It’s Not Just What’s Up Front That Counts

About a year ago, I wrote a column for the BMC website “Consider the Possibilities” about some of the strategies involved in marketing President George W. Bush. Now, with the election less than 60 days away, I was thinking that it would be relevant to look again at this strategy and remind ourselves that what the audience sees is as important as what they hear.

It’s Not Just What’s Up Front That Counts
Paying close attention to your backdrop can improve your production value and enhance your message.
The New York Times* is reporting that the Bush White House never seems to miss an opportunity to showcase the President in dramatic and perfectly lighted settings. His recent landing and address on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln is a good recent example.
Television opportunities like that don’t just happen—they’re created. The White House understands the power of television images and they’ve beefed up their communications staff in order to maximize their opportunities. The White House has brought in people from network television with expertise in lighting and camera angles and who know the importance of using backdrops to create a lasting image.

On the anniversary of the September 11 attacks, President Bush delivered a prime-time television address to the nation from Ellis Island with the fully-lit Statue of Liberty perfectly framed over his right shoulder. It was a powerful image—and near-perfect television.
Last summer, the President gave a speech at Mount Rushmore. The White House had strategically positioned the camera platforms off to the side instead of the usual head-on. The result was a shot that caught President Bush in profile—and you guessed it—in perfect alignment with the other four presidents carved in stone.
How much time does your production crew spend thinking not only about what is said, but what is seen on your television program? If you are taping your Sunday morning message—your entire pulpit and platform becomes a television set—and everything matters. Remember, television is the “seeing” medium.
The carpeting, the colors, the choir, all become “the package” that your message is wrapped in. Does that package enhance the message or distract from the message—sending the viewer reaching for the remote?
In the New York Times article, Dan Bartlett, the White House Communications Director says, “We pay particular attention to not only what the president says but what the American people see. Americans are leading busy lives, and sometimes they don’t have the opportunity to read a story or listen to an entire broadcast. But if they can have an instant understanding of what the president is talking about by seeing 60 seconds of television, you accomplish your goals as communicators. So we take it seriously.”
No one would argue the importance of the president’s message—but what about your message? You are delivering the Good News of Jesus—the King of Kings! Is that message any less important? We should be every bit as mindful as the White House when we consider the “packaging” of our message.

Consider the possibilities…
Take an objective look at the complete picture of what the viewer sees when they watch your program. Pay close attention—not just to the speaker—but to what is around and behind the speaker.
If you don’t already have someone on your production staff familiar with the optics of television, find someone…soon. Sometimes even minor adjustments in focal length can draw the viewer’s attention away from the background and put it squarely on the speaker.
Think through your production schedule carefully…plan ahead. Your production schedule should allow ample time for the creative process. Many times we fall victim to the dreaded “tape shipping deadline.” We easily slip into the habit of simply manufacturing programs instead of really creating them. Our message is too important to just broadcast to the masses without careful thought and planning.
Source: The New York Times, May 16, 2003. “Keepers of Bush Image Lift Stagecraft to New Heights” by Elisabeth Bumiller

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