Monday, March 9, 2009

No need for a news camera

In the not too distant past, a TV news station had to send one of their trucks to a location to beam back a live or taped news feed.

Today, all you need is a web cam and Skype to appear on the news.

View what occurred this morning on KNBC-TV when Los Angeles public affairs veteran Matt Klink offered instant feedback to a variety of political items, including President Obama's decision to allow federal funding for stem-cell research. (Note: this was on KNBC's "raw" feed, an all-news digital channel launched in 2006. Thus, this story doesn't reach as large a potential audience as the main news reports).

While a live web interview via Skype still has the appearance of a live Web feed (i.e. occasionally a "halting" or skipped picture feed and sound issues), the technology is there - and the potential. (Note: these feeds can have sound problems due to the computer hook up - see Chen turn down volume switch...)

Why I would not recommend this format for your CEO (since you want that interview to be as attractive-looking as possible) this technology does present many opportunities for public relations professionals. For instance, it may be possible, with a wireless or phone card connection, to give a live feed from a breaking story or an announcement of a new product or development. This format, particularly with an all-news digital channel, also allows for very long interviews on TV - something you don't get with a traditional TV news story. Matt was on the news for 10 minutes!

In the era of tightening newsroom budgets, this technology will be viewed more and more as a legitimate means of communicating important news and not as some gimmick. See some of the discussion here about how CNN's Anderson Cooper used it.

Given this, public relations professionals will be wise to quickly develop their "rules of engagement" when considering this format. We all know the dangers of "live" news. We know the value of a calm, well-prepared expert or spokesperson. We also know that these types of videos will be permanently available on the Internet. (What you say can come back to haunt you). Given the relatively long length of this interview, it also is important to make sure the TV news reporter has a comprehensive approach to the interview. Ted Chen at KNBC knows the issues and the background to ask intelligent questions. Yet, it would seem, other TV news stations or reporters may be tempted to "liven up" the interview with more sensational angles. In many ways, your approach to these kinds of live TV news feeds should be the same as you approach, say, talk radio. Know the format ahead of time so you are not ambushed.

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