Friday, November 21, 2008

The Power Of Visual Media

Much has been made of the latest video showing turkeys being killed as Sarah Palin addressed the media during the traditional Thanksgiving day tradition of granting a pardon to one of the birds.


Without commenting on Gov. Sarah Palin as a politician, this does present an excellent chance to talk about the power of the visual media.

In the video, the Governor is responding to a reporter's questions about the recent Presidential campaign and her current duties as the Governor of Alaska. Her comments, however, take a back seat to the visual activity in the camera frame showing the bloody work of an employee slaughtering birds behind her.

Two key publicity principals are illustrated by this footage:
  1. Motion matters:
    The fact that the man slaughtering the birds was in motion is key. Our eyes are drawn to anything that moves, especially when the things around it are stationary. In this case, even if the employee had been doing something else entirely with the birds - like feeding them or herding them into a pen - it still would have distracted from viewer's ability to follow Sarah Palin's responses to the reporter's questions.
    Lesson: If you are responsible for your organization's publicity and you have video camera's on site, be sure you know exactly what's happening within the camera's frame of reference.

  2. Connect with your surroundings:
    The fact that Palin never addressed the slaughter going on behind her is also problematic. Viewer's expect that the action they're watching to be the subject of the conversation at hand. Although the reporter didn't ask any specific questions about the slaughter, Palin - were she more media savvy - should have found a way to address the activity.
    Lesson: If you are acting as an on-camera spokesperson for your organization, be acutely aware of your surroundings. If the activity in the background is not part of the conversation, find a way to weave it in to your responses to the press to show the audience that you're paying attention - even if the reporters aren't.

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