REACHING OUT – WHO AND WHERE IS THE AUDIENCE?

Working on the opening of the Louvre Abu Dhabi reminded us again of some of the key questions raised by the changing news environment.

 

Where is the audience?

This was an event that got the global media excited as one of the world’s greatest museums allowed its legendary name and reputation to extend into the Middle East. Getting live video of the inauguration – which involved many VIPs including both the President of France and the Ruler of the UAE – out to news channels on traditional and new media around the world was a vital part of the launch plan.

By reaching out to the international broadcast news agencies as well as to key target stations we were able to ensure that the story was distributed by satellite as it happened, making it available to both TV and web channels on an equal basis.

How do you reach the world’s broadcasters?

It may not be obvious, but individual broadcasters are not always well equipped to distribute stories – even those they are covering exclusively – to other broadcasters around the world. Any channel can make a production technically usable by other broadcasters but their normal focus is on producing and delivering content to their own audience. This means they may not have the contacts and experience required to communicate with the world’s media and organize the necessary satellite feeds.

For this story, our relationships with broadcasters and news agencies, together with our experience of arranging satellite paths that can reach around the world, allowed us to maximise live access to the story as it unfolded.

BROADCAST OR WEB? BLURRING THE BOUNDARIES

Broadcast or web? There has sometimes been confusion about whether OLB – which began life as On Line Broadcasting, a name chosen before the digital revolution – works in broadcast or online media. Originally the answer was broadcast, but over time the lines between the two have blurred. Now we do both.

Whether working in London, Dubai, Riyadh, the Kalahari Desert or the Kazakhstan Steppe (just some of the locations we visited during 2016), we produce video and audio for broadcasters that also works for online channels and social media.

Today, as bandwidths expand and digital technologies improve we still use satellites, but we also often use the Internet to distribute the stories we produce to broadcasters, news agencies and web media.

Split screen during bi-directional satellite link (Riyadh/London) at MiSK Hackathon.

As an example of the old and new technologies working together, for the inaugural MiSK Hackathon held in Riyadh and London we provided live satellite links for broadcast interviews and bi-directional video and audio communication between the UK and Saudi Arabia throughout the three-day internet-based event (for more see Clients & Projects here: olb.tv/projects).

Devised and staged by London-based agency Xpert, the Hackathon enabled young men and women from Saudi Arabia and the UK to work together co-operatively, in person and online, to seek new solutions to current medical and healthcare challenges. As well as linking the events and feeding giant screens at both venues, we used the same satellite and internet links to distribute news edits we produced for Middle East and international media.

We are now working to build on the success of the Hackathon for future projects in the Middle East and around the world.

 

BROADCAST MONITORING

world-fingerprint-3743625 (1)Live broadcasting has always been a vital part of our work and one of the strengths of live-linked TV interviews is that there can be no debate about where and when coverage appears.  Everybody knows what happened.

But when we produce news edits for broadcasters and news agencies – often for the same stories we have covered live – one of the biggest challenges is to find out exactly when and where they been broadcast.  Traditional broadcast monitoring can be expensive and, in our experience, somewhat hit-and-miss, so over recent years we have been pleased to adopt a system that produces impressive and cost-effective results by checking a unique digital ‘fingerprint’ from our footage against the recorded output of almost 2,000 broadcast channels world-wide.

At a recent charity golf tournament in Sardinia we produced a series of live satellite-linked TV interviews on Sky and BBC World followed by a TV news edit.  When the event organizers wanted to know what coverage had been generated, with the help of our monitoring agency we were able to report a healthy score of 91 separate news stories on 24 different stations in 15 regions around the world, well above average for this type of event.  For the last three years we have used the same system to monitor coverage from projects including our distribution of a major New Year’s Eve fireworks show which has generated separate news stories measured in thousands globally.

The tool isn’t right for every project, but it is a highly effective way of measuring coverage and gauging the return on investment of time, energy and money.  We are always happy to discuss the costs and benefits of monitoring for any project without imposing any obligation to use it.

PR EVENT NIGHTMARES – WHAT IF NO ONE COMES?

IMPORT FROM NICKY'S CAMERA 23.01.07 135Every communications professional knows that PR events and announcements can turn into their worst nightmare. It’s fine if your story is at the top of the news agenda, a ‘must have’ item for broadcast and print media that will make news almost regardless of your efforts (although your hard work and expertise will enhance the tone, content and extent of the coverage, not to mention the smooth running of proceedings). But what if your story falls into the ‘nice to have’ or, worse, the ‘not really sure this one’s worth the effort with everything else we have to do’ category? How do you ensure that the considerable time and money spent isn’t wasted because no-one turns up?

For over two decades at OLB we’ve been working with clients and broadcasters around the world to bring unusual and sometimes difficult to cover stories to TV, radio and now on-line audiences as well. To do this we provide satellite-based production facilities for live interviews that link a spokesperson direct into the studio to be interviewed by individual channels’ own on-air presenters against a backdrop that adds to the story. On top of this we can distribute background footage and news agency edits produced to broadcast standards as the story unfolds. All this means that instead of waiting for the broadcasters to come to an event, we can take the story to them.

So, what makes people call us for an assessment? Here are some of the most common reasons:

Location: the story is taking place in a remote or hard-to-reach part of the world. We broadcast live from some pretty unusual places, often far away from the offices of major broadcasters and even the reach of news agency ‘stringers’. Examples include the opening of Mozambique’s first gas-to-power plant on the country’s border with South Africa, the launch of Jeddah’s Red Sea Gateway Terminal as Saudi Arabia opened itself up to the arrival of a ‘megaship’ for the first time, and JCB setting the World Diesel Land Speed Record on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.

Safety: the story or its location has to be restricted for reasons of security or safety. TV and film crews can rarely operate without causing some disruption and cameras, lights and crew take up time and space, but we can guarantee control for projects such as the separation of conjoined twins in a Saudi Arabian hospital, where we broadcast live from the operating theatre during the course of a twenty-hour operation. In a very different scenario, we provided the one crew allowed to cover the re-opening of London’s Paddington Station after a major rail disaster and made footage freely available to all broadcasters.

Security: sometimes we arrange interviews for world figures who require high levels of personal security.

Topicality, time and distance: the story may be good enough to attract broadcasters, but in the time it will take the local correspondent to get back to the office, edit a report and deliver it to their editorial hub (possibly on the other side of the world) it may be dropped in favour of something juicier from somewhere else.

Limited local resources:
even if local reporters and crew plan to attend an event, at the last minute they may be diverted to cover a different story that the international editorial team decides is more interesting on the day.

Confidentiality: sometimes it’s impossible to alert media to a story in advance without effectively leaking it. If necessary we have the ability to alert broadcasters without giving away who our client is.

We like a challenge, but we are always objective about whether or not we can add to a story. Ultimately the broadcasters’ views are vital and if we don’t think we can help we will be honest and say so.

UP PERISCOPE – LIVE STREAMING NEWS FROM ANYWHERE?

Depending on your point of view, in 2015 we are either living in a golden age of news or teetering on the brink of unregulated chaos and information overload. Communication via internet and social media has seen the rise of citizen journalists and media-savvy extremists as well as bloggers on almost every conceivable subject.

Now new apps Meerkat and Periscope allow anyone with a smartphone to stream video and audio live, effectively broadcasting to the world. But telling a story well requires skill and experience and reporting live from wherever you happen to be can raise a multitude of practical, legal and ethical issues.  Placing such powerful tools in the hands of everyone opens the door to problems including piracy, violation of copyright and invasion of privacy.  Threats range from the commercial – US TV network HBO recently issued ‘take down’ notices to Periscope after the app was used to leak episodes of Game of Thrones on Twitter – to the intensely personal. The potential for live coverage from a major atrocity or disaster, not to mention smaller and more intimate tragedies and the activities of the growing band of internet trolls presents a disturbing prospect.

Periscope, 20 April 2015It’s too soon to judge the impact of universal live streaming on the traditional media landscape, but respected journalists and media ranging from The Economist to Sky News have already experimented with the apps to add a new dimension to their output. The results of live ‘fly on the wall’ smartphone footage may not be polished, but its flexibility and immediacy are attractive.  Behind-the-scenes coverage seems an obvious place to start and political campaigns including the forthcoming US Presidential election look set to test the public’s appetite for unconventional reporting.

New channels and technologies may be changing the way people access news and information, but the more material there is the more we need help to find the things we want to know amongst the many that are of no interest whatsoever.  For now at least, navigating the growing number of live streams presents a significant challenge.

Stories are the lifeblood of broadcast news and at OLB our business is built on bringing unusual stories to the attention of conventional and new media.  We believe that by shedding light on news from parts of the world, people and businesses that are off the beaten track we provide a valuable service, but we also recognize the importance of the broadcasters and news agencies as editorial gatekeepers.  Whatever the means of delivery, ultimately it is the objective judgement of others that confirms the quality and relevance of what we produce.

FIVE MYTHS ABOUT INTERVIEWS ON BUSINESS TV

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Some of the most common reasons companies give for NOT getting coverage on business and financial news programmes:

Broadcast interviews are too time-consuming.

Having broadcasters’ crews at an event can be demanding, disruptive and time-consuming. It’s equally true that a CEO’s busy schedule can’t always accommodate a tour of broadcasters’ studios. Our solution – used over many years by clients as varied as Gold Fields, Standard Bank, WPP and Zurich Financial Services – is to set up outside broadcast facilities at the announcement venue. With our own producer and crew on site we can deliver live satellite-linked interviews with major broadcasters time-efficiently from almost anywhere in the world. As a bonus, an unusual and interesting location can enhance the story.

Our CEO is too busy on an important day.

On the day of any major announcement a CEO’s time is pressured. As financial professionals, investors and commentators increasingly rely on broadcast and on-line media for news and up-to-date information, many companies believe that broadcast interviews are just too important to miss out. We make the broadcast process as calm, controlled and convenient as possible and can deliver as many as five international interviews in an hour on channels such as CNBC, Bloomberg, BBC World and CNN without a CEO leaving his or her chair.

Broadcasters aren’t interested in our company.
This may be true, but sometimes broadcasters simply don’t know enough about a company to decide whether or not they are interested. A fresh objective eye on a business and how it tells its story may help to raise its profile with broadcasters.

Broadcasters will send a reporter if they are interested.

Newsrooms face many demands on limited resources and stories tend to fall into ‘must have’, ‘nice to have’ or ‘not interested’ categories. For any company that knows major broadcasters don’t follow its announcements regularly it can be a lottery to rely on crews attending an announcement.

We don’t need broadcast coverage.

Today few companies can afford to ignore the importance of broadcast coverage. Business and financial professionals world-wide use broadcast and web channels as primary sources because editorial output is specifically targeted to their needs, selected on merit by trusted gatekeepers and augmented with constantly updated market information. Convergence of broadcast and on-line media allows viewers to access and share broadcast content conveniently across time zones.

WHAT CAN TV NEWS CHANNELS DO FOR AN EVENT?

The answer may seem obvious, but there are circumstances in which it’s also useful to ask what they CAN’T do.

Outside of major sports events, not all TV channels around the world are set up to service the needs of broadcasters in other countries. TV news-gathering operations are great at producing timely coverage of news relevant to their viewers, but some of them don’t have the staff, systems and experience needed to meet the potential requirements of broadcasters in other countries.

Even experienced PR professionals are sometimes surprised to find that having a local ‘host’ broadcaster for an event such as an international conference or exhibition secures coverage on local channels, but won’t necessarily go further. It’s much more challenging to get live feeds, recorded material and satellite-linked interviews to overseas and international broadcasters and agencies. Unfortunately some event organizers only discover this when the coverage they expected has failed to happen.

When we undertake projects such as Dubai’s New Year’s Eve Fireworks, the World Petroleum Conference or UNCTAD XIII, there’s a lot of work involved – research, media relations, satellite bookings, transmission schedules – which means that we can be most effective when we get involved at an early stage. Even at the last minute we may be able to help but, sadly, after the event is just too late.

THINGS WE TELL OUR CLIENTS ABOUT BROADCAST NEWS

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  • Almost every significant broadcaster around the world subscribes to at least one of the main international broadcast news agencies which makes them a powerful route to communicate genuine news stories.
  • We produce news edits not VNRs. The term VNR is often associated with marketing material dressed up as news (which isn’t our thing at all).
  • Live interviews from interesting locations can enhance a story for international broadcasters.
  • News is fast-moving, fluid and driven by events. For most stories we can ‘test the water’ with broadcasters in advance and tell our clients what level of coverage they are likely to achieve, but no-one can guarantee broadcast news coverage until it is aired.
  • Beware of promises to guarantee the broadcast of news or documentary footage on large audience TV stations in return for a fee. It won’t appear on normal news programmes (where coverage is earned entirely on editorial merit) and it may be aired in ‘dead’ broadcast time with little or no audience.
  • Cameras and video formats are constantly evolving; video that looks good on the web won’t necessarily be broadcast quality.
  • Like everyone else, broadcasters are cost-conscious. With tighter budgets and fewer staff it’s often hard for broadcasters to cover anything more than the ‘must have’ stories with their own resources, particularly if a more marginal story involves expensive or time-consuming travel.
  • We can use an electronic ‘fingerprint’ to track whether, where and when footage has been used on almost 2,000 stations world-wide.