Location, Location, Location…What It Means to Communications Pros

The three most important things in residential or commercial real estate are said to be location, location, location. The same can actually true for most communications tactics. For instance, if you are holding a news conference, is it in a location accessible to the media? Keep in mind TV media need assistance parking due to all the equipment they have to drag in…while print media or bloggers may prefer easy access to mass transit. What’s the Wifi like at your location? I know one prominent Democratic Presidential Candidate picked a campaign launch location for sentimental reasons where it was virtually impossible to do live streaming because of bandwidth issues. In today’s political environment if a location doesn’t have substantial internet bandwidth, the planners need to bring it in, especially if they expect live coverage. And sometimes even if you can’t get live coverage on TV, you can get it on leading news organizations social media, which can have an even larger reach depending on time of day.

As we enter into a heavy political season, no one was better at managing location than Lee Atwater and Ed Rollins, Ronald Reagan’s campaign team. While I’m sure Mr. Reagan and his wife Nancy probably drove this philosophy with their entertainment backgrounds, the staging of Mr. Reagan’s speaking events usually always involved a dramatic or majestic backdrop. Regardless of what Mr. Reagan said on the stump, the setting would look good for the TV cameras, and half the battle was already won. Reagan looked Presidential before he was President. Other campaigns have picked up on this to some extent, but it shouldn’t be lost on anyone that pictures help tell the story.
The location scout should be a key consideration for any practitioner. Beyond the visual backdrop, logistics can also play a key role. Will the sound require amplification in this venue and if so, can you set up a “mult” box, which is short for multiple outputs, so radio and TV can plug in to record the sound. What else is scheduled in the general venue during the same time frame. If you have a big press conference, do you know whether or not a wedding is scheduled in the next room at the same time (or a concert, drag show, or anything else that could be a distraction).

For outdoor events not only do you worry about the weather, but also the position of the sun. For a boating shoot I was doing with NASCAR legend Jeff Gordon I sent a location scout to check out a location and I didn’t realize my scout had been there in the late afternoon and we were shooting in the early morning ,so the sun was in the wrong position and we were completely backlit. In simple terms, the shoot would not work at all. Realizing the whole project might be scrapped, I jumped in the car with Jeff Gordon (he drove ) and we went to the other side of the lake, where we saw a house with a beach and the right kind of dock for our shoot. We surprised them by knocking on the door and asked if we could take over their backyard and they agreed. By a stroke of luck, they were huge Jeff Gordon fans (we had the surreal experience of walking in their son’s bedroom where he had posters of Gordon and his number 24 car on the wall). So we were able to rescue the project. This is an example of sometimes even when you’ve done a careful location scout, a minor detail can force you to improvise.

Thanks to Google, we can do a lot more scouting online than was possible before, but I still advocate either being in place a day or two before, or going to the location in advance or hiring someone you trust to check it out. While hotels have a lot of information available for events, because even there, it may look very different in person. Recently, I made the switch from a nice Marriott in Washington DC to the Hyatt because the parking didn’t work right for what we were trying to do. For instance, if you need a satellite truck, do you have a place to park it, and will it be in a position to turn its dish to the southern sky without obstruction? Noise can be a problem (are you near the airport or the train tracks?) What about RF (radio frequency interference), in some hospitals, the MRI suite can wreak havoc with a lot of radio, wireless and electronic gear.

In summary, plan and then plan again. Then have a plan when your first plan goes wrong! Questions, comments, thoughts? I’d love to hear from you….