements can cause someone to make a faux pas while giving a speech or doing a media interview. Today let's look at one of those causes. One that increases the chance of making an error, increases the likelihood that you will be viewed as being defensive, and is self inflicted.
At a fund raising event in Richmond VA yesterday, Senator Barack Obama inflated the number of persons killed by tornadoes in Kansas by a factor of nearly 1,000. Twelve became 10,000.
One cause of the faux pas may simply have been that Obama is a senator, and senators speak of thousands, millions, and billions, not of ten or twelve.
But according to the Associated Press, later in the speech Obama appeared to realize his mistake. "There are going to be times when I get tired. There are going to be times when I get weary. There are going to be times when I make a mistake."
The cue card should read: Tired? DANGER AHEAD.
Most of us are not under the pressures of a presidential primary campaign. Still there will be times when we will have to give a speech or do an interview when we are tired. How can we avoid errors and looking defensive? And is physical weariness the only type we have to guard against? Here are some steps you can take.
For many executives and their public relations counsel, the farther away from 60 Minutes, the better. But what does it take to get America’s most popular investigative show to do a piece that’s favorable to your organization?
Recently Captain Matthew C. Bates, Acting Director of the Air Force National Media Outreach Office in New York City, was in Washington to discuss his 60 Minute success for a group of Air Force public affairs officers gathered together from around the globe. Here's how Bates created a win for 60 Minutes and a win for the Air Force.
Beginning in February 2006, Bates pitched 60 Minutes a story on the Air Force’s role in saving the lives of American troops injured in Iraq.
If a soldier or Marine is injured in combat, time is of the essence. The Air Force established a hospital at Balad Air Base in the heart of the Sunni Triangle so that the best possible medical care would be available. After the point of injury (by a roadside bomb or sniper), the injured could be rushed within minutes by medevac helicopter to the hospital.
At the hospital, medical staff run an impressive ER, OR, triage that rivals any inner city hospital in the States. An amazing 96% of patients
On camera for nearly an hour with millions of people watching and nothing to say-welcome to the world of Vice President Cheney and House Speaker (but on this occasion House Listener) Nancy Pelosi. Put yourself in their shoes. You are sitting behind the president. He is the main feature. But you are constantly visible in the camera shot. What should you be doing?
Many of us face the same situation, although in much lower-profile circumstances, when we are seated at a head table or on the platform while someone else speaks, or even in a meeting when we are seated near the speaker. What’s the protocol?
Except in those posturing situations where you are strategically nodding, shaking the head, or rolling the eyes in response, your focus should be on the speaker. First, it’s the considerate thing to do. Second, if someone in the audience looks away from the speaker and sees you, his or her attention will be directed to whatever you are focused on.
So how did the Veep and the Speaker do? Mrs. Pelosi has a very pleasant neutral expression and for the most part kept her attention on the president. Early in the speech, however, she started pursing her lips and moving her lower jaw. “Chewing gum,” was my first reaction. But the movement was not consistent or constant enough. “Repositioning a throat lozenge or breath mint,” was my second guess. I was about to settle on that as “my final answer” when the Speaker began sucking in the cheeks.
Ah ha! The I’ve-got-something-stuck-between-my-teeth, and it’s driving be crazy, response. With millions of people watching, picking the teeth is not an option. That leaves trying to suck the offending morsel out. In time the facial motions stopped. I presume the internal flossing worked; the motions did not recur. Lesson: Be careful what you eat before a public appearance, especially on television.
The vice president seemed more interested in seeing what else was going on than in focusing on the speech. In fact at one point he looked past the president directly into the camera. I though he was ready to give his own speech. Perhaps he had sat through too many rehearsals.